Stuart Comstock-Gay is president and CEO of the Delaware Community Foundation.
I still believe in the American Dream.
I want to believe that with hard work, respect for others, civic mindedness and, yes, a little help from others, every one of us can build a productive and happy life.
But it’s getting harder to hold on to that when so much evidence shows us that for far too many people, the American Dream is just that — a dream.
Jessica Bies’ article in The News Journal on Oct. 3 — “Wilmington: One of the hardest places to achieve the American Dream” — should be an embarrassment to all of us, and a call to action. Bies focuses on the new Opportunity Atlas, and how it highlights the deep struggles Americans face in economic mobility in Wilmington, and particularly in the Southbridge neighborhood.
Of course, the American Dream has never been equally available to everybody — especially for people of color. But the Opportunity Atlas is the latest in a growing number of tools showing that it is becoming increasingly unlikely for a person to improve their economic status, no matter how hard they work.
It’s about a growing gap in opportunity. It’s about inadequate schools and job prospects. It’s about frayed communities and frayed families.
It’s about whole neighborhoods of children without access to healthy food or safe places to play. It’s about a loss of commitment to community.
On an almost existential basis, it’s about the very idea of our kids. In previous generations, when we talked about “our” kids, that included every kid we saw. It meant we – as a whole community – were responsible for raising all kids to be successful.
It meant we had a responsibility to ensure that all kids had the opportunity to get a good education, a good job and – with hard work – to achieve the American Dream.
But increasingly, when we talk about “our” kids, we’re thinking about the kids we’re related to. It’s the kids we know, but not the others. After all, their own parents should take care of them, right?
The challenge is that we really are all in this together.
We all want to live in thriving communities. But communities only thrive when they’re full of people who are thriving.
So if we prepare only some of our kids to thrive and allow so many to struggle – like many of the kids in Southbridge and other challenged areas throughout the state – we’re sowing another generation of struggling communities.
The good news is that we as a community can close the opportunity gap and increase the chances for all of “our” kids to thrive.
As we recommit to the American Dream, many people are working hard to address the opportunity gap. Bies’ article cites the work of Leslie Newman and her team at Children & Families First. At the Kingswood Community Center, Logan Herring is leading some incredible work for rebuilding Southbridge. Similar work is underway in communities in all three Delaware counties and around the country.
I still believe in the American Dream.
I believe in its value and I believe it is possible. But for the American Dream to survive, opportunity matters.
That is why we at the Delaware Community Foundation have sharpened our mission to focus on opportunity for all as a way to enhance the common good.
Our focus is, of course, on Delaware, and all the ways that philanthropists and nonprofits help make the First State better. At the same time, we are increasingly focusing resources on ways to expand opportunities for all.
How can we work most effectively with good organizations, schools, businesses and government, to put the American Dream within reach for all of us?
In the coming months, we’ll be announcing a reorganized grants program, facilitating community conversations and sharing ideas from around the country to help Delaware zero in on opportunity.
On November 14, we’ll be hosting Robert D. Putnam at the Baby Grand to talk about his book about the opportunity gap, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Putnam is an internationally renowned social scientist, and this most recent book discusses the very issues highlighted in Bies’ article.
We’re also – in partnership with Delaware Humanities – giving away 500 copies of the book, for people to create book circles and read it themselves.
There’s an incredible revitalized energy in Wilmington right now. New businesses are opening. Job opportunities are emerging. The city’s reputation is growing among entrepreneurs nationwide. Opportunity abounds.
As a community, and for the good of our community, we need to ensure that everybody at least has a chance to get in on this excitement and growth.
So join us and Leslie Newman and Logan Herring and the hundreds of other individuals and organizations working to expand opportunity for all, to make Delaware communities stronger for everyone, now and in the future.
As the old saying goes, this is not about giving handouts. It’s about giving a hand up, especially to those who are starting at the bottom. Maybe some can even get a little closer to achieving the American Dream.
Let’s make sure that all of our kids have the opportunity.
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- There are two key ingredients to making the dream of early retirement a reality.
- First, you need to define goals for both your career and your finances.
- Then, create a specific plan for each that will help you get there.
- Financial management and investing professionals and career experts suggest their top books to help motivate and encourage people who want to retire early.
Many Americans think they’ll never have enough money to retire. So being able to retire early can seem like a Holy Grail — an impossible quest none of us will ever come close to achieving.
According to experts, though, it is possible not only to retire early but to fulfill personal goals, explore new interests — even reorient yourself into an entirely new career if you find that a life of leisure isn’t all it was cracked up to be.
There are two key ingredients to making the dream of early retirement a reality: You need to define goals for both your career and your finances, and have a specific plan for each that will help you get there. MONEY asked financial management and investing professionals as well as career experts what books they would suggest for people who desire an early retirement.
‘Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence’ by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
Joe Heider, president of Cirrus Wealth Management, says that Your Money or Your Life offers “a very different approach to personal finance.” Author Vicki Robin talked to MONEY earlier this year about her book’s huge and unlikely millennial fan base, a group seeking FIRE — or, “financial independence, retire early.”
Despite Robin’s lack of a traditional finance or investing background, this book is often recommended a must-read if you want to retire before you spot your first gray hair in the mirror. “[It] really is thought-provoking regarding your relationship with money and how to use it to achieve your best life,” Heider says.
‘The Instant Millionaire: A Tale of Wisdom and Wealth’ by Mark Fisher
“This book about one’s financial beliefs and mindset changed my life when I was 18 years old,” says Jason Dorsey, president of The Center for Generational Kinetics, a research and consulting firm that focuses on Generations Y and Z.
A key component to retiring early is financial security, and Dorsey says The Instant Millionaire offers real-life tools and insights to help people play the long game when it comes to wealth creation. “The book helps people to see that how they view themselves in relation to money and what they think is possible for themselves opens up or limits what is possible for them,” he adds. “[It] helped me to recognize that the future you want is possible, but it’s up to you to create.”
‘Grant’ by Robert Chernow
John Challenger, CEO of executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, sees a lot of hard-charging professionals in his line of work, and his observations lead him to offer this unexpected recommendation by the author of Alexander Hamilton, the book that led to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit musical.
While Grant is not about retiring early, per se, Challenger says this biography of the Civil War hero and president is a great way “to see how people were able to pivot and adapt to their situations to make significant advances in their careers.” Thanks to Chernow’s exhaustive research, readers get a deep dive into how Ulysses S. Grant reinvented himself time and again, Challenger says.
‘The Elements of Investing: Easy Lessons for Every Investor’ by Burton Malkiel and Charles Ellis
Jonathan Clarke, an associate professor at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, has high praise for The Elements of Investing. He calls it “the best book on personal finance for young people,” saying it “is straightforward and easy to read. It stresses passive investing strategies, which tend to work best.
‘The Millionaire Next Door’ by Thomas Stanley and William Danko
“This is not a get-rich-quick book, but a way to view the practical and compounding effects of recognizing how you spend, save, and invest to reach your financial goals,” Dorsey says.
The Millionaire Next Door is essential reading for people who want to retire early because it offers a research-based strategy for financial independence, Dorsey says. “The book is packed with great data and stories which make it very readable and answer the question of how do you get to your financial freedom starting wherever you are today,” he says. (Cirrus Wealth Management’s Joe Heider also gives kudos to Millionaire Next Door for giving readers “great lessons for financial independence.”)
Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote “Lyndon Johnson & the American Dream” before she married and became a Goodwin.
Readers who find an early edition of the book published in 1976 will see she was simply Doris Kearns — the young woman who worked in Johnson’s White House and who was a contributor to the work on his post-presidential memoir.
In September, Goodwin released her latest work, “Leadership in Turbulent Times.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian writes about the leadership qualities of four American presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Johnson.
She has written best-selling books about each of these presidents in the past. But the Johnson book was her earliest and the one that made a name for her as a top-notch chronicler of historical biography.
In “Lyndon Johnson & The American Dream,” she writes from meticulous research, in-depth thought and insight provided by numerous hours of access to Johnson during his last years in office and the years between leaving the White House in early 1969 until his death Jan. 22, 1973.
It is a towering achievement that feels as if it has not lost a whit of impact since its release 42 years ago.
Johnson is a president who cared nothing for books or Shakespeare, but in this book, he towers over the events of his life like a king from a Shakespearean tragedy.
A politician who masterfully consolidated unlikely allies and outfoxed opponents into passing the sweeping legislation he wanted for civil rights, health care, etc.
But one who could not manage the escalating war in Vietnam.
A president with the arrogance to believe he could simultaneously be the first in war and the first in peace. And in trying to balance his “Great Society” with the Vietnam war, Johnson failed to manage either.
The achievements of his “Great Society” legislation faltered as his attention was constantly averted to Vietnam, and in Vietnam, he failed to display the leadership that allowed him to repeatedly get the legislation he wanted from Congress.
Goodwin provides insight into Johnson that is remarkable. He was candid in interviews with her. As he spent a lifetime mastering politics, he possibly wanted to persuade her to see the world his way as he had successfully done in Congress and the White House for decades.
But Goodwin does not write a starry-eyed bromide of Johnson, his life, politics and times. She writes a hard-hitting book — one that still reverberates more than 40 years later.
When it became obvious in 1968 that he likely would not win the nomination for another term as president, Johnson stepped aside. To save face, he said he was not seeking reelection so he could focus full time on his presidential duties.
Though Johnson is a tragic figure here, his decisions and escalating events render his era as a national tragedy.
In Shakespeare, when the tragic hero falls, the land and its people are restored. But when Johnson decided against running again, the war raged for years after his presidency.
Johnson’s “fall” did not heal the land. He was gone from the national stage but his decisions continued to shake the nation.
The liner notes of Americana singer-songwriter Will Hoge’s new album “My American Dream” include lyrics for the project’s eight songs, a band photo and the U.S. Constitution.
“We were preparing to be told ‘Shut up and sing’ on the internet for days on end,” said Hoge. “There’s a handful of folks that’ll say we’re anti-American, so we thought, kind of jokingly at first, ‘What if we put a copy of the Constitution in there just to show how proudly American I actually am?’ ”
A Walmart run turned the joke into something more serious: “You could buy a pair of panties with an eagle’s face on it or a bikini with the American flag…all these ‘American’ things, but Walmart didn’t carry a book, poster or anything with the Constitution. We thought, ‘That’s all the more reason (to include it with the album).’ ”
On “My American Dream,” Hoge sings about the Flint water crisis (“Gilded Walls”), how his opinion on the Confederate flag has changed (“Still a Southern Man”), and takes feckless politicians to task on “Thoughts and Prayers,” which was written in the aftermath of 2017’s mass shootings at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas and First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
“It just seemed like I needed to write and record these things and get them out there, so I feel like I’m going on the record, literally and figuratively, I suppose, with where I stand on all this,” he said.
But don’t call it a protest record.
“I think that instantly conjures up the image of…somebody with an acoustic guitar and singing these really peaceful folk songs,” said Hoge. “I love what Rage Against the Machine has done, and has done for years. You think about what Public Enemy did for years, what Neil Young has done. That was sort of what wanted to be reflected (on the album), to me.”
Hoge is currently on tour with Social Distortion. They, and Pony Bradshaw, will play Marathon Music Works on Oct. 21. Tickets are on sale now via marathonmusicworks.com.
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CHICK-LIT queen Sophie Kinsella discovered she had some surprise competition — after the star of her hit Hollywood movie Isla Fisher also became an author.
The 48-year-old is an international best-seller thanks to her Shopaholic book series which was made into a blockbuster film with the former Home And Away actress.
But when Sophie branched out into writing children’s books, she found Isla had beaten her to it.
The actress, who left Bathgate, West Lothian, when she was six for Perth, Australia, with her Scottish folks Elspeth and Brian, penned her first book, Marge In Charge, in 2016.
Sophie released her Mummy Fairy And Me earlier this year, but she says: “I’m really not surprised. I think Isla’s great and she’s very, very funny.”
The London-born writer met Isla, who has three kids with Ali G star Sacha Baron Cohen, in action during the making of the 2009 movie Confessions Of A Shopaholic.
And she admits she was left in awe as Fisher brought her character Rebecca Bloomwood — a journalist with a shopping addiction — to life.
She says: “I had never been on a film set in my life so it was an incredible learning curve.
“But suddenly I was watching my characters coming to life right in front of me.”
And Sophie insists the movie set experience helped her own writing, with her novel Can You Keep A Secret set to transfer to the big screen with American Horror Story actress Alexandra Daddario as a woman who spills her secrets to a stranger on a plane.
She says: “What was really useful was understanding how scenes were set up. It’s made me think very visually, so I write in scenes and tell a cinematic story in my head.”
And as we are now giving every primary in the country the chance to pick up 105 Collins Big Cat titles worth £550, Sophie maintains that writing for adults and children are essentially the same.
She explains: “The stories are shorter but you’ve still got to put everything you’ve got into them.
“Writing the kids’ books make me laugh but then again I laugh when I’m writing for grown-ups too.
“It still takes the same energy and thought process as I’m trying to make comedy.
“I can’t do as much with wordplay and irony so it’s got to be full-on farce. But because it’s dealing with magic there’s an inventive side to it.
“I’ve really loved coming up with spells and a world where I’m trying to blend traditional magic with modern technology.
“It’s a nice break from reality. I wish I could bring some magic into the world of my other heroines too.”
The author, who lives in London with hubby Henry and their five kids, admits she tried out her new characters on her own brood first.
Sophie, a former financial journalist, who penned her first hit book The Tennis Party when she was just 24, says: “I started telling these stories to my children.
“I was actually a bit nervous at first because I know they’re probably quite biased, but I didn’t know if they were good enough to publish.
“But I think they have an appeal because everyone loves a laugh and a predicament. For me that’s the most important thing.
“So I will start with a normal situation that everyone gets and then it gets a bit farfetched and ridiculous, but that’s when you get people rooting for your characters.
“That’s when they think, ‘What if I could fly?’ or ‘Wouldn’t it be great if my phone could turn into a magic wand?’.
“And imagine if their mother really was a fairy.” Sophie believes laughter is the key to promote childhood reading.
She says: “You see a baby that has a surprise and it laughs. We’re all hardwired to love a surprise and to giggle.
“These brilliant early board books play on that as you lift a flap you turn a page and you get a surprise.
“We’re all grown-up versions of that. So I think anything that invites you to turn the page, whether it’s a cracking fast-paced story or a pop-up, is great.”
And Sophie knows what she’s talking about because before her days as a high-flying journalist and a successful author she also worked as a teacher.
Book store sales are rising thanks to Netflix, baking shows, and Paddingston bear according to Glasgow’s Waterstones bosses
She recalls: “It was always stories that would make their little faces light up in class.
“The best history teachers were the ones who turned the past into a story and would break off on a cliff-hanger.
“It’s just children realising that words, that might look a bit boring, are the way into an amazing tale.”
She adds: “Children gravitate towards a story in a video game, but it’s showing them that a book is also a story too.
You just need to give them the skills as early as possible so they can get through the barrier of the words and into the story which they will love.”
However, Sophie has one classic book suggestion she believes is almost guaranteed to turn kids into readers — Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, first published in 1964.
She says: “It has the most fantastic feel-good opening with a golden ticket and chocolate — how could you go wrong? There was also something about the way Roald Dahl wrote.
“He was so clever and even the language he used managed to be ageless too.”
The writer is currently finishing off her latest adult book before she returns to her third Fairy Mum outing — which are set to hit the small screen next year.
And she doesn’t mind if her old Shopaholic friend Isla is now a competitor.
Sophie jokes: “Isla is one very talented lady — so I don’t mind at all that she’s now a rival.”
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Ian Book has been preparing for his moment to arrive and become the starting quarterback at Notre Dame. Book talks about what it means to him.
One of the common refrains in the many emails I receive from those who have read one of my Rich Habits books is that people simply don’t have enough time to pursue their personal dreams and goals. I even had one reader tell me that, besides her job, her kids and all of the myriad responsibilities of managing the household, she also served as the primary caretaker for an elderly family member.
Rich Habits Study, 233 self-made millionaires shared with me details about their very difficult climb up the mountain of success, and 38 of those 233 self-made millionaires, or 16 percent, spent years pursuing their dream part-time because they already held a full-time job and had to care for and support a family.
But necessity is the mother of invention, and those 38 self-made millionaires figured out how to pursue their dream, despite having very little available time.
How did they do it? Time-blocking.
They blocked off a set amount of time at the same time every day to pursue their dream. For most, this was in the early morning.
This consistent, daily time-blocking strategy generally did not involve more than an hour a day over the course of many years. But during that hour, the millionaires focused like a laser on pursuing the goals behind their dreams.
Their success inspired me. In 2008-2009, I was running two companies: a CPA firm and a financial planning firm. I also had three kids and a wife at home. And I became obsessed with the desire to write a book. I had never written a book before, so I had a lot to learn.
So, using the time-blocking strategy I learned from those 38 self-made millionaires in my study, I blocked off time early in the morning from 5-8 a.m. and, in 18 months, my book “Rich Habits” was published.
Here was my time-blocking morning routine back then:
- Wake at 5 a.m. each day, though 25 percent of the time I woke up at 4 a.m. and 25 percent of the time I woke up at 5:30 a.m.
- Review my Word List for 15 minutes. My Word List is a list of new words I am currently committing to memory.
- Review my Facts Summary or Study Summary for 15 minutes. My Facts Summary are important facts I feel are important to know. My Study Summary is a summary of the thousands of studies I’ve poured through over the years that make their way into media articles and my books.
- Read to learn for 30-45 minutes. Reading material included studies, specifically selected articles, the latest non-fiction book, etc.
- Write for 30 – 45 minutes.
- Review previous day’s writing for 30 minutes.
- Exercise 30 to 60 minutes every day, thirty minutes if it was a run-only day and sixty minutes if it was a run-and-lift-weights day.
I still follow this morning routine every day. And, thanks to this time-blocking strategy, I have been able to maintain my CPA business, grow my CFP business, write five books and hundreds of articles for the media, prepare for my speaking engagements and, most importantly, stay fit and healthy.
Consistency is a prerequisite for success and good health. It is, therefore, a rich habit. Without consistency, dreams and goals can never be realized or achieved. This time-blocking strategy will, over time (about 90 days), become a habit, one that will pay dividends and help you to create the life of your dreams.
Tom Corley is an accountant, financial planner and the author of “Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life.”
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A 152-year-old art mystery has finally been given a face.
Claude Schopp, biographer of the French author Alexandre Dumas and winner of the 2017 Goncourt French literature prize, stumbled upon the identity of the woman who served as the muse for the Gustave Courbet’s famous ‘Origin of the World’ painting. He was engaged in research for another book at the time of his great find.
It was while reading an 1871 letter between Alexandre Dumas’ son (also called Alexandre) and the French author George Sand that Schopp noticed the phrase revealing the identity of the muse.
Dumas was criticising Courbet for his membership of the Paris Commune (a revolutionary government that ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28 1871 after the fall of Emperor Napoleon III), Schopp told Euronews.
“It was hatred, hatred for the people who were part of the group The Commune, (that’s) the reason why he wrote the woman’s name,” said Schopp.
The author quoted the letter sent from Dumas to Sand, in which Dumas made the remark that would reveal the muse’s identity: “How dare he paint the ‘interior’ of Constance Queniaux, an Opera dancer in Paris”.
Schopp said he didn’t believe what he was reading at first. “For about four minutes I thought I was in a strange dream, then for about ten minutes I couldn’t bring myself to tell my wife.”
But after telling her, it all began to sink in. He had discovered the identity of the woman behind a controversial painting and needed to do something about it. He decided to write a book exploring the life of Constance Queniaux, the mysterious Opera dancer, that will be published this Friday by the French publisher Phébus.
Sylvie Aubenas, an art historian and head of the Photography and Prints at the France National Library, helped Schopp with the research for the book.
“Everybody asked themselves who the muse was when the painting was acquired by the Musée d’Orsay (in Paris) in 1995 but it was impossible to find the information,” Aubenas told Euronews.
The painting was commissioned by Khalil Bey, a wealthy Ottoman-Egyptian diplomat and art collector with an intimate relationship with the Opera dancer.
“Khalil Bey wanted to keep an intimate picture of his mistress but Courbet probably chose the angle he painted Queniaux,” said Schopp. Courbet finished the painting in the summer of 1866.
The art historian said they never doubted the information Schopp discovered because Dumas’ son frequented the same social circles as Bey and had even traded some art pieces with the diplomat, so he was likely to know the identity of the muse.
“We also discovered that she owned a Courbet painting of flowers that was likely a gift for having posed for The Origin of the World,” said Aubenas, adding she’s 99% sure that Queniaux is the woman that appears in the painting.
When asked how he felt about solving the mystery behind the painting, Schopp replied that he felt a “bit sad for those who had been looking for her identity for years”.
“I find it a bit unfair but I also tell myself that every solved mystery leads to a new mystery,” he added.
For Aubenas, “there’s always something to discover in the art history world so it is very stimulating for art historians as well for the public”.
The painting gained new notoriety in recent years when it found itself at the centre of a court case. The social networking site faced trial in France for censoring the painting on its platform after it had been uploaded by a user.