History of the Public Controversy Contract

Group Members: Sophia Boudreau, Cameron McGovern, Matthew Hladik, Henry Deteskey, Mitchell Dobbs, Emilio Olay.

Topic: The commercialization of Christmas and other holidays

As a member of this group, I will take equal and fair responsibility of my assigned duties to make sure that this project is finished on time and completed to the best of our group’s abilities. We will conduct interviews, research, and will observe major shopping centres. We will try to understand the different ideologies between age groups to attempt to come to a consensus.


Matthew Hladik

Sophia Boudreau

Emilio Olay

Mitchell Dobbs

Henry Robert Deteskey IV

Is a word highlighted in yellow different than a word highlighted in blue?

Start it off: whole bunch of pictures of Santa…. From 1881 (American depiction of Santa Claus first created by Thomas Nast), World War I, World War II, and so on… Goal show when Santa was created, and how that view has persisted throughout the years. Show a present day picture.


  1. Picture of a Black Santa (polarize… WHAT IS THIS?!)
  2. Weird? hmmmm… YES
  3. So the conception of Santa was created in 1800’s based on: Dutch tradition of Sinter Klaas which was based on St. Nicholas… But the American view of Santa is different, at least physically
  4. I mean it was created in the 1800’s why in the world would there be a black Santa? Yes, your right there would be no reason
  5. Lets think about the 1800s: we weren’t exactly industrialized (show pictures of farms), we did not exactly have the same acceptance of people as we do today (picture of slaves/ women being oppressed), we did not have the same technology (show a picture
  6. Now today all pictures contrasting the ones above… What’s the point– THINGS CHANGE/ SOCIETIES IMPROVE etc.
  7. So, now looking at Santa 1800s to today… THE SAME
  8. POSSIBLE THESIS: The color of Santa is indicative of the time period in which “he” was created, but not a representation of the values and feelings associated around “him”; therefore, now that we live in the 21st century, the color of Santa can change without any mutation in the tradition of Santa.
  9. On the surface there is nothing wrong with that… But, now there have been appearance of Black Santas…
  10. Talk about Baron Davis and his movements/ The Mall of America
  11. There has been much contest to this… Why does everything have to be about race? Why is Santa bad because he is white?!
  12. Bear with me… take a second and think about black and white… they look different… but pretend it is yellow and purple, blue and green… color doesn’t matter
  13. I want to look at race, which we believe to be color, simply as a construction of power
  14. Show a funny picture…. Not this
  15. But the power of being the default color (white) for “people”…
  16. But, Santa isn’t even a real person he is a SYMBOL that stands for values… XYZ, and use a quote from Black Santa movement– those values can be highlighted in any color and they stay the same
  17. Does white Annie behave any different than white Annie?
  18. You see it’s so hard to accept this because Santa is associated with so many traditions… pictures of families/ friends etc.
  19. But will changing the color of Santa really change what Santa is all about?

Mrs. Hamilton, I have so many things I want to say!!! Five minutes is torture!

Paradigm Shift Draft

This is a very rough draft… I have a lot of ideas and sources but it needs to be expanded and cleaned up.

Interview Reme Uduebo?

Santa Claus is real. We see him in pictures, advertisements, movies, cards, and more, but as a society, we think of Santa as being a mythical being that kids obsess over, families use to decorate their houses, and industries use to market their products. One can find Santa in a department store, on TV, in a movie, on the street, and the list goes on. Sure, he may not may not be a human being, but the idea of a Santa—Santa as a label—is most definitely real and alive, and it has been for a very long time. We can find the origins of Santa Claus in the United States somewhere in the 1800’s. http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/santa-claus- cite origins. While the actual physical depiction of Santa Claus has not changed in the last 200 years, the manifestation of the name, has undoubtedly mutated and progressed, atleast for some groups of people. The Dutch combined with the story of Santa Claus and his image have led America to adopt a crafted story and depiction of Santa Claus; however, the idea of Santa Claus, in today’s world, has become much larger, where we take in account race.

BODY 1: Identify what Santa Claus stands for: his values and his affect on American society.


By this point, Santa Claus was a symbol whose meaning was no longer limited to a religious observance, or even a season, but encompassed everything that is kindly, cheerful, generous and peaceful

He is large round the waist, but what care we for that—
‘Tis the good-natured people who always get fat.

Santa and the secular celebration associated with him were invented for all people, to encourage everyone to be good.

During the Christmas season, our need for such things as belonging, forgiveness, and security can surface in dramatic ways. And none of our often frantic attempts to surround ourselves with sights and sounds and tastes of a consumerist culture can really speak to the longings that arise from the deep places in our souls.
Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/1999/12/in-defense-of-santas-values.aspx#1VvUHCekbtKxPYU6.99

Body 2: Why Santa looks the way he does… When he was created.


“Santa Claus was Made by Washington Irving”

The preparations making on every side for the social board that is again to unite friends and kindred; the presents of good cheer passing and repassing, those tokens of regard, and quickeners of kind feelings; the evergreens distributed about houses and churches, emblems of peace and gladness; all these have the most pleasing effect in producing fond associations, and kindling benevolent sympathies…Stranger and sojourner as I am in the land,—though for me no social hearth may blaze, no hospitable roof throw open its doors, nor the warm grasp of friendship welcome me at the threshold,—yet I feel the influence of the season beaming into my soul from the happy looks of those around me. Surely happiness is reflective, like the light of heaven; and every countenance, bright with smiles, and glowing with innocent enjoyment, is a mirror transmitting to others the rays of a supreme and ever shining benevolence.

Body 3: While the way we look at Santa is similar today, we must contextualize the idea of Santa in today’s platform of modern day politics and society. What I mean is, we live in a racialized world, where many things are looked at in terms of race… When looking at Santa… In looking at Santa, I think it is important to look at in this way: Mills- white, black, yellow etc. are colors that people have created/ race is created by people/ we want to look at race as a power structure, and ask the question “Why cant Santa look different.”


But of course it’s about race—everything is. Our country was built on oppression, and race is everywhere,/ “Don’t make this about race.”


I know it is a busy time of year, but we need you to settle a little debate that has emerged in American media asking: Are you white? Are you black? When you come in from the North Pole, do you have a legal visa–or are you undocumented?

Your whole story, which is supposed to be universal, can leave a lot of kids feeling pretty distressed at this time of year. Can you find a kid if he lives in an apartment building, not a house with a chimney? Can you find her in a homeless shelter?

You are as universal and encompassing, or as narrow and exclusionary as we imagine you to be. So, if we cannot imagine you as racially different from ourselves, it is because our minds are stunted by a history that still cannot fathom benevolence, kindness and intimacy in the bodies of those who are not like us.

Because if we, as a nation, can become polarized over you… we’re going to need a lot more than candy canes this time of year.

Body 4: Social movements/ media effect

This is the basic problem with Santa-theology today. Santa now typifies the whole ‘if you’re poor you must be a slacker (i.e. naughty)” ethos that has taken over our society.- https://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-susan-brooks-thistlethwaite/jesus-will-forgive-you-bu_b_4477349.html

Body 5: Responses to these movements and WHY? NEGLECT BECAUSE OF TRADITION


just 19% of whites, as compared to 60% of
blacks, believed race was a major problem in America.4 Indeed, while that poll found that large majorities
of both white and black Americans concur that racial stereotyping continues, most white Americans, in
contrast to black Americans, believe that blacks have equal access to affordable housing, employment,
and the fair administration of justice, despite often overwhelming facts to the contrary.

Racial discrimination exists only at
the margins – our society is fundamentally fair when it comes to issues of race. The result is that many
people are reluctant to raise issues of racial discrimination and find it distasteful when others do.

Body 6: Where else do we see this and WHY? ANNIE


Also to be noted is that in neither Annie’s nor Johnny Storm’s case is their skin or hair color an essential part of their character. Sure, the world came to know and love the original Annie’s vibrant, red curls, but they weren’t essential to the development of the plot as a whole.

In Charles Mills’ novel NAME, he discusses whiteness not as a color but as a power construction. Not only as a construction of power, but as a construction of power that is apparent, but not recognized….

In recent years, there has been much contention with the actual depiction of Santa Claus: all Santa’s are overweight, old white men with white, fluffy beards. Thinking about the origins of Santa, in the United States, the mid- 19th century, this depiction would make sense. The story of Santa was crafted by white men during a period of legislative and social white supremacy. This is not a claim that Santa Claus was created with purpose to establish a symbol for white dominance, instead, it is a way for society to understand why Santa looks the way he does, today. So now the key questions come up: “Now that we live in a world with different ideologies and social structures, must we depict Santa in the same way?” This question is extremely apparent now, and going forward. In fact, movements have developed: The Black Santa Movement. Obviously, Santa Claus is seen as a white man, no one can reject that claim, and there is no problem with that when we look at whiteness as a color, but whiteness is not necessarily only a “color.” In Charles Mills’ novel NAME, he discusses whiteness not as a color but as a power construction. Not only as a construction of power, but as a construction of power that is apparent, but not recognized….

Retired NBA guard, Baron Davis, and American rapper, fabulous, have developed a movement known as “The Black Santa Movement.” According to Davis, “the whole point of having a black Santa Claus…it’s all about the emotions and the affect that [the Santa’s] give people—not really what they look like.” Meaning, color acts simply as a visionary technique, but does not inherently attribute different qualities to the perception of “Santa Claus.” Along this vein, Davis stated that he “supports all Santa’s, of all colors.” This idea of Black Santa does not just apply to Davis’ new business, however. In 2016, Larry Jefferson Gamble appeared as Santa in the Mall of America in Minnesota. In response to his appearance, Santa Larry was greeted with a number of tweets attacking his role playing Santa. For example,

Initially, children were surprised to know that Santa was black. Some even asked if he was the “real Santa’s helper,” a pejorative perspective. Until this book, children had known only a single story—that Santa must be white. This discussion of Santa and race led children to research and write about other texts that left out African-Americans.

Here is one of the major objections to the changing the way we visualize Santa: tradition. NEED TO ADDRESS WHY IT IS SO CRAZY TO ATTACK TRADITION. Aside: now you may ask, “Okay, if we change the skin color of Santa we should also change the Easter Bunny to an Easter Squirrel, or Thanksgiving Turkey to a Thanksgiving Moose. But these things are not directly related; moreover, while each of these symbols stand in representation of certain holidays, the defining factor for Santa is his whiteness, and our society has a hyperactive tendency to racialize concepts.\

Does Santa only visit rich kids?

– visits from Santa have more to do with socioeconomic factors than child behavior, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
– Train to Christmas town which is targeted at the wealthy… some things associated with Christmas target the wealthy
– “It gives them something to identify with, but Santa is still just Santa,”
– Reaction: “I don’t understand why Santa would be black. He is a white character. Just seems kind of racist to make him black for the sake of having black Santa. I don’t really care but in our racially sensitive society I don’t understand how this is considered okay? O the hypocrisy.”

NBA All-Star Baron Davis and the Black Santa Movement

– whiteness-as-default
– changing Santa does not mean we’re being “politically correct.” It means we’re expanding our perceptions of the “norm.”

Nast was instrumental in standardizing and nationalizing the image of a jolly, kind, and portly Santa in a red, fur-trimmed suit delivering toys from his North Pole workshop. This was accomplished through his work in the pages of Harper’s Weekly, his contributions to other publications, and by Christmas-card merchants in the 1870s and 1880s who relied heavily upon his portraiture.





Tears that opened the door

I love my grandparents…

Right after page 146, in It’s What I Do, Addario displays a picture of her “Nina and Poppy having coffee.” At fist glance, feelings of nostalgia and love flooded my mind, and I was brought back to a place that I love more than anything in the world: the family dinner table.

The image reminded me of how much I enjoy sitting with my grandparents, over a cup of coffee, and simply talking about the news, sports, and the like.  Growing up these small conversations shaped and molded how I viewed the world; moreover, my grandpa made me a New York Giants fan, made me learn Republican ideologies, made me learn what it means to be a man, and made me understand that hard-work always pays off.

I can honestly say that my grandpa, in many ways, shaped the man that I am today; however, other experiences throughout my life aided me in searching beyond my grandfather’s (veteran, retired police officer, son of immigrants) view of the world. These experiences are accurately portrayed in a picture just after page 210. The picture depicts a close-up of a woman clearly in despair; she is crying and is obviously in a state of sadness.

Unluckily or luckily, I have seen faces such as the one depicted through my community service experiences…

On one evening last December, I was visiting the Manhattan Correctional Facility with a group of my peers. There, we held a prayer circle, and did the best we could to celebrate some version of Christmas. One inmate across from me in the circle wept and uttered, “I just want to wake up next to wife and kids on Christmas morning.” As I looked at the man, it was the first time that I ever felt some sort of remorse for a “criminal.”

Events such as the one above, coupled by my grandfather’s teachings, have allowed me to form my own view of the world. Now when I sit with my grandpa at the table, I am able to offer him other ways to look at events, people, and politics that contrast in comparison to his ideologies. While some may think this would cause my grandfather and I to grow apart, in fact, it has opened so many new doors in our relationship.

Trophy? Medal? Monument?


All good actions deserve a reward, right? Yes and no…

Take for example, studying hard for a test. It is my assumption that anyone who studies intensely for an exam expects a rewarding score. In this case the person doing the studying is acting in accordance to a result that he or she expects to be desirable. However, take service for an example. Whether that means holding a door for a teacher, working at a soup kitchen, or travelling to a third world country to administer aid, we must look at the intention of the action in order to fully understand the action.

Are you performing the service so you can pad your resume, or do you have a desire to make a positive difference in a community?

This is a question that Lynsey Addario and almost all people struggle with. In part three of her novel It’s What I Do, she says that she is “conflicted about making money from images of people who were so desperate” (146). She is concerned not about her actions but about the intent of her actions. This is something that I struggle with myself; moreover, creating new, creative service initiatives in my high school was valued very highly, and obviously, looked great when applying to colleges.

I had to learn to ask myself why I was doing what I was doing, and I have used this method ever since. This simple question helped me make key discoveries in my life. Moreover, I found that I was only playing Varsity baseball because I wanted to say I was a “Varsity athlete” and so I would be looked upon positively by my father and my friends; I did not actually love playing the sport anymore. In addition, I was able to accept that I loved the feeling that community/ Christian service provided me.

This has allowed me to understand that actions can still be rewarding even without recognition, because if you’re doing something you love to do, the simple act is enough to satiate your desires; the monetary or material reward is just a bonus.



Fear… How can you look past it?

On September 11, 2001, we all know what happened. A nation’s roots were shaking at its core, and its people needed hope, love, and attention to revive from the crash of darkness. As President, George W. Bush took it upon himself to strengthen the hearts of those in mourning. When he first gave his speech to congress on September 20, 2001, he mandated a need to end terror throughout the world, especially in the Middle East. At the time, Bush asserted that the feelings of Americans must not be directed at the entire Islamic population in the world, but instead at Islamic extremists.

At its core, Bush’s speech addressed the matter at hand; he brought the nation together and established a goal to eradicate terrorism across the world. He set a divide; The United States of America verses Islamic Terrorism; however, he failed to address a question that we have yet to answer in truth: how can one identify a terrorist?

I found these two pictures below with two simple google searches. The first, “Islamic terrorist,” and the second, “Islamic Woman.”

In looking at both, can you see a major difference in appearance?

The rhetoric in Bush’s speech was undoubtedly just; however, its execution is where controversies arise. Bush asserted the danger of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the like, and he stated that they were at odds with the true values of Islam, but how do we decipher between extremists and Muslims at a basic level—the way they look and dress? Certain sights cause fear, something that is uniform across races, religions, and communities.

So, we must ask where do we see Muslims dressed in their religious attire? Walking out of a mosque, yes. Sitting in a restaurant with their families, yes. On a TV screen with a RPG in their hands, yes. The latter is what causes the danger. The way see Muslims on television has a major impact on the way view Middle-Eastern or Islamic looking people in daily life. According to a Kuwaiti study, “Western media organizations must see normal Muslims in everyday life, as professionals, educators, parents, community leaders and participants… TV news and documentaries have the strongest influence on people’s views of Islam.”[1]

Mainstream media presents a portrait of Islamic people that engrains itself into the minds of Americans. Even if media does not actively strive to cause division between middle-eastern people and white America, perpetuation of negative pictures, stories, and events involving Islamic people leads to dangerous assumptions about the Islamic faith and Middle-Eastern culture. These assumptions and associations have led to a fear, not just what some would call Islamophobia, but genuine fear.  Fear is generally looked at as “a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats.” [2] But not all fear is experienced face-to-face by all people, instead it is learned and developed by authority figures. Look at children as an example. At an early age, they are indoctrinated by their parents not to trust strangers: “Don’t open the door to strangers,” “Don’t get in the car with a stranger,” etc. But over time, kids are able to understand that some strangers are “good” and others are “bad,” and they make value judgements based on their parent’s approval.

Mainstream media is that authority figure that siphons how we are able to view a sect of people. “When the perpetrator is Muslim, you can expect that attack to receive about four and a half times more media coverage than if the perpetrator was not Muslim,” disturbing implications for the way Americans perceive Muslims.”[3]

AUDIENCE: Millenials living in a post 9/11 world, especially New Yorkers.

After workshop: Incorporate the speech more throughout the article/ use “I”– growing up in New York– riding the subway everyday…


[1] “Media has anti-Muslim bias, claims report,” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2005/nov/14/pressandpublishing.raceintheuk.

[2] “Fear,” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/fear.

[3] Boyle, Tara, “When is it ‘terrorism’? How the Media Cover Attacks by Muslim Perpetrators,” NPR, http://www.npr.org/2017/06/19/532963059/when-is-it-terrorism-how-the-media-covers-attacks-by-muslim-perpetrators.

A cop lover, a cop hater: All Lives Matter

Henry Deteskey

Civic Artifact Speech Outline

English 137

(It helps me more to write it out first then go from there. I will not be using any index cards during my speech.)

Setting the Scene/ Attention Getter:

I’m sure many, if not all of you, have heard or saw scenarios as shown above. The fat, slobby cop hanging-out eating his donut and sipping on his coffee. It’s hysterical because I know cops that fit the bill to a tee! This is not my artifact, but I just want to clear the air of all of those negative, silly depictions of police officers so that you can get the most out of my talk. Along with those funny depictions of cops, I ask that for this presentation you clear your negative thoughts about police officers from your mind, just for the time being.


In 2014, Eric Garner, a black man from Staten Island, New York, and Michael Brown, a black man from Ferguson, Missouri, were murdered by police officers. These two men most definitely were not the only two black men killed by police officers in that year, but for the purpose of my talk, I will primarily use them as my examples. The deaths of these two men brought controversy, strife, sadness, and pain to most of America, but most importantly, the African American Community. In response, a movement titled “Black Lives Matter” roared throughout the country. Like I said before, this movement did not simply start because of the death of two black men. This movement was unleashed after hundreds of years of inequality, whether we think in terms of slavery, Jim Crowe, mass incarceration, or police brutality. Beliefs, aggression, and feelings were building up.

Now I will get into my artifact…


So, this flag was produced around the time Black Lives Matter was growing in popularity, and naturally, people believed Blue Lives Matter was a countermovement in relation to BLM. In fact, this flag was created after the deaths of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn, New York in December of 2014, and its popularity has been growing ever since. According to the New York Times, the killer “was angered about the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.” These were not the only murders of police officers in this country, just like Michael Brown and Eric Garner were not the only black men murdered. But I’m using them as examples. Just to give you an idea of the scale, “Shooting deaths of law-enforcement have spiked 78 percent in the first half of this year, including a 300 percent increase in ambush-style killings,” according to a Washington Times article in 2016.

With everything going on, the police were scared. No one wanted to be a cop because it seemed that almost everyone hated the police force. Even active cops were discouraging their sons to find a career outside of law enforcement. The flag was erected to bring solidarity amongst police officers across the country. At its basic sense, the flag is a positive object; one that allows people to show pride in the men in blue. I know when I think about the police force I do not think about negative things. I mean I am a son of a cop, so I’m a little bias but I think about all of the good things my dad did in his career. I always think about this one story… It was a very early morning, after a night shift in the lower east side of Manhattan. My dad was getting in his car, sleep deprived, ready to see his kids get ready for school. On the way home, he saw two legs hanging out of the front door of a taxi cab, and then witnessed two men hovering over the body. As my dad approached, he saw the men brutally beating the cabby, and he immediately pulled his gun and screamed, “Police, don’t move!” He was able to arrest the one man, as the other fled (he was eventually caught by back-up). But what stands out most to me from this story is what the taxi driver said in court about my father.  He said, “It was like he was an angel sent from God.”


But, I’m not naïve. The flag can be seen just as much as a negative symbol as a positive one. Some police officers developed a hatred for the Black Lives Matter activists. And to be frank, there are racist, incompetent, and unqualified police officers that use this flag as a means to worship their faulty beliefs. There are also police officers that utilize this flag to combat supporters of the black lives matter movement. Here’s the thing that police officers must remember: The Black Lives Matter Movement is not an organization with leaders that instruct its followers to commit crimes. It is a social movement that is alive in the hearts of many. Think about 9/11 for a second. Yes, the people who crashed into the World Trade Center were Islamic, but no, they were not a representation of all Islamic people. Similarly, the murderer of these officers discussed before cannot be seen as a representative of all BLM supporters, just as an extremist.


Sure, I am a son of a high ranking, decorated police officer, and I guess you could say that partially clouds my vision. But, I would like to think that I have a fairly neutral view of the polarizing flag. I believe it is possible to support police officers and to sympathize with the black lives matter movement at the same time. Both the blue line flag and the Black Lives Matter movement do not represent institutions or organizations. They represent feelings of pride, whether that be pride in law enforcement or pride in the lives of black Americans. It is important that we, as a society, do not allow one to segregate the other, because if we do that, then nothing can be achieved.






















Mueller, Benjamin. “2 NYPD Officers Killed in Brooklyn Ambush; Suspect Commits Suicide.”                The New York Times, 20 December 2014.               https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/21/nyregion/two-police-officers-shot-in-their-patrol-   car-in-brooklyn.html.

Riddell, Kelly. “Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter at odds.” The Washington Times, 29            July 2016. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jul/29/black-lives-matter-and-     blue-lives-matter-at-odds/.

Henry, shut up!


In my last RCL post I said that I am a very “passionate” person… That is a very nice way to describe me. I am loud, extremely friendly, and love to be the center of attention. When I played baseball, it was easy for me to be myself; moreover, I would always be the loudest player on the field, give pre-game pep talks, and taunt the other team. How in the world was I going to be obnoxious Henry while doing service?

Sometime after my surgery, I sat in on my school’s service club’s weekly meeting. I remember the board members saying that they needed more money to support our partner school in Nairobi, Kenya. When I went home that day, I found myself meticulously crafting a Super Bowl Pool to ensure that my buddies and I would be able to gamble on the big game. My mom walked into the kitchen, and said, “Hen, why don’t you do a Super Bowl pool for St. Al’s in Kenya?” She got me thinking… Teenagers don’t like to hand out money, but when they have the opportunity to win something, they are the first to open their wallets.

The next day, with the help of a few friends, I set up a Super Bowl Pool ($7 per box) in my school’s cafeteria– $5 from every box would be given to St. Al’s and the other $2 would go towards the prize. At first, no one came over to the sign; it was as if we were invisible. However, in classic Henry fashion, I stood on top of the table and began screaming, “Super Bowl Boxes! $200 pay-out to the winner!” Immediately, a line formed across the cafeteria, and we were forced to create two separate pools. At the end of the day, I raised $1000 for AIDS orphans in Kenya, and that $1000 funded a full year’s education and housing for a child. This simple fundraiser showed me that my personality is at the foundation of all my passions, even when they change.

They Really are People

(RCL #3)

Sometimes you just get that feeling that you can read a person. He’s a jock. She’s a diva… You can base your whole interpretation of a person just by the way they look, carry themselves, or where you see them. Why not look deeper?

In It’s What I Do, Addario chooses to interact with people with definitive stereotypes during a very sensitive time-period— Middle Eastern women directly after 9/11. Not only does she interact with them, but she entertains their thoughts and opinions. I know most people, if they heard someone say that “the attacks of September 11 were justified,” would immediately react in a harsh and aggressive manner (Addario 72). Addario, however, desires to learn more about these women’s lives so that she can understand the reasons behind their hatred of America and to shed light into the society which they were raised.

In high school, I founded a service project called “Regis and Rikers,” which entailed groups of high school students visiting Rikers Island Correctional Facility and interacting with the youth inmates. It started as a branch of my school’s Christian Service Club, but quickly morphed into a school wide effort. Now, here’s the thing: who would want to visit and engage in activities with soon to be convicted criminals? People that are behind bars for apparently breaking the law. People that could potentially hurt or harm you, given their track record.

In thinking about criminals, people fail to understand that they are people; moreover, they have been shaped by their experiences, families, and up-bringing’s. Is it a person’s fault if they were raised in a housing project, received no motivation to attend school, and were left misguided as to learning what is right and wrong? Along these lines, is it the women’s, whom Addario interacted with in the Middle East, fault that they were raised to hate the United States and anything representing it?

This is no means to justify the acts of 9/11, in fact, I have been impacted by the events of Islamic extremists: my mother was in the trade center for the car bomb in 1993, my father is a retired from the NYPD, and I live within sight of what used to be the World Trade Center. But just as Addario did in her novel, I plan to take risks with my passions and to unveil them through my passion blog. 


Serve with your tongue out


When I loved to play baseball, oh man, did I show it. You know in grammar school when you’re playing a sport, whether that be soccer, football, or softball, and your coach asks you to cheer for your teammates, well, I had the opposite problem. My coaches used to tell me to quiet down and relax.

When I began to get heavily involved in regular service, I developed a strong desire to help those in need; however, I was not yet sure how I could make an impact that would be different than everyone else. I mean, for the most part, anyone could fill a cup of soup, collect money, or stock shelves. So, I was left with the question: how can I really make a difference?

I don’t mean to say that I simply wanted to be the center of attention in the service that I did, instead, I wanted to stand out in terms of the result of my service. Take the picture below as an example.







Yes, that is me embarrassing myself on the dance floor with elementary school children. Yes, all the attention is radiated around me. Yes, I look so extra and maybe a little strange. But besides those things, you have to think about what I am doing. The picture was taken during a visit to an elementary school in East Harlem, New York. The kids in the picture primarily come from low income families, and it was my service club’s idea to provide the children with a Christmas Celebration– who knows if their families can give them the same Christmas experience that most of us know and love. Originally, it was our idea to simply hand out candy and color books with the children, but I was having no part in that. If we were going to party, we were going party!

So, yes, I dressed up as Santa and looked ridiculous, but at the end of the day, my group and I held an amazing dance party and the kids were not able to stop smiling or dancing. I know that the kids had a tremendous amount of fun, and I would like to think that my character and my passion to stand out played a role in maximizing our impact on the children.

Now that I have been actively engaged in service for several years, I have grown to love the reward of putting a smile on a person’s face. I have been able to make an impact on communities of suffering ranging from prison inmates trying desperately to reform their lives to patients in hospitals fighting for a few extra days to be with their families.

The work that I have done is not plugged into a stat sheet, like it was in my previous days playing baseball, but I’d like to think life is more than just the “stats.” There’s nothing better than doing something you love and knowing that you can be yourself every step of the way.