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Dr Robert Lado

A Small Group of People Can and Have Changed the World. I applaud every effort to change the political dialog from the non-important to the things that mater most to all of us. I very much want to be part of making this a reality and am pushing with all I have. What I have right now, however, is only my voice in my writing. I keep writing about how small groups have made world shaking changes because I have been a witness to what a small group of people can do. That witness doesn’t come from my reading about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or J. P. Morgan. My witness comes from my experience of seeing what my father was able to accomplish as a linguist.

My father went to the University of Michigan (U of M) from the University of Texas to work with a group of professors directed by the legendary Dr. Charles Fries in the brand new field of Applied Linguistics some 60 years ago. At Michigan, Dr. Fries was experimenting with other possible methods for learning languages away from the traditional methods used at the time. New approaches were put through a battery of tests to prove their usefulness and their validity before being sanctioned and used in their program. This small group went on to develop nearly all of the approaches to language learning used to day. Most of them developed at the University of Michigan in the mid 1950s through the 1960s. When U of M’s management, in their infinite wisdom, decided to deemphasize the program, these geniuses were scattered to the winds, setting up programs around the America and the world. This small group of people had tremendous influence on a field that grew to enormous size.

A few years ago I was talking to an administrator of an English language program from Ecuador who proudly touted the school's then current recognition by the University of Michigan’s Language Institute. The administrator was showing me current credentials of a program that had in essence been closed some 30 years before. I could see that the university was still living off the legacy of that small band of professors who changed the face of language learning of which my father belonged but the school's administrators dismissed and closed. Sometimes people who claim that they are in the know, actually know nothing at all.

After U of M tucked way their language institute, my father ended up at Georgetown University recruited by the Jesuits there to make the well-known and respected Institute of Languages into the School of Languages and Linguistics and become its Dean.

One day, while I was attending the (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) TESOL convention I struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman at the edge of the exhibition floor. The exhibition was large, having thousands upon thousands of participants, hundreds of exhibitors and days of papers and lectures on the latest techniques for teaching English to speakers of other languages. Teachers and program heads were there from all four corners of the globe. We began talking and when he heard my name, he asked me if I was the son of the former Dean of Georgetown’s School of Languages and Linguistics. We were both looking at Paramount display. They had just acquired Prentice Hall publishing company and to show off their control had a display that abstractly represented the Paramount Mountain in their logo and was more than 25 feet high and occupied a huge portion of the convention center’s floor. When I answered yes to whether I was Dr. Lado's son he turned to me and said something like, “Do you believe this? Your father and I and a few other English language professors started this organization in a basement room in Healy Hall.” He then went on to tell me that he had been the first President of TESOL, and that my father had contributed the first money the organization had and made space for it on Georgetown University’s campus. He told me that my Dad was to be elected its first president; however, there was concern that his being the Dean of Languages and Linguistics that this would constitute a conflict of interest with his position at the university, so he graciously declined. The small efforts of a few professors blossomed into an organization that had tens of thousands of members and improved language programs worldwide.

What I learned from the tales of my father’s efforts was that a small band of people, do have the ability to change the parameters of what is possible. They had formed and grew an organization to become the most influential force behind disseminating modern methods of English language teaching around the globe.  And they started this worldwide revolution in education from a few borrowed rooms in a basement somewhere in Georgetown University. After having been witness to this phenomena as a child and the story now being retold to me again as an adult, how could I believe that this wouldn’t hold true for the Occupy movement as well?

The story is true time and time again. Think of Steve Jobs working with Steve Wozniak in their garage and looking at what he was able to accomplish in his life, not for the benefit of himself, even though he was handsomely rewarded, but for all of us who do things with computers, smart phones and iPads. His small band revolutionized communication and in so doing sowed the seeds for other revolutions to come. I am positive that there must have been a moment along the way when Jobs turned to Woz and said something like, "Did you ever think when we were in the garage..."

The Occupy movement is no longer a small movement, but I am sure there are two people standing at the edge of a large rally somewhere saying, “Do you believe this? You and I hatched this crazy idea in a basement and look at it now!”

Originally posted to reckonrecon on Sat Dec 03, 2011 at 02:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yes! With many down about out Party (5+ / 0-)

    and President just now, need this kind of diary to get people back up and active.

    T and R

    •  The best thing the Democrats can do is to embrase (5+ / 0-)

      the overall message of the Occupy movement. What they have to say is compatible with the mainstream of our party.

      please consider the environment - do you really need to print this comment?

      by joelado on Sat Dec 03, 2011 at 02:55:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do you think they would (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mithra, joelado

        have more impact and more joining if they had a bigger agenda.  

        They are trashing our public schools in order to have for profit schools in the future.

        Those who want them to leave Social Security alone, would help them.  The list goes on.

        The OWs' biggest advantage is their youth and being educated, but they do need to include others.        

        •  This is the way the movement stands (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fhcec, Evolutionary

          according to several websites that have picked up their stands from across the country. i consolidated them into a list from most mentioned to least mentioned and dropped any stances that were only mentioned once by any list. I also tried to get the spirit of their stances down since each list may have talked about each stance but sometimes depending on who was putting forward the stance asked for very specific things. I did my best to get the true spirit of all the lists with the combined list below.

          1. Stance on reducing or eliminating corporate influence in politics

          Eliminate "Personhood" legal status for corporations. The interests of the general public and society must always come before the interests of corporations.

          Reverse Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission (2008 Supreme Court decision), the decision that states that dollars equal free speech.

          Fix our broken electoral system by limiting campaign contributions.

          Eliminate the influence of money and lobbyists on government officials.

          2. Stance on reforming Wall Street

          Reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, keeping brokerage houses out of mainline banking.

          Eliminate the “casino” aspects of business investing currently practiced on “Wall Street” and place serious regulations on how business is conducted by Wall Street and banks.

          Hold the people who caused the financial crisis accountable.

          3. Stance on creating jobs

          Massive expansion of public works projects or projects in general designed to employ people directly.

          Guaranteed living wage income for employment.

          4. Stance on reforming the tax structure  

          End the Bush era tax cuts, institute a progressive income tax that asks more from the wealthiest Americans, close corporate tax loopholes and eliminate corporate handouts.

          5. Stance related to the environment and energy

          Strengthen environmental laws to guarantee a clean, undamaged environment to future generations.

          Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same time bringing the alternative energy economy up to current energy demand.

          6. Stance related to healthcare

          Join the rest of the free world and create a single-payer, free and universal health care system that covers all Americans.

          7. Stance on how to deal with the mortgage crisis

          Keep working families in their homes by putting a freeze on all foreclosures until a solution can be put in place.

          8. Stance on reforming education

          Tuition free public college attendance.

          Ease current student debt.

          9. Anti-war stance

          Reduce the U.S. military globally.  We are an empire of liberty, not guns.

          Immediate withdraw all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

          10. Stance on out sourcing and moving jobs off shore

          Assess a penalty tax on any corporation that moves American jobs to other countries.

          Impose trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for American family farms, American manufacturing and the American worker.


          please consider the environment - do you really need to print this comment?

          by joelado on Sun Dec 04, 2011 at 07:40:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I am no spokesperson for OWS, but these (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            positions do reflect much of what I have heard discussed at the GA's.  We have so many problems to address, it would make an impossibly long manifesto.  The bad guys have had decades to turn our Country into a banana republic, and we have had only a few months to just speak up and point some of the bad things out to the public.

            It's kind of like losing weight.  People that are really overweight didn't get that way overnight.  It takes years to gain enough weight to be unhealthy, and it takes substantial time and will to lose that weight.  

            We no longer have the choice of sitting on the side lines waiting for change to come.  We are the people we have been waiting for.  We are the change we want to see.  At this point, if you are still 'on the fence' about whether or not our Country needs serious, lasting change - it's time to get off the fence and pick a side.  It's the 1% vs. the 99%.  

            OWS is having a definite effect on the 'conversation'.

            #OccupyOMC - "We have a permit, its called The Constitution".

            by Evolutionary on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 07:15:12 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Wow. I went to school at the University of (8+ / 0-)

    Michigan and graduated with both a B.A. and an M.A in Linguistics in 1968 and 1969. There were very few universities that offered degrees in linguistics at the time. There were none that offered degrees in TEFL--not like it is today. I graduated with nine units in "TEFL" which was all that was offered at the time.

    I taught in the English Language Institute as a graduate student. It was there I found out I loved teaching, even though I had taken the job initially just to earn enough to continue with school. I dropped the goal of getting a Ph.D and instead headed off to San Francisco.

    I have now retired after over 40 years of teaching English as a Second Language to mostly immigrant adults from many different countries. I have seen the field change from one in which sewing teachers who lost their classes were put into ESL classrooms "because they can speak English" into one in which a Masters' Degree is required (at the Community College level).

    I remember my interview for the very first job I got in San Francisco. The head of the ESL program told me he hired me because my degree was from Michigan, and at the time, that meant being in the forefront of TESL. So thank you for your post about your dad and how he changed so many lives. It made me remember.

  •  Thank you for the fine story, joelado. (3+ / 0-)

    Lorikeet spoke for me! My first thought was the incredible number of people who have benefited from this work all over the world. Though I wouldn't want English to overpower other languages, it has certainly spread in my lifetime.

    In Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, there was a good deal of communication in English on twitter and elsewhere that instantly updated the whole world. At least some of us, following along as best we could, gained a sense of connection. At one point, London protesters were streaming video live to Syria, and Syria was streaming right back!

    People are encouraging each other worldwide, and it's great to have words to help do that! Thanks for introducing us to your dad and for making the Occupy connection. It's a timely reminder!

    Your encouragement brought to mind an encouraging song. Hope you don't mind .... "Here's to Lights and Virtues," by Jackson Browne.

    "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

    by cotterperson on Sat Dec 03, 2011 at 03:45:28 PM PST

  •  Sometimes the struggle for truth and light (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joelado, cotterperson, betson08, Chi

    on injustice, or bettering others seems isolated and pushing against many adversities.  Thank you for the reminder, that many a single person has made a difference for others.

    Science is hell bent on consensus. Dr. Michael Crichton said “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing to do with consensus... which is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right,”

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Sat Dec 03, 2011 at 04:36:07 PM PST

    •  We all make a difference when we push for what is (3+ / 0-)

      right and good. Just remember to keep pushing for good when you get the chance. My Dad did it just by doing his job.

      please consider the environment - do you really need to print this comment?

      by joelado on Sat Dec 03, 2011 at 07:59:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Every movement begins with an individual's (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      idea.  Then, two people have a conversation about that idea.  The few that started OWS are probably amazed at what has become of an idea.

      As an individual, every time I go walk by the river (in this case, the American River in Sacramento, CA), I bring a plastic bag or two, and I pick up any litter I see.  My Wife does the same.  If every person that walks that river did the same, our rivers and trails would be very clean indeed.

      In the same way, if you as an individual can help just one person in need this winter, your sacrifice can encourage ten other people to do the same.  We have to look out for one another.  

      #OccupyOMC - "We have a permit, its called The Constitution".

      by Evolutionary on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 07:20:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  While I applaud the sentiment... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...I have serious doubts that anything substantive will come of the Occupy movement.  Yes, they have gotten people talking about income disparity, and that's good.  But will we still be talking about when the economy picks up?  This recession has been bad, but it won't last forever.  Sooner or later there will be another boom cycle, and once the majority of Americans feel like there is a chicken in every pot again, they might just return to their placated quiescence.  Give a man a 60" flatscreen and a new SUV and he's a lot less likely to make waves.  I believe fundamental change will only come about when things have gotten so bad that there is widespread social disruption and civil unrest.  And we're a long way from that.  Maybe I'm wrong.  I hope I am.  But I fear I am not.

    "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

    by Jon Stafford on Sat Dec 03, 2011 at 08:42:30 PM PST

    •  I have a little of the same fear as you do, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      just like you I am hoping that we both are wrong. Given how bad things got during the Bush administration, which lead me to tell all my friends that we were being set up for a great depression and it nearly happened, I believe that this movement may cause the dialog to at least move in the correct direction. However, things are really bad in many places in the United States and the Occupy movement in those places is the first manifestation of true social unrest. If we do a few things to correct our current financial crisis people will become distracted and preoccupied with the things they can purchase again, but given what Japan went though, I don't think we are going to have normal for a decade or more. Plenty of time for people to push and put in place those things that will account for real social change. If things truly collapse in Europe, we could be facing an American Weimar Republic.  Let's work to fix what we can before we get to that point.

      please consider the environment - do you really need to print this comment?

      by joelado on Sat Dec 03, 2011 at 09:15:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I hate to admit it (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cotterperson, joelado

      but TV is so interesting, it can keep your mind off of the important things.

      Think about it.  Say you put in your 8 hours, you come home and feed the family and help the kids with home work and baths and prepare for the next morning. Then you finally get to watch a little TV.

      It is almost a luxury to watch TV for many.

      •  But resist the urge. Become an Internet activits (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fhcec, Evolutionary

        and fight trolls on the Occupy Wall St. facebook site. There are too many people putting up posts that go against what the movement stands for that I fear that the movement will either be misunderstood or be co-opted.

        please consider the environment - do you really need to print this comment?

        by joelado on Sun Dec 04, 2011 at 07:45:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Every contribution, whether it's battling (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ignorance in blogs and websites, or helping out and being present at an Occupy, or helping financially, or providing facts to anyone ignorant of those facts - helps.

          We can't change the world all by ourselves, but each individual contributing to the whole has an effect.

          Instead of being overwhelmed by enormity of the task in front of us, just take on a single thing, however small and apply your mind to the task.

          OWS is already misunderstood - basically from relentless propaganda.  If you can clear up that misunderstanding for just one person, you have had an effect.

          OWS doesn't appear to be subject to co-option.  In fact, it seems to be co-opting other groups or ideas itself already.  Look at the many diaries and comments here at the Kos about it.  Even the Tea Party people (some of them) are coming around to it.

          #OccupyOMC - "We have a permit, its called The Constitution".

          by Evolutionary on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 07:27:38 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Really? The Tea Party people are coming around? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            We can only hope. My experience with Tea Partiers are that they are fanatic without a lot of thought to their positions. Maybe just explaining what we are is doing the trick. Thank you for this.

            please consider the environment - do you really need to print this comment?

            by joelado on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 12:10:17 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Sometimes small groups make it worse, ie: the 1% (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joelado, Evolutionary

    It's not how big or small that matters - it's how effective you are.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Dec 04, 2011 at 08:12:39 AM PST

    •  True (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar, joelado, fhcec, Evolutionary

      Look just at the 2000 presidential election. A small number of people argued that there was no difference between Bush and Gore, backed the candidacy of Ralph Nader and swung the election to the Republican Party, bringing us 8 years of George Bush.

      That truly changed the world.

      •  They are trying it again. On Occupy, there are (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fhcec, Evolutionary

        hundreds of post put up each day that claim that there isn't any difference between GWB and Obama. I think the Republicans are trying to set up Obama as a continuation of the Bush administration so they can run against Bush like the Democrats should do. We need to fight trolls.

        please consider the environment - do you really need to print this comment?

        by joelado on Sun Dec 04, 2011 at 07:48:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Fight the Good Fight! Battle ignorance and do not (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    stand down!  Don't give in, don't back up, don't give up.  We have an opportunity to change things.  We can right the wrongs, we just have to stay on task.

    #OccupyOMC - "We have a permit, its called The Constitution".

    by Evolutionary on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 07:29:44 AM PST

  •  In general, yes, small groups of people (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    make a lot of difference. Usually either b/c these people are the best in their fields or they are at the forefront of an important trend or just by chance. However, only a few of these groups do and it's not clear if OWS will be one of them.

    •  OWS fortunately isn't a small group anymore. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It is hard to tell what is beyond the LIKES on facebook, but if you put all of the official Occupy sites together it is well over a million. The original site Occupy Wall St. is somewhere around 350 thousand. Things like 75% of Republicans agree with the overall thrust of the Occupy movement is kind of telling. This is a big ass movement. I can't believe that this movement won't end up causing some significant amount of positive change.

      please consider the environment - do you really need to print this comment?

      by joelado on Mon Dec 05, 2011 at 12:19:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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