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Archive for May, 2011

Commencement ceremony at Benedictine University

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

By Jian Ping

The temporary podium for BenU's commencement ceremony

I created a record by attending two commencement ceremonies in three days—one for giving a keynote speech at Loyola University Chicago, and the other, doing a coverage for Xinhua News at Benedictine University (BenU) in the western suburb of Chicago.

BenU held its ceremony in the football field on campus. A temporary podium was set up, and more than a thousand chairs were placed in the middle of the field for the graduating students. Family members and friends of the students were seated on the benches of raised platforms.  

Faculty members welcoming graduating students as they walked to their seating area

Unfortunately, winter returned to Chicago in the middle of May, at least for the day. A strong wind blew a constant drizzle over the field, making it seemingly colder. Many people came prepared, bringing down coats or blankets. The graduating students braved the wind, holding down their academic caps with their hands as they walked into their seated area, their gowns fluttering.

I shivered in the cold and retreated indoor as soon as the keynote speech by Donna Brazile was finished. I was surprised to find many people crowded in front of computer screens at the Krasa Center to watch the ceremony from inside.

Families and friends all bundled up

A group of 26 MBA students came all the way from China to attend the ceremony. They had completed a 2-year study program offered by BenU, along with its partner universities in China. It was their first time to visit BenU, for that matter, the United States. At the special welcome luncheon organized by BenU’s Asia Institute, Dr. Carroll, President of BenU, greeted them.

Watching the commencement at Krasa Center

“Don’t be discouraged by the weather,” he said. “If you stay in Chicago long enough, you’ll find it changes every ten minutes.”

They all laughed. The bad weather didn’t dampen down their enthusiasm. They enjoyed a variety of Chinese food for lunch, plus many Western style deserts. I interviewed a few of them and wrote a brief feature for Xinhua. Click on the title to read it:  Students from China receive degrees at Chicago area

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit, for more information. Mulberry Child has been made into a feature-length documentary film and will be released in 2011.

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End of the Daley Era

Thursday, May 19th, 2011
CHICAGO - MAY 16:   Outgoing Chicago Mayor Ric...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

By Ellis Goodman

So Chicago has a new Mayor.  I’ve been reflecting on the twenty-two years of Mayor Richard Daley’s service to the City.  There is no doubt that during that period Chicago has been transformed in so many ways. 

I remember very clearly those 20+ years ago that, when I left my office on Monroe Street after 6:30 in the evening and walked to Northwestern station, the streets were deserted and, to some extent, frightening. The Loop was dead at night.  Even during the day the so called pedestrian friendly State Street was a canyon of empty stores and little foot traffic. The old Theatre District – the former Mike Todd Theatres, Palace Theatre, and Oriental Theatre – were hulking, slumbering closed giants.  Old B or C buildings such as the former Goldblatt store and many of the older office buildings along State and south Michigan Avenue were empty or half filled.  The South Shore line rattled its way past the Art Institute and down the rest of Michigan Avenue to Randolph Street, where passengers waited patiently braving the elements.  Navy Pier was a darkened wreck with the only activity going on in the giant ballroom, half a mile from the beginning of the Pier.  The areas approaching Navy Pier were derelict or empty.  Loft developers had not moved in and residential development in the Loop area was non-existent.  Like many industrial cities in the U.S., this part of Chicago closed down when the office workers went home. 

South of Roosevelt Road was even more depressing – rail yards, old warehouses, derelict buildings, parking lots – all the way to Chinatown. And from then on, it was the Projects until you hit Hyde Park, an oasis in a desert of poverty and mediocrity.

When I consider those days, one can start to comprehend the enormity of the transition that has taken place.  The Loop and the areas south of it have been redeveloped beyond all imagination.  Thousands upon thousands of people have moved into these areas with the purchase of loft apartments, high-rise living on the lake and townhouse developments such as Museum Park.  The railroad tracks have been covered over to create Millennium Park, an oasis of green by the lake, attracting nearly four-million visitors a year.  Navy Pier has been redeveloped as a cultural and family entertainment center, attracting residents and visitors alike.  The City has been beautified with flowers, open spaces, green roofs, and multi-story shopping.  A vibrant Theatre District has been recreated. 

Bean Sculpture at Millennium Park

Student housing has been established downtown near the expanding centers of learning at DePaul University, Roosevelt University and The Art Institute.  Stores and restaurants have flourished.  The Projects have been cleared and low-cost affordable housing has been expanded.  New access roads have been created along the lake for the Field Museum, Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium.  Soldier Field has been modernized and redeveloped. 

While all this development has been going on, Mayor Daley pushed to establish Chicago as a Global City, bringing in national and international headquarter organizations, and reaching out to Sister Cities across the world.  Whether we are a Global City or not – we were certainly upset by our failure to get the 2016 Olympics – doesn’t really matter to the residents of this City.  In fact, we residents like to keep Chicago as one of the world’s best kept secrets.  I’ve always said that Chicago is one of the last large, livable cities in the world.

We still have our problems.  The Daley era failed to substantially improve our City schools; and despite some progress, we need much more affordable living, grocery stores and other facilities in the City’s lower income areas.  Daley has not effectively tackled patronage and corruption, and no city can ultimately prosper and grow with those diseases.  Hopefully, our new mayor will tackle these problems as well as the financial difficulties we currently face.

But all in all, we have to thank Mayor Daley for a job well done.  Chicago is one of the most beautiful large cities in the world and will undoubtedly remain so in the future, and a large amount of credit should to Richard Daley.


Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

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My Prediction Regarding the End of the World

Thursday, May 19th, 2011
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 13:  Participants in a move...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

By Nancy Werking Poling

Author of Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman

And Out of the Pumpkin Shell


I predict the world will NOT end this coming weekend. When it doesn’t, Reader, please remember to praise my prognostication skills.

As I was waiting in the grocery line (where we all get the news that really matters), The Sun reminded me that Harold Camping has figured out when God’s going to end it all: this Saturday. It’s there in the Bible if you do the math. In my mind I mocked the absurdity of it all, until I got in the car, and they were discussing Camping’s prediction on “Talk of the Nation,” on NPR.

While living in northern New York State, in what once was called the “burned over district,” I became familiar with the Millerites, a religious group convinced the world would end—hmm, within twenty-one years of 1822; no, make that between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844 (interestingly Harold Camping’s prediction also falls on a 21st); no, it really was going to happen on October 22, 1844. Now, we’re not talking about a small group of weirdoes. We’re talking about an international movement.

Obviously, October 22, 1844, didn’t mark the end of the world. Reactions varied among the Millerites: confusion, reinterpretation, disillusionment.

What will happen Sunday morning when Camping’s followers wake up to discover the planet Earth is still spinning in its orbit; that sure enough “wars and rumor of wars” continue; that their electric bill still has to be paid; and that their kids are Tweeting about their parents being fools? Some believers will, no doubt, change the date. “No, we meant May 21, 2014.” A few will be disillusioned. My guess is that most will find comfort in holding onto a conviction that the end is still imminent.

Seriously though, for many the world will indeed end on Saturday. Parents will cry because their child has been killed—in war, an accidental shooting, a car accident. A woman will tell a man she doesn’t love him anymore. A child will witness his father shooting his mother. All over the planet women and men, girls and boys, will experience a tragedy that will forever end the world they’ve known.

I cannot believe their trauma is God’s plan.

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Commencement Speech at Loyola University

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Me, giving speech at the commencement

I had the honor to give the commencement speech at the College of Arts and Science at Loyola University (LU) on Friday, May 13th.

Joyce and Laurie, who I had been in communication with, greeted me upon my arrival and took me to the room where all the faculty members who would be seated on stage were waiting for their line-up. I had the opportunity to meet President Garanzini, Dean Fennell, and others. Although I had obtained two graduate and one undergraduate degrees, I had never attended any commencement ceremony dressed in academic apparels. I was quite excited.  

Dean Fennell giving greeting

It was great to see students getting ready for their defining moment with excitement. The auditorium was full when we walked in. The proud graduating students were seated in the middle, and their family members and friends were seated on both sides of the raised benches. My husband Francis, daughter Lisa, and close friends Jing, Gillian and Ellis were also among the audience. I felt like I were one of the students ready to embark on a new phase in life.

Me, speaking at the commencement

At 10 a.m., the commencement ceremony started as planned. Dean Fennell gave the greeting, followed by student speaker Erica Grandados-De La Rosa, and me, giving the keynote speech. After the conferring of degrees to nearly 600 students majoring different fields in arts, Father Garanzini gave the blessing. When Rob Bucholz, MC and Professor of History, announced the closing of the ceremony, I was still immersed in the spirit of celebration.

Faculty, students, and families at the commencement

The key points I’d like to have them walk away with include 1) embrace different cultures and people of different ethnic origins; 2) be strong and resilient; and 3) dream big dreams no matter how improbable they seem.

I was moved when many members of the faculty came over to give me their positive feedback on my speech. I felt very honored and privileged to have this opportunity, sharing a few life lessons I had learned living in two countries and two cultures.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit, for more information. Mulberry Child has been made into a feature-length documentary film and will be released in 2011.

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A Visit to King’s Hill Farm

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

By Jian Ping

Joel and Jai at the green house

Last Sunday, I joined my husband in visiting the King’s Hill Farm in Mineral Point, WI. We had not been to the organic farm since last fall. We arrived to find the farm a kingdom for vegetables and animals. In addition to the flats of seedlings that were competing to outgrow one another in the green house, we found a mother turkey hatching eggs in a metal barrel in one corner, oblivious to us. The flock of geese out in the field took a different attitude—they squawked loudly as we approached, as if we had invaded their territory. The ducks and chickens stepped away from us when they realized we didn’t bring any food for them. The surprise came when we walked into the house where the young farmers, Kai and Joel Kellum,

Turkey mother busy at work

along with their two children and four interns, live. The two pretty parakeets we saw last year were leading a team of seven birds, with five more tiny eggs being hatched in a cage. The birds flew freely in the house. At one point, a blue-feathered baby bird, who had just learned to fly, landed on Joel’s head. Joel smiled and gently put him on top of the cage.

Making production plans in the field

The Kellums had prepared the field for spring planting. They will sell their produce at two farmer’s markets in the Chicago area this year. They also run a CSA program, which is open for membership enrollment right now. Check out the details at and register for their CSA—I’m sure you will enjoy their bounty of organic vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, and a variety of chicken, duck, and goose eggs, in different sizes and colors.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit, for more information. Mulberry Child has been developed into a feature-length documentary film and will be released in 2011.    

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At Mayor Daley’s Open House

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Jian Ping

Chicagoans wait in line in City Hall to attend Mayor Daley's Open House

I went Mayor Delay’s open house at City Hall this morning. Reportedly 3,000 people received invitations to attend the morning session from 9 a.m. to noon. I must say I felt honored to receive an inviation for working with the Mayor’s Office one way or another over the years. In the afternoon, from 1 to 4, the open house is open to the public. As was the custom after each of his six inaugurations, Mayor Daley is ending his administration by hosting an open house to thank his supporters.

Today’s event is different—his supporters are taking this opportunity to bid him farewell and thank him for his contribution to the city over his 22-year reign.

I was touched to see the long line in the lobby of City Hall when I arrived shortly after 10 a.m. Hundreds of people waited patiently, from the elevators all the way to Washington St. But the event was well-organized and the line, constantly expanding as more people arriving, was moving reasonably fast.

A thank-you note to Mayor Daley written and signed by five children

I talked to a few people waiting in line around me. Tonya Wren from Von Humboldt Elementary School said she was excited to be able to see and thank the Mayor in person. “Mayor Daley has been very supportive to our school programs,” she said. “He even donated his own money to our school.”

She showed me a thank-you note signed by her five children, aged 5 to 15. The handwriting was childish and the message simple, but the action was quite moving.  Wren holds the note in her hand and wants to deliver it to Mayor Daley on their behalf.

Marsha Serlin, founder and CEO of United Scrap Metal, is also standing in line.

“Mayor Delay is an urban developer. I think he understands cities better than any other mayor in the U.S.,” Serlin said. “Most people respect him for his outlook for the city. He is not perfect, but he’s done more things right than wrong. I’m proud to know him and be part of the city.”

Members of a Pipe Band wait to march into the Mayor Office to perform

We got our turn to ride the elevator to the fifth floor soon. After passing a security check, we walked into the Mayor’s Office. Mayor Daley stood in front of desk, greeting everyone coming through the door—shaking hands and taking a picture with each person. Imagining standing there for 6 hours in one day, greeting one person after another…. Thinking about ordinary people in China would never have the chance to see their Mayor in person, I must say I was quite impressed.

“Hi Marsha,” Mayor Delay called when he saw Marsha Serlin walk toward him. I was amazed, both by Marsha making the time and efforts to see him in this setting, and Mayor Daley talking to her as if they were friends.

 Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit, for more information. Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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Deficits and Decline

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
Giełda na Wall Street

Image via Wikipedia


By Ellis Goodman

What killed the Roman Empire?  Corruption, Greed and incompetence in Rome, leading to a financial crisis and the inability to pay for the Roman armies that were maintaining the far flung empire. 

What led to the collapse of the British Empire?  The cost of two World Wars in twenty-five years, with a world-wide economic depression in between, bankrupting Great Britain and leading to uprisings and demands for independence from its colonies and dominions. 

What led to the decline of the American Empire?  The cost of being the “World’s Policeman,” embarking on unnecessary wars financed by borrowed money without even including the costs in the budget.  Exploding deficits, corporate and personal financial greed, leading to the near collapse of the financial system, all compounded by a corrupt and incompetent Congress in the pockets of an army of lobbyists. What does all this mean?

Well, it seems to me that the self-inflicted problems of the US are not insurmountable; a country with $14 trillion of GDP could easily solve its debt crisis.  After all, when Bill Clinton left the White House, the US had a surplus of $5 trillion.  Greenspan and the Fed’s concerns at the time were how to use these surpluses while still maintaining a regular flow of US Treasury Bonds.  Our current deficit can easily be reduced.  Our legislators know it, but they haven’t got the will or the strength to tell the truth and tackle the problems in a substantive way.  The circus and arguments that nearly shut down the government recently over a trifling $38 billion is a case in point.  As usual, the ax fell on those least able to pay or make ends meet. 

If we want to tackle our deficit problems, let’s tackle the main part of the budget – Health Care, Taxes and Defense.  Soaring, Medicare and Medicaid costs are definitely a major problem.  Healthcare Reform is hopefully going to be able to tackle some of that problem, although in the end, the final Bill had far less teeth than it should have.  We will have to raise the retirement age to 67 and the earlier we face that and do something about it, the better.  We will have to raise contributions to healthcare premiums by employees in many organizations.  We will have to tackle the pharmaceutical industry’s charges for drugs.  Why are drugs in the US, double the price of those in Canada or any other developed country? 

We will have to tackle corporate tax abuses.  It is often pointed out that the US has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world at 35%.  That is true, but the focus should not be on the rate of tax, but on the amount of tax that the US collects from corporate profits.  This according to latest records is only 21% – one of the lowest in the developed world.  We need to have a minimum corporate tax rate so as industries such as the oil industry or even companies like General Electric can’t use loopholes to avoid taxes, because they are able to move their profits into tax-free or low tax areas. 

We need to have contributions to the deficit reduction by those that can best afford it.  These include Wall Street and the banking community, who got us into this economic crisis.  Why not a 0.25% tax on all financial transactions (excluding Bonds) through the stock markets or banks, e.g., equities, mutual funds, hedge funds, derivatives, traded mortgage securities, and other products?  This would bring in over $2 trillion over the next decade which would be painless for everybody.  We have to raise capital gains tax on those that garner capital profits in excess of, say, $1 million per year.  There are a lot of people in that category.  We have to raise income taxes on a sliding scale for those who earn over a quarter of a million dollars a year and cancel the Bush tax cuts for those people. 

We have to cut the defense budget.  We’ve had a clear illustration over the past decade that massive military strength and technology is no match for roadside bombs and Guerilla warfare.  We’ve got a whole army bogged down in Afghanistan, fighting a collection of untrained and poorly equipped insurgents. 

We cannot be the “Policeman of the World” anymore.  We have to look to cutting our generous aid to many foreign countries.  Our own citizens need aid.  Egypt appears to have wasted the $1.5 billion that we’ve been giving them for the last thirty years.  Israel, which has a standard of living that ranks in the top fifteen countries in the world, does not need US aid anymore. 

I don’t believe you have to be a “rocket scientist” to recognize that these pragmatic suggestions would have a massive impact on the deficit without hurting those that need help most – the middle class and the 25% of the current population of the US that live at or just above the poverty line.  That statistic alone is disgusting.

So, will we see our Congress “biting the bullet” and actually passing legislation that will be meaningful to our current economic problems?  It doesn’t look good at the moment.

Winston Churchill said, “The Americans do everything wrong until eventually they do it right.”  Let’s hope we’re not too far away from the “doing it right” part.


Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

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