Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Free Speech Not Free for All
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
April 25, 2017
Thank G-d former Vermont Governor Howard Dean did not win the presidential election of 2004 – you know, the candidate made infamous by his blood curdling scream upon his third place finish in the Iowa Caucuses.
It seems the former governor and chair of the DNC is in need of remedial classes on the United States Constitution, particularly the First Amendment. Dean recently condemned the upcoming speech by conservative writer and commentator Ann Coulter saying the University of California-Berkeley had every right to cancel her engagement because “hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment.”
First, Mr. Dean, who defines hate speech? What is hateful to you may not be hateful to me and vice versa. Are you the arbiter of what hate speech is? On the other hand, I am no more the arbiter of what hate speech is any more than Mr. Dean. We are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, and I would ascertain that were our opinions of what hate speech is, the end of free speech would be upon us as a so-called civilization.
But Dean is merely a symptom of a greater problem – that free speech for all on college campuses creates a free-for-all amongst apoplectic liberal anarchists who believe it is their right to prevent conservatives from speaking on their sacred campuses, by any means necessary. Simply see the violence perpetrated by lefty-loons upon the visit of conservative political scientist Charles Murray to Middlebury College in Dean’s home state of Vermont.
See also the violence at Berkeley in February, to the tune of $100,000 in damages when conservative Milo Yiannapolis was slated to speak. Now, with Coulter scheduled for April 27, UC Chancellor Nicholas Dirks took it upon himself to cancel her speaking engagement fearing for her safety. This at the “home of the free speech movement,” said Dirks when suggesting Ms. Coulter would not be safe on campus.
Dirks and his security team have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all who visit the UC-Berkeley campus. By disallowing Coulter, Dirks is surrendering his campus (as if it had not already been) to the far-left, who ironically lead the “be tolerant of everybody and everything unless it is conservative” movement. They are truly hypocritical. Even senators Bernie Sanders (S-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) support Coulter’s right to speak at Berkeley.
Free speech is for all Americans and should be protected. It’s easy to support speech with which we agree, but the real challenge is to support that which we disagree. And boy, are those campus cupcakes challenged. These anarchists will stop at nothing to shut down any conservative voice, again, by any means necessary. Of what are they really afraid? The real hate speech is derived by the anarchists with their threats and acts of violence.
Former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick ruffled a lot of feathers during the 2016 NFL season by opting not to stand during the National Anthem. This spurred many a debate. I thought it was wrong, disrespectful, and offensive of Kaepernick to take a knee, but was his right to do so. The now unemployed football player was recently named one of the 100 most influential people by Time. Does anybody still read that magazine?
After some mild outrage and threats of law suits, Dirks wanted to move Coulter’s speech to May 2, but Coulter rejected that notion. She said that date is unacceptable; the reasons are unimportant, and said she still plans on keeping her original speaking date. I hope she does, and that a huge throng turns out to hear her speech – from both sides of the aisle. Let them agree to disagree and then debate the issues in a civilized, non-violent manner. After all, the answer to objectionable speech is not silence and violence, but more speech. The right must inspire thinking on every campus across the fruited plain by inviting as many conservatives to speak as possible. The intolerant anarchists will continue to out themselves for what they are.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.
Monday, March 27, 2017
Congress Must Fix Healthcare at its Pace, not Trump’s
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
March 27, 2017
For once, Democrat Party vindictiveness helped the American people. They wouldn’t vote their own stay of execution if granted by President Donald Trump. Fortunately, they, with the Freedom Caucus of the Republican Party effectively quashed Trump’s milquetoast healthcare legislation.
President Trump is wrong with his all or nothing tactics on healthcare. Trump said with Congressional failure to vote on his legislation, then we the people are stuck with Obamacare and he will move to his next issue.
The Executive Branch does not write legislation, nor does it set the schedule of Congress. Congress is not answerable to the Executive Branch – something Trump seems to forget when attempting to run the government – of three equal, not subservient branches. The government is not his corporation.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) proved herself to be hypocritical once again when making a statement that actually made sense. “The American people and the members [of Congress] have a right to know the full impact of this legislation before any vote in committee or by the whole House.”
Yet on March 9, 2010, the hypocrite from California said, of Obamacare, “But we have to pass the bill to find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”
The Freedom Caucus must remain strong against this Obamacare-lite pathetic measure. Controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, the GOP must produce the appropriate kind of healthcare legislation opponents of Obamacare have demanded for the past seven years.
Until that time, Pelosi is relishing what she considers not just a victory for the Democrats, but “a victory for all Americans.” Apparently, forced healthcare upon the citizenry, costing more than most can afford, and in some cases in states where there are no actual choices, is considered a victory for the American people by the obviously tone deaf Pelosi. Tone deaf because the American people demand, and have a right to, better than Obamacare and the first attempt at its replacement.
Start anew by not mandating coverage. Keep pre-existing conditions covered. Permit insurance policies to be both procurable across state lines, and portable – thus encouraging lower costs via competition. Increase transparency, and prevent government from injecting itself into the people’s healthcare as much as possible.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
De-Fund My Alma Mater
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
March 19, 2017
I have stood by and with my alma mater, the University of Maryland, through numerous trials and tribulations – the tragic 1986 drug-induced death of All-American basketball player Len Bias the summer between my sophomore and junior years, sex scandals in recent years involving members of the coaching staffs of more than one team sport, and decades-long drug and alcohol scandals within the Greek system, to name just a few of the more notorious.
(http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2015/08/14/umd-womens-basketball-coach-suspended-over-sex-abuse-allegations/ and http://concussioninc.net/?p=7603)
But the recent announcement that the University of Maryland created a position of “Undocumented Student Coordinator,” villainously flaunting lawlessness, has convinced me to forgo any future financial support of the university and the various programs which I have embraced over the years and decades. A line must be drawn, and while I will continue to root for the Terrapins in their athletic contests, I can no longer, in good conscience, endorse an organization embracing this embarrassingly disastrous decision.
“As part of the university’s ongoing commitment to undocumented students… we are assigning a UMD staff person to serve as a coordinator to address the immediate needs of the undocumented student population,” said Katie Lawson, a University of Maryland spokeswoman in a statement given to The Diamondback.
This position was part of a list of 64 demands made in late November 2016 by ProtectUMD – a coalition of 25 student organizations at Maryland. Ten of the 64 demands pertain to protecting illegal aliens and violating the law. The overwhelming majority of the 64 demands are absurd, poorly written; open ended, lacking definition, patently anti-Israel, and anathema to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Judge for yourselves: http://www.dbknews.com/protect-umd-demands/
Maryland is not alone in the creation of such an office, as Georgetown University and the University of Illinois are among other campuses overtly protecting illegal aliens.
There is also a webpage as part of the University of Maryland website entitled “Undocumented Student Resources,” which states “The University of Maryland recognizes that undocumented students are a vital part of our campus community. In an effort to better support our UndocuTerps, campus partners have launched this online resource.” The page further indicates it is “funded in part by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.” From where is the rest of the funding coming? Such a blatant thumb in the eye of the rule of law. http://undocumented.umd.edu/
“UndocuTerps.” The university has even given them a special name or label to be proudly adorned akin to a red badge of courage. This is beyond insanity.
“The undocumented student office is part of the university’s ongoing commitment to undocumented students and we continue ways to offer support,” was part of a poorly worded university statement.
If the University of Maryland is so committed to the illegals on campus, it can do without the financial support of legal residents, American citizens, and alumni, who, along with government funding, keep the university operating. All alumni objecting to the creation of such an office and the brazen law-breaking should contact the university, its president, Wallace Loh, and any organization which receives personal contributions and explain why they will no longer be the beneficiary of your financial largesse. We will no longer aid, abet, and be complicit with such law-breaking.
Another one of the 64 demands by ProtectUMD and the Student Government Association is to brand the College Park campus a “sanctuary campus.” University President Wallace Loh responded in January that such a designation was “unnecessary, as this university already follows sanctuary campus policies despite not holding a designation,” according to The Diamondback. As with a sanctuary city, a similarly labeled campus will not volunteer information or cooperate with the federal government.
As one who has virulently supported the defunding of sanctuary cities for years, the same loss of funding should befall not just the University of Maryland, but any institution behaving in this manner. All federal funding should be withheld – including grants and scholarships to students. Unconcealed harboring of illegals must not be rewarded. President Loh should be asked to resign or be dismissed for his endorsement and support of people with no legal right to be in the United States.
As a specific message to current Terps, understand that the illegals you support and protect today as classmates and friends, upon graduation will be your competition for jobs and the launching of careers.
How many jobs will be offered to illegals? How much scholarship money goes to illegals instead of deserving Americans and legal residents? How many seats in American institutions of higher education are being filled by illegals instead of deserving Americans and legal residents? The supporters of these illegal aliens are anarchists, socialists, and open border zealots who have little to no allegiance to their own country.
This is not about race, religion, or ethnicity, but instead, the rule of law. What are we teaching our children and future generations with policies such as these that not only exist, but continue to grow and expand? For those who cite compassion to their fellow man, there can be plenty of compassion to those who follow the rules, stand in line as the rest of the legal immigrants like my mother-in-law did and become a part of the American fabric.
Ultimately, creation of Undocumented Student Coordinator positions and adopting policies protecting law-breaking illegals will marginalize American children and students until the point of being called an American citizen loses all meaning in their own country.
This is not what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they fought a war for independence and birthed the greatest nation on G-d’s earth. It is up to we the people to cease acquiescence to those who seek to destroy America from within.
In his Lyceum Address of January 1838, Abraham Lincoln, then a member of the Illinois House of Representatives said, “If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.” Lincoln knew.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He is a University of Maryland alumnus, and as of Monday, March 20, 2017 a former member of the Alumni Association.
Monday, March 6, 2017
A Day Without Brains
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
March 6, 2017
With practically no workable notice – less than 48 hours – Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) have inconvenienced parents, possibly costing them a day’s pay while teachers participate in something called “A Day Without Women.”
It should be called “A Day Without Brains.”
Some 15,200 students, attending 16 Alexandria, VA schools, lose a day of instruction as all ACPS will be closed to satisfy the whims of irresponsible adults. ACPS claims it did not make this decision lightly, but they certainly did not take working parents into consideration. “This was not a political decision,” said ACPS spokeswoman Helen Lloyd. “This is about the safety of our students and our ability to deliver instruction to them,” she added.
Safety? ACPS is turning 15,200 children loose on the city streets of Alexandria with this irresponsibly last minute decision affecting the schedules of many more thousands of people – working parents, siblings attending non-ACPS schools.
Nor is the decision egalitarian with regard to all ACPS staff, as six city schools will be open for two hours – one each for breakfast and lunch. Clearly not all women can participate in this silliness.
How will students with working parents get to school? Are the school busses running back and forth for both meal services? Will ACPS reimburse working parents’ lost wages for those who do not have appropriate care for their children and end up missing work on Wednesday?
Elsewhere in the region, sensibility rules the day. DC schools, Prince George’s County in Maryland, as well as Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia will operate business as usual.
Every teacher without a doctor’s notice for March 8th should lose a day’s pay. The residents of Alexandria should not have their property taxes wasted on the foolishness of people who put themselves first and not the children for which they have a responsibility to educate. The students of Alexandria have learned a valuable lesson while out of school – who’s not looking out for them.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He was a one-time candidate for the Alexandria School Board.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
And the Winner Isn’t…
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
March 1, 2017
La La Land a.k.a. Hollywood, a.k.a. the land of gentrified hypocrisy.
In the category of “Most deliciously ironic moment of the entire Oscars,” the winner is – oh, wait, it’s a tie: the moment when the so-called Hollywood elites realized nobody cared until the botching of the Best Picture award, and the moment when the film representing the entire movie industry, La La Land, like the industry itself, was the big loser on Sunday night.
I probably had not watched an Oscars program in at least 10 years, but my wife Vicky wanted me to watch with her, and instead of complaining about it, and there were no decent college basketball games on that night, I remembered an oft-quoted line from one my favorite movies: “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” (OK, I compromised and watched the big award categories.)
Nothing spectacular occurred for the first 12 hours of the program – the usual trite and hackneyed anti-Trump comments here, liberal barbs there, hypocritical speeches everywhere, until the tail end of show when, and apparently Price Waterhouse is falling on this sword, the Best Picture fiasco allowed all previous statements to become as forgettable and innocuous as the average American would know them to be.
However, lost in the mix of the Best Picture’s stupidly mind-boggling flub for the ages, was a speech of epic hypocritical proportions that must see the light of day. Amidst the traditional cantankerous comments spewing forth from the mouths of the vapid and the vengeful, came the winner for Best Foreign Language Film. The Salesman, brainchild of screenplay writer and director Asghar Farhadi, was the second film for which Farhadi took home this award. His film A Separation won in 2012.
Farhadi, 44, and a native of Khomeyni Shahr, Iran, declined to attend the awards ceremony due to, according to his message, the disrespect the United States is showing his country and the other six countries under the travel ban by the Trump administration. Another example of selective outrage, as did anyone hear Farhadi’s objections about the same seven countries under the same ban during the Obama administration? Nope – just crickets.
Farhadi’s prepared message was read by Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American and the first Iranian in space.
"I'm sorry I'm not with you tonight. My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of the other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S. Dividing the world into the us and our enemies categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which themselves have been victims of aggression.”
Dripping with hypocrisy, where to begin with Farhadi’s message? He calls American law barring immigrants’ entry into the US “inhumane.” Is it inhumane of a country, any country, to put itself first and protect its own citizens before opening the doors to legal immigrants? Is it inhumane to ensure that those people migrating to a new country have the best interest of their new country at heart?
As for real inhumanity, Mr. Farhadi, see your own country, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran, the country whose repeated mantra is “Death to America and death to Israel.” Iran, the country, who, according to Human Rights Watch, punishes its own citizens with death for same-sex relations, adultery, and blasphemy against Mohammad – none of which are criminal offenses in the inhumane United States. This is the same Iran that requires athletes and even chess players to forfeit rather than vie against an Israeli.
The United States is not dividing the world; the Islamic Republic of Iran is certainly trying to do so. It is the worst state sponsor of terror worldwide. If anything, Iran is bringing countries together to fight the Mullahs. Iran, in violating the anti-nuclear deal with the United States, is creating strange bedfellows of countries in the Middle East – countries not typically allied with Israel, for example, see the benefit of siding with the globe’s lone Jewish state in opposing a nuclear Iran.
In fact, in 2011, Farhadi himself was punished by his Iranian government for speaking critically of that very government. After casting aspersions, Farhadi apologized.
Following Ansari’s reading of Farhadi’s message, the lemmings in the audience, those obsequious, fawning, sycophants mindlessly applauded the Iranian director for criticizing the United States. These Hollywood denizens would never survive in Iran – consider the aforementioned crimes for which violators would be executed. The Ayatollah would behead Hollywood one by one. Were this country remotely like the Islamic Republic of Iran those critical of President Trump could find themselves on the sharp end of the executioner’s sword.
But this is the United States of America, thank G-d. We can agree to disagree. We can exercise our First Amendment right of free speech. People are free to speak ill of President Trump, but they should not be surprised when such castigation is returned. The world of Hollywood is in the minority. It is the silent majority, the so-called fly-over states, which spoke vociferously in November at the ballot boxes, and now is the time for them to be heard.
To the singers and actors on stage, your gal lost, so suck it up, buttercups. You are certainly welcome to continue bloviating, but know that those of us who shell out our hard-earned money are tuning you out, turning you off, and dropping you from our list of movies and concerts to see and hear. Hollywood has become tone deaf and we the people are making them pay. In the grand scheme of what is meaningful, Hollywood is full of the self-important, self-indulgent, self-congratulatory, and self-aggrandizing. What they should be is self-effacing while hiding in their gated neighborhoods, demanding guns be taken from honest Americans while they have armed security at the ready. They epitomize hypocrisy at its very worst.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Town Hall or Town Brawl?
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
February 24, 2017
Has the Earth begun spinning in the opposite direction? It must, as I agree with something Senator Bernie Sanders (S-VT) said. “If you don’t have the guts to face your constituents, you shouldn’t be in the United States Congress.”
As a strong First Amendment advocate, more speech, not less speech is advantageous – it is transparent – it sheds light on what people and groups are about. I have been fervent in my support of more speech on college campuses, and I affirm as much where Congressional town hall meetings are concerned – provided there is no inciting to violence, or shouting down others to the point where holding such a gathering becomes counterproductive. (http://sanfordspeaksout.blogspot.com/2017/02/first-amendment-denied-at-berkeley.html)
From coast to coast (Arizona, California, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Utah) members of Congress have scheduled town hall meetings where hundreds of protesters, either esoterically manufactured or legitimately concerned about the new administration, have attempted to disrupt or prevent such meetings from occurring, are responsible for displaced criticism some members have received.
Protesters attend Republican members’ meetings, en masse, shouting “do your job,” and “you work for us.” While the second part of their mantra is absolutely true, GOP members are largely unable to do their jobs due to Democrats’ obstructionism in both houses of Congress. The protesters should express their rage at jobs not being done toward the Democrats.
All the bluster aside, it is wrong for members of Congress, and this has been heard from some GOP members, that in order to avoid the chaos, they will simply not hold town hall meetings for their constituents. That is just patently wrong. It only feeds into the media’s increased criticism of the congressional members and support of the protesters, the complete antithesis of what happened during the Obama administration upon the advent of the TEA Party.
The TEA Party crusade was branded as racist, sexist, homophobic, and any other -ist and –ic the media could heap upon them in an effort to excoriate them as a fringe effort. But the TEA Party movement disavowed those labels with their actions and behavior. Quite the opposite is true of the current protest movement in its attempt to vilify the Trump administration as its behavior and actions are malevolent. If they want to be taken seriously, and there are plenty of protesters who should be heard, here are a few suggestions on how the protesters and members of Congress can coexist during the town hall meetings.
First, members of both major parties should host town hall meetings in their home districts – preferably in a centrally located school big enough to hold a crowd attending a basketball game at a good school.
For all the pickets, signs, bullhorns, and agitation, there is a way to control the crowd on the inside of the building. Do not allow any of those items into the building. Security should maintain one entrance to the building to control who enters. Priority seating should be given to residents of that specific congressional district. They will be required to provide photo identification and sign in. Once inside, attendees should behave respectfully, in a calm manner, and avoid ad homonym attacks against the congressman holding the meeting. While the members do, in fact, work for us, they also deserve a modicum of respect.
And that respect should swing both ways. Members of congress should LISTEN to what their constituents say and ask before responding. The elected officials should give answers that match the question asked. If a member does not have a legitimate answer, have an aide take the resident’s contact information and respond with an actual answer within one week. Remain at the meeting until all questions have been answered. You sought out the office, hold it responsibility, and with respect for both the office and those you represent – even those who did not cast a ballot for you.
Every member of Congress should hold a town hall meeting under the above conditions. In spite of the rowdy environment, Congressman Leonard Lance (R-7th), representing my long time home district in New Jersey, said he will hold another town hall meeting. Bravo to Rep. Lance. Sadly, my member of Congress has not held a town hall meeting. Regardless of the tenor of the atmosphere, I would be there, were I a member of Congress. Hmm – maybe I should…
This should not be a partisan issue. All members of Congress should do the job they asked for. If that becomes too cumbersome for them, step aside for those who will. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN – in the state’s 5th Congressional District.
Monday, February 13, 2017
Remembering Al Jarreau (1940-2017)
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
February 13, 2017
Long before I had the tremendous opportunity to interview Jazz, R&B, and Pop legend Al Jarreau, I was a fan of his musical genius. My favorite Al Jarreau albums are Jarreau (1983) and High Crime (1984). While maintaining a vigorous performing schedule through 2016, Jarreau left it all on stage for his fans. I attended two Al Jarreau concerts, the most recent, with my wife, in 2014 at the Palladium in Carmel, IN. It was after that performance where I last spoke with Al Jarreau. Between that and the interview, which was a three-part conversation over three separate days, Al Jarreau was a genuine delight – positive and upbeat, even when discussing challenges he faced. Al Jarreau died Sunday, February 12, exactly one month prior to his 77th birthday, in Los Angeles. What follows is my 2004 interview with the man with a mellifluous voice.
One on One with Al Jarreau
An Interview by Sanford D. Horn
August 30, 2004
Calling Al Jarreau versatile and energetic would be obvious and terribly understated. Yet triteness prevails when attempting to describe the 64-year-old, five time Grammy® winner who, even after surgery in 2000, airplane flights between both coasts, still exudes boundless energy whether discussing his charitable work with Verizon Reads, autographing his latest CD and posing for pictures with a seemingly endless line of fans and well-wishers, or reading to inner-city school children – all of which he accomplished on a recent visit to Washington, DC.
Getting Jarreau to sit down long enough for an interview proved challenging enough, but well worth the effort, following an appearance he made at a Borders bookstore in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, August 24. During his appearance, Jarreau, a crossover legend in the musical genres of Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, and Pop, entertained a group of nearly 100 with stories, impromptu scats, and his sense of humor.
Al Jarreau’s sense of humor proved evident before taking his seat at the front of the room when he introduced himself as “General Colin Powell,” referring to the current Secretary of State. But before long, the Milwaukee, WI native and classic car collector – owning a 1949 Cadillac, for example - talked about some of his early song challenges in the music business.
“Mornin’ was a challenge with the long held note in [the lyric] ‘Touching the face of G-d,’” said Jarreau of the popular hit on the 1983 album titled Jarreau. That line, about touching the face of G-d came from the poem High Flight written by World War II flying ace John Gillespie McGee, Jr., said Jarreau, providing a bit of a history lesson to his fans. McGee, an American airman flying for the British Royal Air Force, was killed in action on December 11, 1941 at age 19.
With the song “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” from the 1981 release Breakin’ Away “you have to remember to breathe. It’s a very difficult song to sing – I’ve never done it live,” said Jarreau, as he sang portions of that very song to the approval of the standing room only audience.
“You just did,” came from several audience members.
Jarreau also mentioned how the song “Alonzo,” from the 1980 album This Time “is so rangy. I’m not as high any more – I have more lows,” he said, referring to the range in his voice as he ages. Listening to the several scat offerings he provided that evening, it would be hard to say that Al Jarreau has lost a step in his upbeat lilt.
Jarreau comes by his musical talent honestly, via both parents. “My dad was a singing dude – a preacher with the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Alabama. He gave that throat to my two older brothers singing in the living room,” said Jarreau, who began singing at the age of four. “At age four or five people started smiling – that’s infectious – people pinching cheeks, slobbering over you. I was well into my teens before I began to really listen to the sound of my voice. I’m still getting accustomed to what I sound like as a singer. I’m still realizing what a wonderful instrument this is. I’m still reforming.”
“I sang every chance I had. In the ‘50s I sang with a dance band. I played parties, the Urban League, sororities. I was 15-years-old [earning] $7 for an evening. I was doo-wopping before it was doo-wop,” said Jarreau.
“My mother played piano and organ,” he said, explaining why he couldn’t play those instruments as a child. “You couldn’t get the baseball glove off my hand,” said the one-time aspiring shortstop. “We really thought I had promise. I had serious aspirations,” said Jarreau, a one-time teammate of the late Tommy Aaron at a Milwaukee Braves clinic for 15 to 18 year olds. Tommy Aaron ultimately played a seven-year Major League Baseball career for both the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, and was the younger brother of all-time home run king Hank Aaron.
Today, Al Jarreau is still a Braves fan. He also roots for the Dodgers, as he and his wife of 29 years, Susan, live in Southern California. “I like the Brewers in Milwaukee and I would like to see the Bucks do well,” he said, referring to the NBA team in Milwaukee. “I’m just a sentimental sap – I can’t help that.”
Al Jarreau also played basketball and ran cross country. When asked about his basketball prowess at his alma mater Ripon College in Ripon, WI, just west of Oshkosh, the three-year starting college player said, “these legs should not be shown. I never should have played basketball,” he said, despite the scholarship he earned for his hardwood skills. Taking pride in his undergraduate college, Jarreau pointed out that actor Harrison Ford was a classmate, and another actor, Spencer Tracy also claimed Ripon as his alma mater.
After earning his Bachelors of Arts in psychology at Ripon College, Jarreau went on to garner a Master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation at the University of Iowa before moving to San Francisco to practice rehabilitation counseling.
“I fell in love with social work and wanted to help other people – teach – we are responsible for one another – teachers, preachers, doctors, social workers – but I wanted a career in music,” he said.
“I left rehabilitation counseling in 1968 in part because I was not a great counselor. It was not the right setting – working for the state. I was not a quick study or quick with the bureaucratic stuff – good morning, good night in triplicate,” said Jarreau, who remained in San Francisco and met jazz legend George Duke.
In addition to naming Duke as an influence, Jarreau praised Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstein, and Sarah Vaughn. “Can’t leave out Stevie [Wonder], Aretha [Franklin], Sly Stone, Bill Evans on jazz piano, Miles Davis as influential who touch me. Singer, song writer, poet Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell – important lyricists. I’m a student of John Hendricks from way back. You can hear it in my jazz offerings – the lyrics for ‘Spain,’” said Jarreau, singing a few bars from the song from the This Time album. “Pound for pound the best jazz singer on the planet – bar none. He’s never gotten his due. The heyday, the golden day, is not now,” lamented Jarreau, who named Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, and Herbie Hancock as additional jazz influences.
As much as Al Jarreau has enjoyed performing R&B and Pop, citing “Boogie Down,” from Jarreau as an example, he referred to his latest production, Accentuate the Positive as “the music that taught me to be Al Jarreau. This is music that has personally come out of my heart and soul. I owed this album to the community at large. I promised for 20 years a project of this sort. This is a serious venture into Jazz land. These are jazzy songs in a jazzy kind of manner,” said Jarreau. He added there would be more jazz. “I’m not done – this is chapter one,” also projecting a Big Band album “within the next three years.” He even anticipates an album of Brazilian music.
A Big Band production would add to Jarreau’s versatility as his five American Grammy Awards fall under three categories – Jazz, Pop, and R&B. His first came in 1977 for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, followed a year later by winning the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocalist with his fourth album All Fly Home. Jarreau earned his third and fourth Grammy Awards in 1980 being named Best Male Pop Vocalist and Best Male Jazz Vocalist. In 1992 Jarreau took home Grammy number five – Best R&B Vocal Performance coming on the heels of that year’s release of Heaven and Earth.
Ironically, it was a nomination that did not turn into a Grammy victory for Jarreau that perhaps earned him the most recognition.
“Lee Holder, composer for TV and movies told me that Cybil Sheppard and Bruce Willis liked my music,” said Jarreau of the stars of the popular 1980s program Moonlighting. Jarreau wrote the title theme song specifically for the series. “Oslo, Norway and Djakarta, Indonesia found me because of that song. They never asked me to come on that show,” he said of the two co-stars while offering up one of his special facial expressions.
“I was nominated for a Grammy [for Moonlighting]? Was I? Where’s my nomination plaque,” quipped Jarreau in good humor.
With Al Jarreau’s continued success and recognition, he has become very vocal on the educational and literacy scene and since 2002 has been a Literacy Champion with Verizon Reads.
“Verizon does understand that they are part of the community,” said Jarreau. “We’re giving away 20,000 books to people and kids who wouldn’t ordinarily have them. Doing a good job is more than just having a great bottom line at the end of the fiscal year. We need to figure out how to feed everybody, clothe everybody, and house everybody,” said Jarreau, noting the 92 million Americans who are illiterate or “reading just barely at the sixth grade reading level or below. They can’t read a bedtime story to their kids. They can’t read a map to get cross town. They can’t fill out a job application. I’m spreading the word. Let’s get back to reading.”
Al Jarreau understands the benefits of reading from personal experience. “I had an academic scholarship, but I lost it. I was not ready for that setting – high standards. My basketball scholarship helped me get through. Some of my professors held my hand,” he said, adding that he had problems reading as a younger child. “My mother got me there. That’s part of why I’m with Verizon. I love teachers and educators,” said Jarreau, noting that he gives CDs to teachers at his concerts.
When Jarreau reminds people to “get back to reading,” he sets an example for them. “I love spy novels. If cosmology were written in as attractive a manner as they are for video, I would read more of that genre. I like reading about the universe – who we are, what we are – star stuff – not Hollywood star stuff,” said Al Jarreau, a man who has been entertaining people globally for decades, yet has his feet firmly planted on the ground.