Don Shomette

People are the Prize

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What Do You See Wednesday (17 December 2014)

Check out the comments to read what others have seen!

Being able to spot what is safe and unsafe takes practice. And experience is invaluable. We’re going to post a new picture each Wednesday and after everyone has had a chance to comment, we’ll review and discuss the findings.

This week’s picture was taken early in the morning and the yellow glow is from the parking lot light.  This is a mobile classroom.

What do you see and how can we make it safer?  Are there any special safety measures we need to consider?

wdys_17 Dec 2014


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It’s Like Vietnam All Over Again.

My mother was just a little girl in 1940 when war engulfed the world. I have always been profoundly grateful to the men who answered the call during those terrible times. Those men were willing to sacrifice everything including their own lives so a little girl (my mom) in rural Pennsylvania would be safe. Their example of selflessness would contribute greatly to why I joined the Marines.


We rightly call the men who fought in WWII the Greatest Generation even though there was institutionalized racism in American and in particular the military. Black men were officially deemed incapable of leading white men or themselves, they were housed in separate barracks, forced to eat separately, and relegated to the most menial and degrading jobs all because of the color of their skin.

Racism thrived not in spite of the system but because it was part of the system and yet, we are able to say and rightly so, “The system may have been bad, but surely not all of the men inside of the system were bad. Let’s judge them by the good and the bad as well as their individual actions.”

The enemy in 1940 was the system and not the American soldier.

Jump forward to 1967 and returning veterans from Vietnam were spit on, called murderers, and had feces thrown at them because they wore the uniform. The only difference between these men and the men of the Greatest Generation was twenty years. But unlike the men of World War II, Vietnam veterans were judged not by their individual actions but by their association with a group, the US military, and therefore they were treated horribly. Instead of saying that the war was bad but surely not every man was bad, it became, “Every man must be bad because they are a part of a system that is bad.”

So, the enemy in 1967 wasn’t the Viet Cong or even the system, it was the American soldier.


Clearly it is a form of prejudice to judge the individual by external elements that are out of their control instead of the internal worth of their character. Thankfully, America would apologize to our Vietnam veterans, albeit way too late, for this horrible treatment and give them the praise that was long over due. More importantly, America promised that this type of wrong would never occur again. We had learned, or so it has been declared over and over again, that it is okay to hate the system, to hate the violence, to hate the war, but support our troops—always support our troops.

Now, flash forward to 2014.

The enemy isn’t the justice system, but the cop. If you’re a cop you’re automatically guilty of racism, excessive force, and unfairly targeting blacks even if you’ve never done any of these—even if you find these things repugnant. You’re guilty because you’re a cop.

It’s like Vietnam all over again.

If you are a cop in America you are not simply part of a bad system, you are the bad in the system. Officers are not being judged by their individual actions or the worth of their character but viciously condemned because of the real or perceived injustices of the group.

It’s like Vietnam all over again.

It doesn’t matter what good the individual officer has done or that he or she has answered the call and is willing to sacrifice everything including their own lives for the benefit of someone else—they must be dirty simply because they’re a cop just like the soldier was guilty just for being a soldier in 1967.

It’s like Vietnam all over again.


If you’re a black man in America the greatest threat to you is another black man (96% of blacks are killed by another black), but if you listen to the media and our elected leaders they want others to believe that the greatest threat is really the police.  They are the enemy and you must hate and fear them.

It’s like Vietnam all over again.

This reminds me so much of the hatred unfairly levied against the American soldier returning from Vietnam that I’m waiting for a picture of Jane Fonda in a hoodie among the looters to pop up.

So many in America claim to support our troops and yet these same people won’t make the connection or refuse to see the necessity of also supporting our police. There is no difference. You don’t judge the individual by the color of their skin or the soldier by the war or the police officer by the real or perceived injustice of the system. And you never condemn one person (soldier or officer) for the actions of another person (soldier or officer).

It is always unfair to purposefully ignore the courage, selflessness, and good of the individual in order to shape a wrong or harmful image of the group with the bad deeds of a few. That is what happened during Vietnam to the soldier and that is what’s happening now to the police officer. The vast majority of police officers are outstanding individuals fully justified to be included as equals in the ranks of the men and women of the Greatest Generation instead of demonized like the men and women of Vietnam.

I don’t believe that the attack against law enforcement is a search for justice or a sincere effort to make a better America. If it were, the media and our elected officials would show the good and the bad in order that together we could celebrate our strengths and mitigate our mistakes. But they can’t broadcast the good because it would drown out the bad.

It’s like Vietnam all over again.

This little boy was found wandering the streets of Kansas City MO around midnight with just a diaper on. While the police searched for his family, the little boy slept in the officer’s arms until he was reunited with his family around three in the morning. The picture was taken by reporter Sarah Hollenbeck of 41 Action News – KSHB-TV.


Does this look like the enemy?

Helen was caught shoplifting food to feed her family and instead of arresting her, the officer bought her a dozen eggs and released her on the promise to never steal again. The officer then delivered bags of food to her family ensuring that they would not go hungry.


Does this look like the enemy?

If in the process of trying to right a real or perceived wrong we destroy the good of the individual then what have we really accomplished other than to perpetrate a greater injustice?

It’s like Vietnam all over again.


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The Real Story of The Hobbit


Yesterday, I watched the Hobbit Marathon at my local movie theater. That’s right, all three movies in a row. It started at 3:00 in the afternoon and ended at midnight. Not an easy day, but well worth it. Like so many others, I really like the Hobbit.

To me, what I find most appealing about the Hobbit isn’t the exotic setting of Middle Earth. It’s not the orcs, dwarves, elves, Gandalf, Gollum, The Lonely Mountain, Bilbo, or even the ring. It’s something much more profound than anything we see or experience on the screen or read in the book.

It’s the story behind the story.

The real story of the Hobbit is the story about a friendship and not the ones between the characters in the book, but the one between its author, J.R.R. Tolkien, and his friend C.S. Lewis.


It took Tolkien at least seven years to write the Hobbit, probably longer. As he was writing it, he shared chapters with his friend, Lewis. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, loved it and encouraged Tolkien to keep writing and above all to complete it even though Tolkien had doubts. In 1937, after nearly a decade of struggle and great effort, the Hobbit was completed and went to print. This story may seem like nothing out of the ordinary, until Tolkien stated publically that had it not been for Lewis’ friendship and encouragement he never would have completed the Hobbit.

Can you imagine?

All credit must go to Tolkien for an incredible story. After all, he created the world of Middle Earth, spent decades of his life writing something that millions have enjoyed, yet we only have it because his friend encouraged him.

Isn’t it funny how the big things in life often hinge on the little actions of others?

Knowing this, it doesn’t surprise me that, when asked to name the most important character in the Lord of The Rings – the follow up books to the Hobbit, Tolkien would surprise everyone by saying that of course it was Sam, Frodo’s hobbit companion.


Most would have said that it was Aragon, Gandalf, Legolas, or some other powerful and great warrior. But Tolkien explained that had it not been for Sam the quest would have failed. In fact, had Sam not stayed with and encouraged Frodo to push on, to not give up, to even physically carry him when Frodo was unable to go any further, that Middle Earth would have been lost.


In the end it was friendship that saved the day.

Sound familiar?

We can be lots of things in this world such as a parent, teacher, police officer, principal, and so on. But we should also be a friend and never forget that the simple gift of friendship has the ability to transform the world.

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Normal Kid Behavior

“That’s just normal kid behavior?”

After hearing this a million times, I’ve learned three things about this phrase.

  1. It never truly helps the situation.
  2. Kids never say it—just adults.
  3. It’s only said when a kid has done something wrong

I’m dying to hear the conversation that goes something like this…

“Did you hear about Johnny?”
“No, what happened?”
“He was so polite and attentive, listened the first time I told him to get his books out, and he gave his absolute best effort on the class assignment.”
“So what, that’s just normal kid behavior.”

As adults we’ve made a big mistake. We’ve normalized bad behavior and not good behavior. Can you imagine how productive, happy, and successful our children would be if we, the adults, refused to accept bad as normal and only considered ‘good’ to be the normal behavior?

Can you imagine?

For the record, being rude, anti-social, lazy, sloppy, rebellious, fighting, experimenting with harmful and dangerous drugs, talking back, threatening others…is not normal. Yes, kids do these things—lots of kids—too many kids—but that doesn’t make it normal…and we should never accept it as normal.

The moment we do then wrong will become normal and everyone will lose especially our kids.

Why will the kid lose?

Because we’ve accepted their lowest effort and deemed it normal and by doing so we’ve removed any reason for the kid to change or to strive for better behavior.

We’ve handicapped and not helped them and we should all strive to not let this become “normal adult behavior.”


be good

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Review & Discussion (What Do You See Wednesday Dec 11, 2014)

Let’s review and discuss the last, ‘What Do You See Wednesday’

First, here’s the picture.



Here’s what Officer Diana Back had to say…

It is SUPER clean which shows that it is taken care of and staff care about their school. It is also well lit, nice line of vision, no real hiding spots…..door is open so people can hear/see anything unusual from inside the classroom and there seems to be a color-code scheme thing going on.

Here’s what I have to add.

First of all, outstanding job to Diana. Absolutely, the school is well taken care of and super clean. That tells us a lot about the leadership, staff, and students. It looks like they care and having spent the day in the school—I can say unequivocally that they do!

I want to add to the color-code scheme that Diana mentioned, which was really the purpose of this picture. The color coding is a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) technique. It’s made to influence behavior. Along with the lights directly over the colored squares, it helps to create a ‘desire’ in the person walking down the hall to follow a particular path. After all, ask yourself if you were walking down the hall where would you choose to walk. Would it be on the colored squares and under the lights or along the sides?

I’m guessing down the middle of the hall which is good and bad.

Good, because we want to influence behaviors and guide people to walk where we want them to. This helps to control access, enhance surveillance, and give order to the space.

Bad, because it’s in the middle of the hall. When students are changing class, we don’t want 100 students walking in the center of the hall. It is better to keep people separated by space and distance which reduces conflict and the possibility of random violence.

How would we fix this?

When you build new schools or renovate existing buildings in your district, really think about each space and add in every control feature that you possibly can. In this hall, we would put the colored squares on the outside, near the walls and put a string of wall lights directly over them. That way, when the students walk down the hall they will be close to the walls and separated in two columns instead of one directly down the middle.

This will give us greater control and allow for one adult to stand in the middle and better supervise the passing students.

It may seem like a little thing, but creating safer schools is a process and everything that helps, even if only a little, will add up to make a big difference.