Senate Judiciary Committee Statement of Ryan B. Petty


March 14, 2018

I will read a short statement from the families, and then I will begin my personal statement.

We, the families of the amazing children and teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, would like to recognize the first responders who were witnesses that day to an unspeakable evil.  Many acted heroically, putting themselves in harm’s way, and saved many lives that day. Thank you.

To the caring & gracious people of the cities of Parkland & Coral Springs, the citizens of our home state of Florida and those across America who have shown support for us in our time of sorrow and loss, we can only say, thank you.  Please know that your kindness and support is deeply appreciated, and has made a lasting impact on our lives.

As families, we came from different backgrounds, and we hold a variety of viewpoints; yet we united around this simple idea: our children and teachers should be safe at school.  We rallied to the battle cry: This time must be different!

We implored our state leaders, and specifically the Florida Legislature, to take action.

We came together to build on common ground, and we made history in Florida by passing legislation to achieve the first step in just three weeks.  It was a good start, but it is not enough – there is much more to be done.

Now my personal statement.  

In a season of loss, it is difficult to find meaning in tragedy. The senseless murder of so many — including my own beloved daughter Alaina — tests the limits of faith, and demands more endurance than we thought possible. It is a test abruptly forced on us, and we bear it as best we can.

Each of us — mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives of those lost and loved — strive to find that meaning. I believe we will be seeking it to the end of our days.  However, our abiding faith tells us that our Father in Heaven has a plan. Although the loss of our daughter Alaina, was to us unforeseen, it was not a surprise to Him. This gives us comfort during this difficult time.

Our knowledge that at the end, when we each return to see our God, as we most surely will, He will grant us a full understanding — that when we see His face, we will, at long last, see the faces of our loved ones, taken from us too soon.

We will not know what all this means until that time.

But we know what this thing that has happened does not mean:
It does not mean evil will triumph.
It does not mean we may do nothing.
It does not mean we should turn against one another.

We must not struggle over ashes in the shadow of our grief.


Forget the A-List After All

You’ve got to read “Is the Tipping Point Toast?” by Clive Thompson in FastCompany. The gist of Thompson’s piece, based on the work of Duncan Watts of Yahoo Research, is that the theory that a select few “key influencers” matter more than “the rest of us” when it comes to viral and word-of-mouth marketing campaigns is flawed. Said Watts:

“It [achieving marketing success through influentials] just doesn’t work. A rare bunch of cool people just don’t have that power. And when you test the way marketers say the world works, it falls apart. There’s no there there.”

In contrast to influential marketing, Watt’s believes the key factor is the readiness of the market: “If society is ready to embrace a trend, almost anyone can start one—and if it isn’t, then almost no one can.” There will be first movers, but almost anyone can be this first mover—and therefore what Watts calls an “accidental Influential.”

My money is on Watts. If you agree, it should change your perspective on marketing:

  • Spend less time and effort on industry events and other focused PR and marketing that involves sucking up to journalists, analysts, and experts. Spend more time and effort pressing the flesh of real customers. Typically, you won’t meet too many customers at a Ritz Carlton.
  • Try mass marketing because you never know who will be your “accidental Influential.” Or, as the saying goes, “Let a hundred flowers blossom” to determine who “gets” your product. Admittedly, the challenge is to find a cost-effective way to do mass marketing.
  • Forget A-list bloggers. Lousy reviews by them cannot tank your product. Great reviews cannot make it successful. Focus on big numbers—any Technorati 1,000,000 blogger can be a channel to reach people. If enough people like your product, the A-list bloggers will have to write about you.

How does Watts’ thinking square with evangelism? I don’t see a conflict because evangelism is about “bringing the good news” to everyone and then supporting the people who “get it.” Evangelism is not about sucking up to only people who are famous and self-important. To wit, few Fortune 500 CIOs helped make Macintosh successful. It was unknown artists, designers, hobbyists, and user-group members who made the Macintosh successful, and we could not have identified them in advance.

Man learns to read after 17 years of teaching high school

John Corcoran, 77, spent the first six years of his life being honest. But from age 6 on, he started dodging the truth about not being able to read and write.

Standard teaching methods didn’t work for him because – like millions of other children – he had auditory-discrimination problems that interfered with his ability to process language. John didn’t understand this until decades later, once he finally revealed his dark secret and learned to read – at age 48.

What he learned from that point forward led him to start a foundation to teach others with learning difficulties to read. For nearly 30 years, John has devoted his life to sparing other children – and adults – what he went through.

In his early years, adults figured it would just be a matter of time before John would make needed brain connections and be able to read and write. Teachers reassured his concerned but busy parents that “Johnny would get it eventually.”

By middle school, the young teen was frustrated and angry, acting out, and his bad behavior became the focus of teachers’ calls to his parents.

John moved a lot – living in a whopping 35 homes and attending 18 schools, as his father, a teacher, struggled to provide for his wife and six children. With each new start, John continued to hide the truth.

By high school, John had devised more creative and deceptive ways to cover up his secret. He hung around college-prep kids and dated the valedictorian. Fellow students did his assignments, and he cheated in other ways. He excelled in sports and was popular.

When basketball skills earned him a full scholarship to college, his fears deeply set in.

“I was so desperate to hide the truth and keep my eligibility that I crossed the line,” John says. “I was scared to death. I did some extraordinarily risky things,” sneaking into professors’ offices to steal tests, passing assignments and exams out windows for students to complete, and more.

Astoundingly, John got a teaching job when he graduated. He was the well-liked social-studies/driver’s ed/physical education teacher known for giving oral exams and assignments. He relied on smart students to help him complete some tasks, and frequently invited guest speakers to his classes.

He says he was deeply ashamed of his time teaching, always morally conflicted. But, of course, by that point, no one questioned him – everyone assumes that someone who goes through college and is a teacher can read and write. But how did he manage it? What about grading, and report cards, and even simple tasks like taking attendance?

“Well, as you might imagine, I wasn’t very big on grades, given my history, and didn’t give term papers. To take roll, I’d have a seating chart and ask kids to repeat their names every day as ‘a way for them to get to know each other.’”

His wife, Kathy, didn’t realize he actually could not read until she overheard John struggling when their young daughter asked him to read her a book.

“You know how they say love is blind? Well, it’s also deaf. Before we got married, I did try to tell my wife that I couldn’t read, but I was a highly functioning person, and she didn’t really hear it.”

Once Kathy knew, she became “my secret secretary,” helping with report cards and other tasks that required reading and writing, says John, who has a son, daughter and five grandchildren – all of whom are avid readers who “escaped my curse.”

John left teaching after 17 years and became a real estate developer. He finally had the courage to reveal his secret when he heard former First Lady Barbara Bush on the radio, advocating for adult literacy. Around the same time, he overheard a conversation at the grocery store about adult literacy lessons being offered at his local library.

With great trepidation, John “fearfully and tearfully” confessed to his tutor at the library that he’d been living a lie.

Learning to read, at long last, filled him with enormous joy. He revealed his secret to 200 CEOs about a year later in 1988, at a literacy conference in San Diego. Local newspapers covered the event, and the stories were picked up nationally. Suddenly, “The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” was revealed. John later wrote a book with that title, chronicling his life.

From there, John “hit the road” to tell his story and bring attention to the problem of adult illiteracy. His many speaking engagements led him to meet Barbara Bush – who he continues to stay in touch with – and to the White House. The response was mostly supportive, though some educators were understandably confused and angry, John says.

“I owe the world an apology for hiding this as a teacher. That was so very wrong.”

Creating the John Corcoran Foundation was “an evolution because I realized it was time to do more than raise awareness. I wanted to provide instruction.”

Kayla Mertes was moved by her grandfather’s story, realizing that “literacy could solve so many problems. I believed that if we taught people to read the best way, as quickly as possible, it could empower them.”

She started helping John with tutoring and is now executive director of his foundation, which runs an online tutoring program and a learning center in Oceanside, Calif., where they both live. So far, she says, the foundation has helped thousands of children avoid the problems her grandfather faced, and the efforts are expanding, with teacher training at the core.

“It’s never too late to learn to read,” John says. “Illiteracy is a huge, underestimated problem. I consider it the most important civil rights and human rights issue of this decade. The nation doesn’t understand the negative impact not knowing how to read has on people’s lives.”

Learn more about John Corcoran

John Corcoran’s professional career represents a merger of his life as a teacher, real estate investor, his building and development experiences, and his passion for a literate America. His background in teaching demonstrates his commitment to sharing his knowledge and experience with others.

The Honorable John Corcoran was appointed to the National Institute for Literacy by both President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. He has testified before the U.S. Congress Sub-Committee of Early Childhood Education and Family and to the Sub-Committee on Oversight and Investigation for the Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities. In addition, he has served on numerous advisory commissions and corporate boards, has been a member of the board of the San Diego Council on Literacy and past member of the Executive Board of Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles. John is also the author of two books, “The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” and “The Bridge To Literacy”. His third book, “My Literacy Manifesto” (working title) will be released in the summer of 2017.

John’s responsibilities in the building and development process involve interfacing with investors, lenders, attorneys, accountants, government agencies, architects, engineers, contractors and brokers. John’s entrepreneurial spirit and management experience have been well represented in his various professional roles for the past 50 years.

John is also a nationally known and respected speaker and lecturer who has given presentations in forty-four states, in Canada and Europe to students, professional and volunteer teachers, teacher candidates, service groups and organizations, policy makers, and prison inmates, as well as numerous small business and Fortune 500 companies. He has appeared on 20/20, the Oprah Winfrey show, Larry King Live, CNN, Fox News, ESPN, Phil Donahue, The Joan Rivers Show, To Tell The Truth and The Travis Smiley Show and has done over 200 radio and television interviews. John was also the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2002 Literacy in Media Awards, Encore Purpose Prize Fellow in 2013, the 2016 Daily Point of Light Award, and the 2011 National Coalition Literacy Leadership Award Received at the United States Senate.

John’s independent voice is rooted in his own incredible personal story and his passion for informing, challenging, and inspiring others from political leaders to gang members. For these people and everyone in between, his message is simple: “It is never too late to improve one’s literary skills. We are not learning disabled, we are learning able. The key to teaching us how to read is proper instruction by properly trained instructors.” John is an excellent example of the value of keeping focus on lifelong learning in every aspect of one’s life.

John is presently the President of the non-profit organization, the John Corcoran Foundation Inc. He and his wife have lived in Oceanside, California for over 52 years. They have two adult children and four grandchildren.

More articles about John Corcoran and the John Corcoran Foundation Inc.

Is Obama a Mac and Clinton a PC?

On one thing, the experts seem to agree. The differences between and can be summed up this way: Barack Obama is a Mac, and Hillary Clinton is a PC.

That is, Mr. Obama’s site is more harmonious, with plenty of white space and a soft blue palette. Its task bar is reminiscent of the one used at Apple’s iTunes site. It signals in myriad ways that it was designed with a younger, more tech-savvy audience in mind — using branding techniques similar to the ones that have made the iPod so popular.

read more | digg story

Seattle Taps Its Inner Silicon Valley

Many communities dream of becoming the next Silicon Valley. But Seattle is actually doing it. The influx of entrepreneurs and of venture capitalists to bankroll them is slowly reshaping this city and a regional economy long buffeted by the booms and busts of the aerospace and timber industries. A start-up ecosystem needs social networks, support businesses and a business culture that views failure as a badge of honor, not shame. All of that is in place in Seattle.

Money is pouring in. During the last 12 years, venture capital investment here has more than tripled, to about $1 billion annually. Last year Washington tied with Texas as the third-largest destination for venture capital money nationwide, behind California and Massachusetts.

read more | digg story

Inspiration vs. Substance

Joe Klein writes in a Time article. Speaking of the Obama campaign, he says,

The man’s use of pronouns (never I), of inspirational language and of poetic meter — “WE are the CHANGE that we SEEK” — is unprecedented in recent memory. [sic] there was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism — “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” — of the Super Tuesday speech and the recent turn of the Obama campaign. “This time can be different because this campaign for the presidency of the United States of America is different. It’s different not because of me. It’s different because of you.” That is not just maddeningly vague but also disingenuous: the campaign is entirely about Obama and his ability to inspire. Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause — other than an amorphous desire for change — the message is becoming dangerously self-referential.

Klein sums up the Obama campaign, “The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is.” It is time for Obama to speak substantively.