Unveiled!

Hijab

By Atiba Madyun

As one raised by parents in the Islamic faith, I applaud Michelle Obama and First Ladies before her, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush for visiting Saudi Arabia and not wearing a head covering. They all have represented the U.S. and women worldwide with class and distinction.

Women and men in the Islamic faith are urged to be moderate in their dress. Yet too often, for instance in the summer, I see some Muslim women with full covering and their men in shorts and T-shirts. SMH

Men in Islamic countries should focus more on curbing their desires as opposed to suppressing women with laws about dress and keeping them for instance from being able to drive a car.

Their focus should be to bring peace in a region of the world that to many, including myself, seems primitive.

This would go much further in showing the religion in its purest form as compassionate as opposed to it appearing to suppress and oppress women. ‪#‎LOVE

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG) a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, DC.

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Swagger!

SOTU

By Atiba Madyun

Did you see the President get “jiggy” with Republicans last night?  If you missed it, you missed a speech blended in off the cuff entertainment, as the President highlighted his Administration’s agenda.

Republicans sat when the President said the “The State of the Union is strong” instead of standing with the Democratic minority as is the customary tradition.  At one point, Republicans sat silent as the President looked in their direction saying with a smile and a wink, “this is good news people.”

When he said “I have no more campaigns to run,” Republicans clapped. He responded on cue and off script, “I know because I won them both.” (Click to view).   Democrats erupted with cheering so loud, it seemed they were in the majority.

Calm and loose as quarterback Russell Wilson leading his team last Sunday to a late game winning touchdown, Obama with swagger and confidence laid out an agenda for “middle class economics.”

He jabbed at Republicans on the minimum wage debate “to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

The President talked about tax relief for the middle class, jobs for veterans, affordable child care for working parents, equal pay for women, paid sick leave and two years of free college tuition to those who work get good grades and work hard.

His swagger gave the impression that he is not a lame duck and will not go silently into the night.  He ended his speech with a unifying message “My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America.”

The President assured us that he is working to turn the page and complete the job he started six years ago.  We can sit on the sideline and wait two years for another President to take office. Or we can come together, regardless of political party and work with the President and pressure Congress on both sides to work together.  Which will you be?

View the President’s #SOTU speech here.

Read the President’s #SOTU speech here.

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG) a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, DC.

A 4th Quarter To Remember…..

Comeback

“Don’t call this a comeback. I’ve been here for years!”

“My Presidency is entering the fourth quarter. Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.” President Barack Obama

This is the fourth quarter of President Obama’s presidency and tonight’s State of the Union (SOTU) address will be the most important of his Presidency. Based on his activity the past two weeks, we see a roadmap that might work his last two years in office.

Tonight, the President will focus on his achievements and they are significant.  The nation’s economy is stronger and we are better off than we were six years ago!  There have been over 50 months of consistent job growth. The stock market is soaring at historic highs.  Now, he can refocus our attention on education and income inequality proposals that will strengthen the middle class.

He can highlight why he signed executive orders addressing immigration reform, family leave & minimum wage for federal contractors and opening relations with Cuba.  With a contentious Republican Congress opposed to everything the President puts forward, tonight’s SOTU address and events planned tomorrow and Thursday should help the President share his agenda.

The past few weeks, the President and the White House have used social media and speeches to reengage and reenergize Americans. He has met with Americans across the country to put forward proposals that can strengthen the middle class and build on the progress made creating jobs and growing our economy.  (Watch the President discuss increasing broadband speed )

It is important that these things to work to reenergize his base and to get more Americans onboard because as President, Obama has failed to draw large audiences for the SOTU.  His largest audience was 48 million in 2010 and lowest was 33.3 million last year.  Based on Nielson ratings, past Presidents Clinton and Bush drew over 50 million viewers at least once for their State of the Union addresses. 

What these numbers don’t show are who watch on social media or wait for media analysis. The President’s Administration may be more connected to a younger demographic than past presidents, as was evident in his 2008 election and reelection in 2012. 

Events like tomorrow’s Big Block of Cheese Day, where participants ask questions of White House administration officials on social media using hashtag #AskTheWH can only enhance his reach and access to wider audiences. Thursday’s YouTube Interview with President Obama is another opportunity for the President to expand his reach along with numerous WH conference calls with stakeholders hours and days after the SOTU.

That’s why the President’s speech is important. It frames his message on healthcare, climate control, free community college tuition, broadband, net neutrality, the killing of unarmed Americans and killing of police officers, community policing strategies, the economy, taxes, terrorism abroad, job growth, income inequality and immigration.  All important American issues that we can move with FORWARD with him.

How he engages the support of millions of Americans to fulfill his campaign promise to strengthen the middle class leaving no American behind is important tonight and help him finish strong.

Two years passes fast.  The President is reenergized and appears, whether I or you agree or disagree with his executive actions, with the leadership and energy needed to help him finish strong.  It is great to see this fourth quarter push that reminds of the Seattle Seahawks improbable comeback this past Sunday.  They won by giving it all they had even when many like myself thought the game was over when it 16-0 at the half.  Now they are in the Super Bowl because they never quit. 

If the President continues this course and reenergizes his base the sky’s the limit.  If he communicates his plan effectively, I like his chances to finish his Presidency and this fourth quarter in a way that will forever be remembered!

Click here to view Road to SOTU: President’s Policy Proposals to Help All Americans and how to participate Wednesday in Big Block of Cheese Day and Thursday’s YouTube Interview with President Obama

The Tragedy of South Sudan & Why We Should Care

south sudan

The most violent element in society is ignorance.” Emma Goldman

By Kelly Loughery

Images of mutilated bodies, slaughtered livestock, desecrated villages and grieving mothers[1] have haunted me since I first read about the conflict in South Sudan. While I’ve never been to South Sudan, nor am I an expert on the conflict that has plagued that region for over fifty years, in my heart I know these images should not be rationalized, trivialized or ignored. Yet they are – everyday – by you and me both as we drift through our days, oblivious to the atrocities taking place 7,000 miles away in that war-torn nation.

South Sudan became a country in its own right in 2011 by referendum, becoming the first new African country since Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Yet the euphoria from the secession quickly dissipated as the country fell into civil war when President Salva Kiir Mayardit (a member of the Dinka tribe) accused his former deputy (a Nuer tribesman) of an attempted coup. Violence between the warring tribes is escalating, leaving thousands dead and nearly 1.5 million displaced. Civilian attacks, sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers are well-documented and apparently increasing. Yet the conflict has failed to garner mainstream media attention; overshadowed by civil war in Syria, the rise (and sheer brutality) of ISIS and the Ebola outbreak.  So the war continues, away from the spotlight, as the images of violence and death only replicate and intensify.

Consider that a child born in South Sudan, assuming he survives childbirth (which with an infant mortality rate of 105[2] is far from certain), has a life expectancy of 55.[3] Likewise, only 27% of the population aged 15 years and above is literate, with the rate of male literacy nearly tripling the rate of female literacy.[4] Compare that with the United States where the infant mortality rate is 6[5], life expectancy is 79[6], adult literacy is approximately 99%[7] and over 41%[8] of 18 to 24 year olds attend university.  Success in South Sudan is survival; hope and ambition are therefore difficult – if not impossible – sentiments to cultivate.

Many Americans believe our collective ability to rationalize, trivialize and outright ignore conflict in Africa somehow boils down to race. Yet race is merely one of many ways we seek to distinguish ourselves from them to avoid facing the harsh reality of our shared humanity.  We discriminate, we erect boundaries, adopt an “us” vs. “them” mentality to justify the immense disparity in opportunity that exists merely because of the geography of where we are born. The South Sudanese ARE different from us: not less human, simply less privileged, significantly less privileged. And we can’t justify the luxury in our lives without somehow making them less deserving than us.

Many also will argue that Africa has done little to save itself or protect its own people. Perhaps this is true, yet also represents another veiled attempt to erect illusory boundaries between us and them. Like our parents before us, we perpetuate a cycle of ignorance, indifference and occasional justification. We sit with our lattes and read about horrific, unthinkable violence in Africa every Sunday. Yet we quickly and quietly dismiss the latest atrocity as a “third world problem”, resign to our helplessness, and continue our day.

South Sudan’s problems are not “African”; civil strife is not a new phenomenon, nor is it unique to Africa or this region. Likewise, we know the human toll civil war exacts on its people, the death, destruction and grief war leaves in its wake.

Until we change our perception of Africa, embrace the humanity of the South Sudanese and make an uncompromising promise to do something for these long suffering people we are part of the problem. While we may not be able to directly bring peace to South Sudan, nor ease a grieving mother’s pain, or create economic prosperity for the region, we can change our attitudes. We can choose to care, choose to pray and choose to do something good – however small – for a people….a continent…. that desperately needs our attention.

kellyKelly Loughery is an attorney for a Fortune 500 company and resides in Edgewater, Maryland with her twin boys and Italian greyhound.

There are a host of charitable organizations operating in South Sudan including Save the Children www.savethechildren.com and the International Rescue Committee www.rescue.org – consider donating today.

[1] Fabio Bucciarelli’s incredibly powerful photographs of South Sudan are available on his website: http://www.fabiobucciarelli.com/.
[2] Source, World Bank – infant mortality rate is the number of infants dying before reaching one year of age, per 1,000 live births in a given year. See http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/southsudan/overview
[3] Ibid.
[4] World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/southsudan/overview
[5] Source, World Bank 2013. Data available at: http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/southsudan/overview
[6] Source, World Bank 2012. Data available at: http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states.
[7] Source, CIA World Fact Book available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html.
[8] National Center for Education Statistics, 2012