Opinion: Video demonstrates rare positive example of Hollywood star

Opinion: Video demonstrates rare positive example of Hollywood star

America loves celebrities. We look to celebrities and media for entertainment and sometimes even to find inspiration. While there’s no shortage of scandal and intrigue in today’s media, there are quite a lot of inspiring celebrities out there spreading positivity. One of my favorite good-guys of 2015 is actor Chris Pratt.

Pratt recently made headlines after he posted a video of himself and his young son, Jack, saying the Pledge of Allegiance together this Memorial Day. Pratt wrote, along with the video: “I’m proud to be American.” The video of Pratt and his son paying respect to their country for Memorial Day has reached over a million people, encouraging us all with its positive message.

Chris Pratt, who is married to actress Anna Ferris, continually sets a solid example with glimpses we get of his personal life and in his public decisions as an actor. Since his role in Marvel’s hit superhero film “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Pratt has made visits to Children’s hospitals in character as Star-Lord, spending quality time with delighted kids and arranging special screenings of the film.

No doubt Chris Pratt’s own life has moved him to reach out to these children; Pratt is open about the difficult birth of his little son. Jack Pratt was born nine weeks early and had to stay in intensive neonatal care until he weighed just over five pounds and could finally be taken home.

At last year’s March of Dimes Celebration of Babies, Pratt said this about being a father: “I’ve done all kinds of cool stuff as an actor,” the box-office heavyweight added. “I’ve gotten to jump out of helicopters and do daring stunts and play baseball in a professional stadium, but none of them mean anything compared to being somebody’s daddy.”

In a world where negativity often overwhelms mainstream media, it’s a wonderful surprise when actors and actresses celebrate the things that matter most: life, love, and family.

We made a difference, we can do it again

We made a difference, we can do it again

I’m new to the legislature.  I’ve spent years looking in from the outside and I was thrilled and humbled to be elected to the legislative assembly where I could actually make a difference.

Some days are worse than others.  Most everything that makes it to the floor, passes.  Much of it is inconsequential, but some of it hurts.  Like carve outs for trial lawyers, or unions.  Or having to fight to get schools funded at a level that’s barely adequate.  I tell myself that elections have consequences, and that we all need to work harder next time.

Some days are better than others.  Like last Friday.

I testified in front of the education committee for a short time in favor of a bill, HB 2830, that would prohibit the Department of Education from requiring school districts to implement Common Core instruction or assessment.  In case you haven’t heard, Common Core is just the latest top-down, cookie-cutter approach to education that won’t work.  If I get my way, it won’t even get a chance.

Last Friday afternoon, after I gave my short testimony, I sat down in the back of the room and watched as fellow citizen after fellow citizen got up and testified in favor of the bill.  Some were School Board members.  Some were parents.  Some were just plain old ordinary citizens.  Many were my friends.  A few more are now my friends.  It was great to watch.

We were lucky to be there.  The chair of the committee didn’t have to let us even have a hearing, but for the last few weeks, my fellow citizens pleaded with the chair for a hearing.  The next step is to have a work session and vote it out of committee to the floor.

If you want the names of some people to pester, members of the House Committee on Education await your emails.  You might politely thank them for hearing testimony on HB 2830 and ask them if they can give it a work session and vote it out to the floor.

You never know.  Your actions might just inspire a legislator who sometimes feels just a little bit overmatched.

State Representative Mike Nearman (R-Independence) is working hard for you on issues like this.  He can be reached at rep.mikenearman@state.or.us.

Enough Seems to Not Be Enough

Enough Seems to Not Be Enough

The real problem in Oregon is that government just doesn’t have enough money.

At least you’d think that’s the problem from listening to Oregon House Democrats.  Never mind that Oregon has the sixth highest gas tax and the 17th highest total automotive taxes and fees among the states.  Disregard the fact that Oregon businesses are hobbled by the effects of the impact of the tax increases imposed by measures 66 and 67.  Apparently this recession was just too much fun for some and we just can’t stand letting the economy expand and grow out of it.

Middle class Oregonians have spent over half a decade laboring under the yoke of a stagnant economy.  After six years of recession – and even longer of Democrat rule – the Governor brags in his fourth inaugural address that we’ve finally gained back the jobs we lost during the Great Recession.  Really?  Is that supposed to be some sort of consolation prize?

What about our crumbling infrastructure?  What “crumbling infrastructure”?  I challenge anyone to drive South through California or just about any other state and let me know when you return – if you return – how the roads compare to Oregon’s.  I’m sure we can improve them, but they’re a far cry from crumbling.

And, if they are in such bad shape, why are we not prioritizing resources and executing simple, necessary fixes with the limited transportation dollars we have?  Instead, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on studies for a temple to light rail.  When the dust settled, we were left without a bridge and a more than $180 million dollar hole in the wallet.

So, here we are in the winter of 2014-15 and the middle class finally gets a break on the price of gas.  Through circumstances not under the control of anyone in this state, Oregon gas prices are teasing the $2.00 a gallon mark.  Thanks to a bit of squabbling at OPEC and some fracking here and there, everyone – rich, poor, individuals, families, and businesses – has been given a graceful lift.  And now the party in power wants to take it away.

We middle class Oregonians finally get the break that we need to get back on our feet and jump start our economy.  And then some want to take it away.  We middle class Oregonians will remember.

State Representative Mike Nearman (R-Independence) is one of those middle class Oregonians that just loves low gas prices.

A new ad-free social network offers a different approach to social media

A new ad-free social network offers a different approach to social media

A new social media platform, Ello, is taking a new approach to social media — one quite the opposite of Facebook.

“Ello is a simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network created by a small group of artists and designers,” their website reads. The website also states that there are no third-parties purchasing users’ personal information.

The network originally began as a private social network, but as their name became known, more people wanted to join, so they decided to make it open to the public. Although it is open to anyone, one cannot join without first being invited.

Ello’s website provides a manifesto that stresses social networks should not be used to manipulate people through advertising — treating people as products. “We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment,” the website reads. “Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.”

The company recently converted to a Public Benefit Corporation status, which ensures they will always remain ad-free.

Some were vocally hesitant of the new social network, discrediting its design. Others questioned the company receiving $450,000 from a venture capital firm in Vermont. Paul Budnitz, the network’s co-founder, did not shy away from responding to the criticism.

“Ello is doing some disruptive, anti-authoritarian social media giant slamming,” according to Converge Magazine, “but [people] need some time to see how the company chooses to use the attention and influence it’s receiving.”

Ottawa shooting: hope amid tragedy

Ottawa shooting: hope amid tragedy

OPINION – The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the publication’s standing

OTTAWA, Ontario,–

Tragedy struck Wednesday morning on Parliament Hill in the Canadian Capital.

Two gunmen, suspected to be acting in conspiracy, opened fire on government officials. The first stood in front of the Canadian war memorial and fatally shot the guard standing there. The second opened fire minutes later in Parliament, targeting government officials.

CNN reported that the two were linked to radical Islam, commenting that “troubled young men” are often drawn into such extremism.

As the Canadian and U.S. governments search for ties with terrorist organizations, the rest of us are left wondering how a young life can take such a tragic turn. How can young people with such apparent talent and intelligence use those skills to inflict pain when they could use them to love their community?

Young people have incredible opportunities to make a difference for good, yet we often pass them by. However, our culture often underestimates the potential of youth.

What comes to mind when we hear the words “troubled young man”? For that matter, what do we think when we hear “young person?” Most likely whatever it is that we are thinking of right now has some sort of negative connotation. Why is this?

As a student and young professional, I cope every day with the question of what a person can do in their early years to make a difference.

A few years ago, Gresham, Oregon natives Alex and Brett Harris

National War Memorial, Elgin St, Ottawa

National War Memorial, Elgin St, Ottawa

wrote a book entitled Do Hard Things.  This book was a call to action for youth, a call to live our lives sold out to God.  Along with this book, they hosted numerous conferences all across the country spreading the same call. And the results have been incredible. They have reached tens if not hundreds of thousands of people. In 2008 they reached over 16,000 people through the conferences alone.

More importantly, their efforts have encouraged a movement of youth to live a life of passion and purpose.

The best thing that anyone can do is to encourage the young people in their lives to live with a purpose and find fulfillment in helping people around them. The troubled young men of today are often little more than young people who lacked a purpose yesterday.

When a life seems devoid of meaning, human nature demands that we find something, anything, to fill the vacuum. For some, that means acting out for attention, abusing alcohol, drugs, sex, or addiction. For a few, it means turning to violence. This is the tragedy that we can all avoid if we invest in the lives of those around us.

The satisfaction of doing good while leading a responsible life is the best safeguard against turning to destructive outlets later in life. When young people see the incredible joy that comes from meeting the needs of others, they will be far better equipped to meet needs for themselves.

We all know young people who could use inspiration to move beyond the cultural quagmire that so many are stuck in. You can probably even think of a few specific people right now that need this message.

Young people need someone to challenge them, and adults hold enormous sway over the decisions that youth make. You, as a parent or an adult, can make a significant impact in the lives of young people you know.

This can be done in many ways, an accountability time, a Bible study, or some other venue.  It is often as simple as a word of encouragement or an invitation to help make a difference.

Facts are still coming out about the suspects in Ottawa. Like so many young terrorists, they are searching desperately for purpose to fill the void of a troubled life. Imagine what might have been if someone had encouraged them early on. Imagine what their talents and gifts could accomplish used for good instead of evil.

What comes to mind when we hear the words “troubled young person?” A problem, or an opportunity?

One in three homeless living with a mental disability in Marion, Polk

One in three homeless living with a mental disability in Marion, Polk


More than one in three homeless adults in Marion and Polk counties is living with a mental health disability, according to the 2014 Homeless Count Report.

That figure is nine times higher than that of the general population, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health

“As many as 341 adults in Marion and Polk counties reported a mental health disability during the one-day homeless count last January, which was about 36 percent of adults counted,” according to The Statesman Journal

The statistics are alarming, but there is good news — many in Marion and Polk counties are serving those in need.

Kyle Dickinson, vice president of advancement at Union Gospel Mission (UGM), said he wants the public to know that UGM is not only a resource to serve the mentally ill, but also a resource to inform and help the community to serve alongside them.

“The question that we ask at UGM is, ‘What does sustainable compassion look like?’” Dickinson said. “What sustainable compassion looks likes for us [at UGM] is giving anyone who comes to us the most appropriate and life changing care that we can offer.”

UGM has one of the largest networks of shelters in the Marion and Polk counties, according to The Statesman Journal, and they work closely with many of the homeless living with a mental illness.

Aaron Eggers, vice president of ministries at UGM told The Statesman Journal that if trauma-related disorders are included, the number of mental disabilities is closer to 55 to 60 percent.

Eggers developed a program to help those with severe physical and mental disabilities get incomes and permanent housing. He believes that a large shelter is not ideal for those with severe mental disorders, due to the large crowds and loud noises, but UGM works hard to keep them safe.

“In a perfect world,” Eggers said, “Salem would have a shelter and day room for those with mental illness and space for on-site coordination between agencies so clients can be served where they’re staying.”

Although it is impossible for a system to be perfect, Dickinson said UGM “can help people understand the issue and provide helpful tips and tools to do what they can to help.”

He also said the community’s support is what keeps UGM going, and emphasized the difference the community can make through simple acts.

“I think acts of compassion can look like a lot of things,” Dickinson said. “It can look like serving a meal, praying for someone, or just listening to someone’s story.”