What Does Elvis Presley Mean?

Elvis Presely playing guitarMost Americans and music lovers worldwide acknowledge Elvis Presley as “The King” of rock and roll. But some people have no idea who Elvis Presley is or what it means to be “The King” to millions of loyal fans.

This is what I learned from Cindy, the foreign exchange student from China that I hung out with for a few weeks.

I was taking a class on multi-cultural competency as part of the process towards my master’s degree in counseling. Our instructor, Vince Noble asked for volunteers to escort foreign exchange students and ease their transition into the USA. He may have even offered extra credit, I can’t remember. But I volunteered and was paired up with Cindy from China.

One day, Cindy and I went an art show at Cal State Long Beach. There were many paintings and several rooms filled with original art pieces created by students. We came upon a portrait of Elvis Presley. I admired the creativity of the piece. Cindy pointed at it and asked, “who is that?”

I was stunned. It was as if my life was flashing before me. I could not imagine how to describe who Elvis was. He is so many things to so many people and I couldn’t imagine what the world, or at least my world, would be like without him.

I managed to mumble out some answer about how Elvis was a rock legend and I hummed a few bars of Blue Suede Shoes and Jailhouse Rock to see if it would ring a bell.


I was speechless.

I had been slapped aside the head once again and reminded that just because I have an experience or a social construct built up around a certain object or person, doesn’t mean everyone else does. Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this, assuming the person you’re talking to knows something when really they don’t; assuming that everyone knows all the same things you do?

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Women Speaking: International Women’s Day March 6

Agape Toastmasters, Culver City, CA
Men and Women Speaking with Purpose and Power

March 6 is International Women’s Day, a great time to celebrate and highlight women speaking and making a difference. I wanted to share about an organization, Toastmasters and a woman, Helen Blanchard. Women speaking with power and purpose can create transformation.

I joined Agape Toastmasters in 2008. Even though this club was far from my house and meetings were held Saturday morning at 8:30, I wanted to be there. I didn’t just want to learn to speak, I wanted to speak with purpose. I wanted to learn from women speaking in a diverse club with male and female members from various parts of the world and different ages and ethnicities. I wanted a club that supported women speaking.

The Agape Toastmasters club mission is to “foster an unconditionally loving, mutually supportive and highly inspirational environment”. This mission guided me from terror to transformation. The more I got to know my fellow Toastmasters, the more I realized we all had something in common: the desire to use our lives to make a difference.

When I was fairly new to Toastmasters, I read an article in the November 2008 Toastmaster magazine written by Julie Bawden Davis The article made me I realize that the concept of women speaking is something our world at large is still in the infancy stages of embracing.

Women Speaking: Helen Blanchard at Toastmasters
Women Speaking: Helen Blanchard at Toastmasters

The article was about a woman named Helen Blanchard, Toastmasters’ First Female President in 1985-1986. It was an engaging article and I was following along without incident until I read these words: “By 1973, women were allowed to join Toastmasters clubs and she was able to use her real name.”

Wait, hold up. Women were “allowed” to join Toastmasters in 1973? I’m not prepared to process the fact that 35 years ago, in my lifetime, women speaking was forbidden in Toastmasters. The thing is, Helen Blanchard joined Toastmasters before 1973, she just had to pretend she was “Homer” until she was “allowed” to be Helen.

I shall purposely avoid the desire to break into a rant now. Instead, I will share a quote from the article with you that I think is important for all women to really bask in: “Everyone used to call Helen a women’s libber, but the truth is, she’s a ‘people libber,'” says Chuck Borough, a member of Downtown Escondido Toastmasters who has known her for over 40 years. “Helen has chartered more than 40 clubs,” he says. “Toastmasters is twice as big as it would have been without Helen.”

Turn down the heat and simmer in those words for a while. Let it sink in. Then, do something about it. If you live in the Greater L.A. area, consider stopping by as a guest at Agape Toastmasters one Saturday morning.

White House Concert Showcases Diverse Musical Talent

First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a workshop and concert with classical musicians, young and old, as part of the White House Music Series on November 4, 2009.

The audience consisted of what First Lady Michelle Obama referred to as “classical music superstars of tomorrow” in her opening speech. She spoke about how “The White House is the people’s house. It’s a place that’s steeped in history but also a place where we like to start new traditions and to bring people together in different ways because nothing mixes old and new quite like classical music.”

She commended the musicians on their dedication to achieve musical excellence and said, “It’s through that struggle that you find what you truly have to offer to your instrument or to anything in life”.

“You’ll learn that if you believe in yourself and put in your best effort, that there’s nothing that you can’t achieve. And those aren’t just lessons about music. These are really lessons about life” she said.

The concert featured Sharon Isbin on guitar, Awadagin Pratt on piano, Alisa Weilerstein on cello and Joshua Bell on violin. These musicians are considered the best in the world and have been playing their instruments since childhood.

This hour-long concert featured an eclectic mix of musicians and music lovers. The attendees were young and old, male and femail and ranged a wide spectrum of ethnic diversity yet they were united by a common love: music.

Each of the musicians is clearly passionate about and connected to their music and their enthusiasm shines through during their performances. You simply don’t want to miss Alisa Weilerstein on cello at 40:55. She truly embodies what it means to be in the moment of creativity.

Toastmaster Persuades New School Power to Stand Up

Today I delivered my tenth speech at Agape Toastmasters and completed the requirements for a Competent Communication award. The speech is titled, “Stand In Your New School Power and Dare to Make a Difference” (if you don’t see a video above, click here to watch it on YouTube). I joined Toastmasters just over a year ago because I’ve always enjoyed public speaking and wanted to improve my skills and break out of my comfort zone.

I’ve been speaking to groups of people for about 16 years. However, most of my speaking has been somewhat informal, (i.e. leading small, intimate groups), or it’s been structured but based on a cirruculm (i.e. instructing classes at Long Beach City College). Although teaching, leading and speaking have always been rewarding to me, I felt like I was holding back on presenting passionately and daring to create my own presentations.

In my past year or so at Agape Toastmasters I feel like I’ve really broken out of the mold I was in and this presentation in particular was one of the most exhilarating, honest and enjoyable pieces of work I’ve ever had the privledge of delivering to a live audience.

In my mind, this is the beginning of my speaking career and I hope to have the opportunity to deliver this presentation and others like it to groups of leaders in various locations. Specifically I would like to speak to teachers, therapists, social workers, ministers and organizations who provide service to the community. My hope is to get paid as a presenter and to have the opportunity to sell my book, From Sabotage to Success.

Over the past 16 years I’ve worked at numerous non-profit agencies and I’ve met many educated, dedicated and warm-hearted people who yearn to make a difference in the world yet seem to be confined and stifled, not to mention overwhelmed. My hope is that I can help these leaders feel strong and powerful so they can do the work they’ve always dreamed of. In so doing, I will be fulfilling a dream of my own: to use my skills to make a positive difference in the world for those who need it most.

From Sabotage to Success by Sheri ZampelliIf you have a saboteur like Puleza who’s stealing your power, purchase my book From Sabotage to Success and learn how to take your power back.

If you would like to book me to speak at your next event, please contact me at sherizampelli [at] gmail.com.

Obama on Hip Hop in Education

Tonight I’m reading a special pull-out section of the Los Angeles Times about Obama. It’s a powerful statement about a turning point in American history. There’s also a beautiful Obama photo essay on-line at www.latimes.com.
itunes logo All links in article go to the Music Store on iTunes.
I was reminded of a video I found with Obama talking about his iPod playlist and his views about Hip Hop and it’s potential role in education. When asked if he likes Hip Hop, Obama says, “Of Course.” He’s currently listening to JayZ, American Gangster and Kanye. He likes them both because “it tells a story”.

Here are a few quotes from the interview. Scroll down and click the ‘play’ button below to see the entire video on YouTube.

“I have to admit, I still am an old-school guy. I’m still StevieMarvin. If you look at my iPod, it’s Earth, Wind and Fire, Isley Brothers, Temptations. I’ve got a lot of that old school stuff”, Obama said.

Obama loves the art of hip hop but not always the message of hip hop. “There are times where..there is a message that is not only sometimes degrading to women. Not only uses the “N” word a little too frequently, but also, something I’m really concerned about, is it’s always talking about material things and always talking about how I can get something”, he said.

When asked if there was a place in his White House to find an effective way to use Hip Hop in education, Obama answered “absolutely, I don’t think there’s any doubt that it (Hip Hop) can be (effective).”

Other things Obama had to say about Hip Hop:

“The potential for them to deliver a message of extraordinary power that gets people thinking…The way that they can communicate a complex message in a very short amount of space is remarkable. A lot of these kids aren’t going to be reading the New York Times, that’s not how they’re getting their information so the question then is what it is the content, what’s the message?”

“Hip hop is not just a mirror of what is, it should also be a reflection of what can be”, Obama said.

He encouraged people to
“Imagine something different
Imagine communites that aren’t torn up by violence
Imagine communities where we’re respecting our women
Imagine communities where knowledge and reading and academic exellence are valued
Imagine communities where fathers are doing right by their kids
That’s also something that has to be reflected.

Art can’t just be a rear view, it should have a headlight out there, according to where we need to go”, Obama concluded.

The interviewer ends the conversation with a quote of his own: “Hip Hop needs to have the audacity of hope.” Obama agrees.