Trustees, Parents, Guests but especially graduating seniors:
I am humbled to be asked to speak to you on this day, one of the days which will be always remembered. I researched your mission: Portledge is an inclusive community that inspires students to realize their individual potential, learn critical academic skills, develop moral courage, and prepare for further learning and global citizenship.
As someone who has attempted and succeeded in changing the world, I guess it is expected of me to impart some great knowledge, kerns of wisdom, a gem. I don't have any. But I can easily quote one of my mentors, on whose shoulders I choose to stand, the legendary Coach of the UCLA Bruins Basketball team, the late John Wooden. During practices, he would exhort his players with:
- "Learn as you will live forever, live like you will die tomorrow."
- "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Character is what you really are; reputation is merely what others think of you."
- "Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out."
- "If you are too busy learning the tricks of the trade you will never learn the trade."
- "A man may make a mistake but he is not a failure until he blames someone else."
I was honored to meet Coach Wooden twice in my life. Once when he spoke at a National School Board Meeting Workshop in 1991 in San Francisco. He was 81. I was serving as a Trustee for Lawrence Schools. Coach Wooden was sitting on a sofa preparing his thoughts, a full hour before he was to speak. He was going over his notes for the workshop. I approached him, took out of my wallet an old, worn paper which had those quotes I just shared with you. It had been in my wallet for 20 years and shared the thoughts with him. We spoke about his current life, how at least 40 former players call him every week. I was so moved that he used his own quotes of which I had re-reminded him in his workshop talk.
I met him a second time, in 2009, he was 98, at his favorite diner, the Valley Diner, in Sherman Oaks CA. I told Coach I was in Los Angeles taping an episode for Sharon Osbourn's TV reality show Charm School. Ozzy and Sharon had joined Rock and Wrap It Up! in 1995 and became friends of ours. In 1998, Sharon asked me to recommend Ozzy for a Star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. He received it. Sharon asked me to speak on the last episode of the show and about philanthropy, about doing good, about Rock and Wrap It Up! Coach Wooden smiled and said "Keep up the good work"! What is "good work"? I reflected on it.
For many, good work is doing something that you do which also helps others. Good work can make your endorphins rise and increases your ego, and self worth. But you do it because it is right for you.
My "good work", quoting Coach Wooden, comes from a whole different place.
My good work starts by thanking g-d for encouraging my parents to survive the Holocaust 70 years ago. I feel I must honor them by working to change and make better the planet that I was born on to. We call it reducing the poverty footprint by reducing the carbon footprint.
The chance of my ever being born was so small, almost incalculable. When my mom was 15 and my Dad 18, your ages, they were enslaved in death camps in Nazi Europe. They both miraculously survived.
Almost all of the family was murdered in 1942. Gassed an burned in the Auschwitz Death Camp Bierkenau. They met in 1945, married in 1947 and came to the US in 1950, where I was born. Sadly, I never enjoyed the bliss of grandparents or many other relatives. Yet I feel an incredible sense that every day of my life is a gift.
Why Rock and Wrap It Up!? We have over 45 million Americans who are food insecure. Our poverty levels have not gone down since the 1970s. Our award-winning anti-poverty think tank, Rock and Wrap It Up! has chosen the sisyphean task of reducing poverty. We do not look at poverty as an incurable disease but a chronic condition which can be broken down into parts and remedied. We develop assets like food, appliances, toilet paper, toiletries to give anti-poverty agencies at no cost. The money we save them is used to hire more tutors, job trainers, social workers, in the aggregate attacking the root causes of poverty. We work in Sports, Schools. Hotels, Films, Music and advocacy.
We like to be judged by our partnerships. We are in Sports: If you have gone to a sports event in NY or NJ, you have seen our charity in action. We have 61 sports teams throughout North America which donate all food that is prepared but not sold from every home game. This includes the entire NHL. We have school programs recovering food from school districts and dorm assets from seniors graduating from college. We are in Hotels: 36 hotels give us their toilet paper and toiletries when guests leave to keep it out of land fill. We are in Entertainment: NBC Universal has partnered with us to pickup food from TV and Film shoots. We currently recover in LA and NY, shows like Boardwalk Empire, Blue Bloods, Smash to name a few. We are looking for donors to pay for small freezers to keep on film sets. We have over 160 bands who tour that put us in their touring contract riders to recover food from backstage, hence our name, Rock and Wrap It Up! We are in advocacy: in 2008, we wrote the Federal Food Donation Act to encourage government agencies to feed the poor. We need to continue to grow to help those who are indigent.
Corporate responsibility agendas in 2012 have morphed since 20 years ago. Expectation of many Boards of Directors continue to reinforce profit, but not at the expense of people and planet.
Since 1991, we have saved over one billion meals from landfill. We need more brainpower, volunteer hours and financial support in order to continue to tackle the problems, which we see as curable. Join us. If fighting poverty does not excite you, there are so many other causes that need you and your spirit, your moral courage.
I ask all of you to look around you to see what passions make you work, smile, sweat, cry . When you set foot out into the world, don't accept the status quo. To quote Former NY Senator Robert F, Kennedy: "Some people see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?"
Please leave here as dreamers. Thank you.
Interview with an Entrepreneur: Syd Mandelbaum, CEO and Founder of Rock and Wrap it Up!
by Alec Berman, Oberlin College, Oberlin Ohio USA
H. Frank Carey HS was featured in Newsday with their entry to the 2011 Rock and Wrap It Up! Art, Music and Literature Poverty Challenge. They sculpted Milk and Cookies out of covered soup cans. Cans were donated to local pantries. Winning entries will be announced in June.
Professor Jennifer Katafigiotis, who teaches a class on Social Action at Montclair State University, saw Syd Mandelbaum on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams in March 2011. She invited Syd to deliver a Skype lecture to her students. Following the October 3 lecture, Profesor Katafigiotis and Montclair's executive chef signed onto College Wrap.
This term paper "Food Waste Reduction by the Implementation of Food Recovery Programs" was written by a San Jose State student, Kanika Chhabra, researching food waste in America. It talks about poverty, greening, The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Laws and Rock and Wrap It Up!.
11/25/2010: WOR TV 9 NEWS, NY reports on student Ethan Dornfeld of Westhampton High School, who partners with the non-profit Rock and Wrap It Up! School Program. By using the Rock and Wrap It Up! food recovery and greening tactics Ethan demonstrates how one person can make a great contribution in helping the less fortunate through compassion and determination.
Student from Westhampton Beach High School teams up with Rock and Wrap It Up! to Make A Difference in his local community. Inspired by the food recovery program he observed at a The Police concert in 2008, student Ethan Dornfeld contacted Rock and Wrap It Up! to set up a food recovery program at his school.
Michael Thomas Sullivan, becomes a Sodoxo STOP Hunger Scholarship Recipient, having worked with Rock and Wrap It Up! to recover food since he was nine years old!
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Networking Magazine featured Rock and Wrap It Up! in its Summer "Guide to Going Green" feature. This article, also printed in Long Island Press, discusses the College Wrap! Program along with College Wrap!'s offspring, the "Give and Go Green" initiative.
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