Matters of Mentoring and Marriage

Rosa sat… so Martin could march…so Obama could run…so our kids could fly…  John Rothmann

One of the extraordinary impacts of Obama's election is the new definition of "possible." Many thought this would never happen in their lifetime. Others thought it might never happen. When that mindset persists then it trickles down to what the children think and how they dream. Today, kids sit in sandboxes and are talking about becoming president that never previously considered it. Not just African-Americans either. All people of color relate to this change and to how it opens up possibilities. Obama is someone who hails from so many places, from Hawaii to Kenya, from Illinois to Indonesia. His mixed heritage makes him appealing to nearly everyone. When the glass ceiling is pierced then people see paths that did not heretofore exist. You combine this with the dramatic increase in voting, in political activism, new interest in our country's status in the world and you have the formula for real change. Any President-elect has the power to mentor to serve as a role model, but Obama's victory has created new goals and new dreams for millions, especially among the youth. When people believe in a leader that is influence. When the leader enables them to believe in themselves, that is the most powerful form of mentoring imaginable. 

The other phenomenon I am witnessing is the new gravitational pull of public service and government work. Dozens of people have told me they are considering moving to Washington DC  to help, not seeking high level appointments but to pitch in. Students across the country are changing their majors. Young and more mature people want to make the dream a reality. A huge shift from "I hope someone does something about it" to "I should do my part, my share. " Of course, some of the bubbles will burst with reality and we may heap too much hope on top of a pile of political promises. But, don't we want a movement of engagement over the silence of apathy?

Here is an excerpt from a statement my boss sent to the Chronicle of Philanthropy this week:

"President-elect Obama must
capture that passion and energy at the polls and convert it to a lasting
commitment to make our society a better place. He has motivated and inspired  people
– and our
youth in particular –
to act, whether
it’s through volunteerism or more active civic participation in
our communities. Antonia Hernandez, President CCF

Sometimes we hear a whisper from our conscience or subconscious telling us what we should do. And now we hear a clarion call to engage and to offer our commitment to work together. The mentor has set the bar and now we have to leap!


This afternoon I officiated my first wedding. I took an oath and became a Deputy Commissioner of Marriage in Orange County! What an honor but an awesome responsibility to preside over the ultimate networking moment. πŸ™‚ It is one of life's greatest miracles when two people meet and become soul mates. Too often people are wrongly matched or grow apart, but when two strangers collide randomly and then conclude they are meant for one another–that's amazing!

 I have known Quan Phung for 15 years, since he graduated from Stanford in American Studies and started talking about becoming a TV producer. His family fled Vietnam right after the war, with 30 minutes notice and $5 to their names. They ended up near San Diego. Quan's introduction to America was through the Del Mar race track of all things, where his uncle introduced him horse racing. Long story short, Quan became an expert handicapper and won a science award for his probability model. It led to his acceptance at Stanford and then as a Coro fellow, where we met. Quan was intelligent and creative beyond his years. He had a hunger that came from his immigrant roots and a blind belief that he could become anything he wanted in the land of opportunity. He came LA to be a TV producer. In spite of my mentoring, Quan became one of the biggest TV producers in Hollywood. Producing and creating such shows as House, Arrested Development, Malcolm in the Middle, Bernie Mac, My Name is Earl, How I Met Your Mother etc etc. He came from humble beginnings, learned the culture, got his education, and dreamed big. And he has never forgotten his heritage and remains one of the biggest advocates for fair and equal representation of Asian and Asian American images in the media.

His soul mate is Michelle Ko, another super talented individual, with her doctorate from Columbia, has chosen education as her medium of change. Her family came to to this country from Taiwan seeking a better life and had to overcome great hurdles to assimilate and raise a family. Today, Michelle is the Director of Asian Pacific Student Affairs at Loyola Marymount University. In 2002 she was chosen as one of the most influential Asian Pacific Americans in the nation.

Just another great American story of immigrant families making sacrifices for the next generation. Michelle and Quan have made the most of their opportunities. And their newly combined love and talent will yield untold new achievements. A marriage built upon the visions of possibilities……….

I met Quan and now Michelle because I took a few moments to "mentor" Quan and now they mentor me. One of the miracles of mentoring is when the students teach the teacher. 

Thanks for reading. John

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1 thought on “Matters of Mentoring and Marriage”

  1. A very passionate entry, here, John. I haven’t seen this political side of you so clearly before. Very nice.
    Though I’m not sure how romantic it is to refer to a wedding as “the ultimate networking moment.” πŸ™‚
    There are a lot of us old-time cynics in the world who are a little amazed to find themselves feeling hopeful again, after decades of Orwellian leadership. Someone–I’ve seen it attributed to both Mark Twain and George Carlin–says something like “Scratch any cynic and underneath you’ll find a disappointed idealist.” It feels good to engage that idealistic hope again. It feels good that folks are once again seeking the possible, instead of just trying to survive the next four years. May we keep that energy flowing.

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