One Man’s Story: Why I Marched With Women on Trump’s First Day

By: Dan Beckmann/Orlando Sentinel
25 January 2017 

Last week, rather excitedly, I posted, what I thought was a fairly innocuous tweet; “Heading to D.C. for the March!”  I wrote.  So, I was surprised to read the first response.  Not because it arrived so quickly, I have nearly 10,000 followers.  Rather, because it came from a friend with an ambiguous quip. “Last I checked you were a man…is there something you’re not telling me?”  She wrote.  Surely my well-educated friend could not be so confused to think a Y chromosome would be a disqualification for taking part in a Women’s March?  Nonetheless, there it was.  That comment…hanging like a piñata, just waiting for me to crack it with a great big stick.

So, to my friend who wrote, what I’m sure she thought was a comment in jest, I guess there are some things I haven’t thought to tell you.  Allow me to fill you in on a few of them.

For 15-years, as a cameraman, writer, and producer with NBC News, I sat on the front line of many struggles.  This was the first time I would be at the epicenter of something of this magnitude as a participant.  I knew why I was marching because I had the checked boxes all filled out in my head; women’s rights, minority issues, climate change, education.  All the big ones.  But it wasn’t until I was nestled amongst a sea of pink hats and humanity that I realized why I was really there.  By the way, there were quite a few disqualified Y chromosome people marching with me.

Women, and those with minority voices, have always played crucial roles in my success.  They are too often underrepresented, undermined, and undervalued.  So, from what some might call my “privileged” seat in society, I felt it was even more important for me to walk out my allegiance to them.

I marched because Donald Trump promised to serve all people.  And so far, his immediate circle of influence lacks the diversity to make that possible.  Having him hear our voices from his new home on his first day in office was a great start. Not everyone who needed to be heard could be there, so I was marching for them…and for all the people who’ve made a difference in my life.

I marched for my mom, who as a single parent took odd jobs teaching tennis lessons, tending bar, and fixing lawnmowers.  Always making less than the guy next to her who did the exact same job.  My mom never failed to take a college course and never got a failing grade.  Receiving her doctorate 35 years after taking her first class.

I marched for, and alongside, my friends Kent and Caanan.  Showing up with my support to protect their right to stay married.

I marched for my daughter Lauren, and my friend Tiffany.  Each survivors of sexual assault who now must watch a man who’s bragged about assaulting women lead our country for the next four years.

I marched for those so confused that they now believe in “alternative facts.”

I marched for my friends who lost all hope, and got suckered by a manipulative liar who placed a large bet on their fears and won bigly.

I marched as a reminder to those “who won” that they cannot ignore those who didn’t.  And I marched as a reminder to our representatives in Washington that they are bound by an oath to represent all those in their districts.

I marched to promote a global community of diverse members. The outcry of values and priorities aren’t solely “American issues” with isolated consequences.  Millions of others, on all 7 continents, took part in over 670 solidarity events. Our leader may say, “America First”, but we cannot claim to be “America Only”.

And I marched for that friend of mine, the Twitter commenter.  Apparently, there were some things I didn’t tell you.  I’m glad I told you about them now so we can put down our phones and get to the business of building a brighter future for us all.  And that’s something worth tweeting and re-tweeting about.

 

 

Field to Feast

The 4th annual Field to Feast dinner was held at Long & Scott Farms in Zellwood, Fla. Shot entirely on an iPhone 7Plus, we helped capture the event, as some of  Disney’s top chefs prepared some of their most inventive creations: Chef Dennis Thompson, California Grill; Chef Leonard Thomson, Park Event Operations and Premium Events; Chef Gregg Hannon, Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival; Chef Daniel Sicilia, Jiko-The Cooking Place; Chef Dom Filoni, Citricos; Chef Michael Gonsalves, Artist Point; Chef David Njoroge, Tiffins; and Chef Chocolatier Amanda Lauder, The Ganachery.

Field to Feast celebrates locally sourced ingredients enjoyed in an open-air setting. Combining country charm with culinary excellence.

Master Sommelier George Miliotes, paired each dish with specially selected wines, beers, and cocktails.  Guests enjoyed live music, farm tours, a raffle and more.

Nearly $40,000 was raised with 100% of the proceeds benefitting the Kids Cafe Program of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, an after-school meal service program that provides food to needy children in Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties. The event sold out the last three years.

Field To Feast was presented by Edible Orlando magazine with Walt Disney World Resort as a major sponsor.

Pulse – New View From Other Side of the Line

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The first “big” news story I covered took place in South Carolina. A 23-year old mother of two reported a carjacking with her kids still in the backseat. There were a handful of journalists on the scene that first night, all of them local.

The following morning, multiple languages were being spoken on the streets of a tiny town reminiscent of Mayberry. Media from around the world were fast descending on the small community of Union, as the search for the missing boys intensified.

Nine days later, at a hastily gathered press conference, the local sheriff announced the arrest of Susan Smith, who admitted driving her Mazda into a nearby lake and drowning her young children.

“This is the biggest story I’ll ever cover,” I thought to myself, as I watched her husband, David, sobbing and stumbling his way down a sidewalk, leaving his sons’ funeral service. The church door behind him stood open with just enough space to see a tiny white coffin, in which both boys lay.

During that week, as the story unfolded, the line between “thinking personally” and “covering professionally” was being drawn in pencil. One minute I was gathering news; the next, I was participating in it. Walking with volunteers through wooded searches, and helping attach posters of the missing boys to telephone poles, I was connected to the story, erasing and redrawing the journalistic boundaries as I desired. Because I struggled with the conflicting forces, it was a relief to go home when my job ended. I left the damage and brokenness behind me.

For the next 20 years, most of that with NBC News, I learned to reinforce that barrier while in front-row seats to stories on the world stage: ground zero for 9-11, the Middle East for the Gulf War, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In between, there were school shootings, hostage standoffs and high-profile rating juggernauts, like the search for Natalee Holloway and the murder trial of Casey Anthony. Buffered by the lens of my camera, I was mastering the disconnect that kept me at arm’s length. That pencil-thin line I learned to draw in Union County was now being scrawled with a thick, black marker.

A lot had changed for me, as I followed reports of the shooting at Pulse nightclub in the early hours of June 12. Having long since left the daily grind of television news, I wasn’t seeing the tragedy as potentially “the biggest story I’ll ever cover,” because I wasn’t going to be covering it. I was experiencing the events with my neighbors, colleagues and friends. Attending a vigil, not because of a press release, but drawn to it by a desire to support my reeling city.

In a crowd of nearly 10,000, I was standing with mourners instead of working media. It was unfamiliar territory, searching for my own opinion instead of sound bites. That journalistic barrier, no longer relevant, meant the lines I’d once drawn had faded.

There’s a sad playbook news organizations resort to when covering these “big” stories, and we’re now turning to an important page, where content within the 24-7 news cycle suddenly shifts. As the chaos subsides, and the search for understanding begins, the pressure to find something new can be a catalyst for speculation, exaggeration and potential manipulation. Some reporters searching for different angles enlist questionable “talking heads” who come out of nowhere. Others prey upon the vulnerability of those trying to escape unwanted attention.

A certain amount of personal intrusion is necessary for journalism in the public interest. When judicious, we can contrast the authentic and relevant from the counterfeit: the heart-felt pleas from loved ones, as opposed to self-indulgent opportunists leveraging a spotlight for their own purpose.

Experiencing this tragedy with my city, instead of covering it for the news, reminded me that these stories are not merely assignments with deadlines; they’re opportunities. They are glimpses into real lives that will continue to play out long after the headlines have changed, and the media have moved on.

While working, I created lines to divide me from the people I met in my stories, thinking it was better if we all stayed on our respective sides. But this tragedy brought that issue home and into clearer focus. Maybe we can’t change the playbook overnight. But we can change the way we draw our lines, allowing wisdom and compassion to cross over.