Thursday, June 7, 2012


Last year, a friend of mine sent me an article titled "How to Talk to Little Girls" by Lisa Bloom. As a father of two little girls, twelve and nine, I read the article with interest and thought, as many readers have since, what about "How to talk to little boys?"

As fate would have it, that question would stir up enough commotion that Lisa Bloom would answer that question in her newly released book, SWAGGER--10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness, and Thug Culture. If this was a lottery, SWAGGER is the jackpot. If this were baseball, SWAGGER is a World Series winning grand slam. But this is real life, and that being said, SWAGGER is a MUST-READ for every parent, educator and legislator in this country.

After 30 years in law enforcement, commanding two of the largest law enforcement organizations in the United States--the NYPD and the New York City jail system, including Rikers Island--I must admit that for most of my career, I had a one-sided view of the American criminal justice system until I became a federal investigative target and later surrendered to federal prison.

The circumstances surrounding my investigation and my incarceration has contradicted much of what I once believed. There are times when I am filled with bitterness and anger at the system--and at myself--for being here. I am constantly trying to make sense of it all, to seek out and find what good can come of this.

If there has been one benefit to society in my incarceration, it is that I have witnessed what no one with my experience has ever seen before. No one.. There is no site survey, inspection, guided tour, or magic window to look through that allows a federal judge, attorney, prosecutor, member of Congress, or law enforcement or prison administrator to clearly see what it is like to live as an inmate. They do not and cannot see the system's successes or failures or injustices without having lived within the system.

As a father, an American, and someone who has fought for and defended the very freedoms and liberty that I feel are in jeopardy for our young men today, I believe SWAGGER can be one of the most important books of our time.

This no-nonsense, no B.S. guide to raising boys and young men is one of the first books I have read in a long time that's not about the left or right, not about liberals or conservatives, and it is not gauged for the politically correct.

Ms. Bloom clearly outlines the problems with America's educational system, economy, criminal justice system, and thug culture. She then lays out 10 rules for guiding young boys and men into adulthood, rules that can help them get an education, stay out of prison, and become successful members of society.

Do you know that only one in three Baltimore kids graduate from high school? Or, nationwide, that the majority of African American and Hispanic boys drop out of high school? They are destined for doom and failure if things don't change, and Ms. Bloom explains why.

She also raises serious questions as to why there is there no outrage at the glamorization of drug use, drug dealing and violence in the music and entertainment industry. "We're not talking about little racy innuendo; some of the biggest artists today advocate joining the Crips, punching your girlfriend, or murdering gay men," she writes, calling for parents to know and stare down the reality and critically discuss media messages with their boys.

From teaching boys how to respect girls and women, to being ever-critical of all media, to the lost virtue of humility, in this hard-hitting, must-read guide to mentoring, educating and raising healthy sons, Ms. Bloom provides the reader with easy, common sense solutions that can help parents, educators and our political leaders change the future of young boys and men in this country. And, although her book focuses primarily on boys and their upbringing, there is so much you can learn from it when it comes to raising girls as well.

I grew up hard, on the streets of Newark and Paterson, New Jersey. I was abandoned by my mother, a prostitute, who was murdered when I was nine. I dropped out of high school, destined for failure, but the U.S. Army, martial arts, and the right mentoring and guidance from my father, step-mother, and those who cared changed all that. Thirty years later, I was nominated for a presidential cabinet post.

I've seen the boys that Lisa Bloom writes about.. They were on the streets of Newark, Paterson, and New York City, and on Rikers Island. Many of those high school drop outs from Baltimore are right here in this minimum security camp. So too are young men from some of America's most wealthy cities.

Lisa Bloom talks about what happens without the proper mentoring. I can tell you my first hand observations: Once the youngest and most vulnerable are incarcerated, and mix into their new surroundings and the fear of prison dissipates, they begin their "new education" with the older inmates as their teachers. These are grown men who sit around like teenage boys, talking about old times, drugs, guns, cars, jewelry, women and sports.

The young men, newly incarcerated, will learn how to lie, cheat, steal, con, manipulate, and gamble. Their vocabulary diminishes into a profound ghetto slang, their posture changes into an intimidating swagger, a fist bump replaces a handshake, and a grunt replaces "Good morning." They learn more about the drug trade than they did on the outside, and disagreements often result in threats of violence. This is just for starters.

The longer they are here, the more demoralized and hopeless they become. Whatever societal values they may have had upon their arrival now change to institutional ones that lack respect, discipline and responsibility.. The cost of their incarceration is in the billions, but the collateral cost to society is immeasurable.

Our government and criminal justice and prison systems cannot fix this problem alone. It take parents, teachers and educators, and our political leadership.

Lisa Bloom explains who should do what and why, and she talks about the power of parenting, and how mentoring is a must.

In the end, through her questions and research, she finds the answers that every parent needs to hear. The boys tell us all, in their own ways, what they need, what they want, and what would make them be the best they could be.

"Listen to me, Pay attention to me, Get to know me, Spend time with me. And, protect me."

It doesn't seem like too much to ask. And although that, in itself, will not fix everything, it is a great start.

There was something else Ms. Bloom said in her book that could not be more true. "Closing our eyes and hoping for the best won't cut it, not when our boys live in the real world."

Most Americans live in that real world and know and understand these problems, but don't have the courage to acknowledge or admit them. Lisa Bloom does it for us. She outlines the problems as clear as day, and then takes it a step further, by bringing real solutions to the table that don't cost money, will save lives, and keep our kids out of prison.

If you care about your children, SWAGGER is a must-read. If you care about this country, get your educators and political leadership to read it as well.


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