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We recently announced that we are strengthening our board of directors with healthcare industry veterans John H. Johnson and Charlene Prounis to accelerate evolution and scaling.

Our Chief Marketing Officer, Aaron Strout was able to chat with both John and Charlene. During his conversation with Charlene, they covered both the landscape of healthcare and marketing, and  even touched on why you can’t go wrong with listening to The Eagles greatest hits. Take a listen below.

Additionally, Aaron sat down with John H. Johnson discussing all things healthcare, how the digital age has shaped the industry and the necessity of ’80s hits on a desert island. Take a listen below.

 

What else going on at W2O Group? Check out our news!

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A cure for cancer has been the most fervent prayer for far too many patients and their families since cancer was identified as a deadly foe many centuries ago. It remains a holy grail of modern medicine, and researchers and physicians around the world are working day and night to conquer it.

But are we thinking about curing cancer in the right way? Cancer isn’t one disease, and in fact, no two cancers are alike. The biological diversity within single tumors themselves is staggering. In fact, it’s very unlikely that there will ever be one cure for cancer. But there will be cures.

Scientists, in fact, have made tremendous advances against many types of cancer, like prostate cancer, the most common cancer diagnosis in men worldwide after skin cancer. It affects three million men in the U.S. and 14 million worldwide. Diagnosis and treatment have advanced to the point where many men are able to live long and otherwise healthy lives when the cancer is diagnosed early. Despite these significant advances in diagnosing and treating prostate cancer, it takes far too many lives: a man dies of the disease in the U.S. every 20 minutes. About 1 man in 39 will eventually die of prostate cancer.

But researchers are closing in on developing a variety of curative approaches – fueled by a powerful driving force in the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF). Founded 23 years ago, PCF funds innovative research and researchers with the potential to make a difference in patients’ lives. Over the past two decades, tremendous advances have been made, driven by PCF’s ability to deliver resources to top scientists and cut through red tape. A multi-pronged approach to curing almost all types of prostate cancer is now within sight of the very scientists PCF is funding.

PCF has already helped advance six medicines that are now available and extending the lives of men living with advanced disease. Research largely funded by PCF has identified 19 prostate cancer genes and make strides each day in developing precision treatments to target these genes. PCF’s goal is to have a range of therapies available that, if used in combination, would dramatically reduce the number of prostate cancer deaths within five years and, quite possibly, in other cancers as well. To get there, PCF has launched Many vs Cancer, a national crowdfunding initiative, aimed at using strength in numbers to power the urgent research needed to fund life-extending, life-saving, curative therapies for prostate cancer.

And we at W2O Group want to be a part of this remarkable effort. Our experience and passion for communicating the best in science and medicine has put us in a position where we believe we can effectively amplify PCF’s mission.

We are proud to have been chosen recently by PCF as their communications agency of record, and are thrilled to support our new colleagues at PCF. But we wanted to do even more, because we see that the goal is within sight: we see the future advances that will help patients live longer and longer.

To that end, we are making a donation of pro-bono staff time to extend the reach of the important work we will be doing together with PCF. We’re excited to be a part of PCF’s efforts to go that last mile for the all too many men and their families being devastated by prostate cancer, and encourage others to join the Many Versus Cancer movement or donate to support these breakthrough efforts.  Together, we are hopeful for the elusive cures nearly within reach.

Syracuse University’s Newhouse, W2O Center for Social Commerce, and the Future of Public Relations/Communications Education in a Digital World

Last Thursday (March 16) Syracuse University’ S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications (includes the W2O Center for Social Commerce) took top honors for the second year in a row as the Outstanding Education Program in the industry by PRWeek at its annual awards dinner!

This is significant not only because it recognizes Newhouse for its continued outstanding commitment to academic excellence in a constantly changing environment – the number of institutions offering communications, PR, digital and marketing curricula has grown significantly over the last ten years as have the number of educational formats. Most importantly, amid those shifts some 80% of Newhouse undergraduates have a full-time job six months after graduation. An equally impressive statistic is the diversity of the study body: 25% of undergraduates and 30% of graduates being minorities and 36% of faculty are minorities.

Keeping ahead of such a dynamic environment means experimentation and innovation become the norm under the leadership of Dean Lorraine Branham. One such program is keeping professors, students, executives, and global organizations immersed in the digital transformation engulfing industry and our lives and is a major component in Newhouse’s success.

The 2017 Center for Social Commerce team at W2O Group’s SXSW events.

In 2012, a major gift from Jim and Audra Weiss, both Syracuse graduates (Jim = Newhouse; Audra = Whitman School of Management) established the W2O Center for Social Commerce, kicking off what has become the premier academic-industry partnership in the profession.   Now five years in the making, the Center has achieved some very impressive milestones:

  • Over 1,000 students and professors have been immersed in the digital/social models and methodologies giving rise to the age of influence that is transforming perspective, perception, and purchase
  • Notable client executives from Chevron, Medtronic, General Motors, Verizon, Harley-Davidson, Delphi, among other have shared their insights, experiences on business and the profession
  • Eight Newhouse students have participated in a year-long Ambassadorship that included paid summer internships at W2O offices gaining valuable training and experience
  • Three Research Studies have been published in the areas of organizational communications, social excellence, and change
  • Several students have been hired by W2O or one of its clients
  • A novel internship program between W2O Group and Medtronic to develop both corporate and agency skills – students serve at both Medtronic and W2O on the Medtronic business
  • On-campus career counseling and development in the areas of resume writing, critical skills development, strategy and program planning, analytics, and insight formulation
  • A first-of-its-kind Certificate in the Social Commerce educational program for mid-to-senior professionals featuring W2O professionals along with industry experts in digital and social
  • Connections with other SU schools such as Whitman (Management), Maxwell (Public Affairs), and the School of Information Studies, expanding its influence and partnership across the University
  • Established a new course in the Newhouse curriculum on Analytics to be taught in Spring 2017 semester
  • On-going conversations and development sessions with faculty on the changing landscape of the industry and integrating the changes in the curriculum

“The partnership with W2O is by far one of the most important for Newhouse,” said Rochelle Ford, Ph.D., APR, Department Chair, Newhouse School.  “Students, faculty and the administration all gain a tremendous advantage from the knowledge, innovation, and commitment by the firm and its outstanding staff.”

Added Maria Russell, Co-Director, W2O Center for Social Commerce and Director of Executive Education at Newhouse, “Jim and Audra established a legacy of continuous learning for Newhouse students, ensuring they possess the confidence and capabilities to succeed in their careers.  The Center is a mix of ideas, practical skills, new thinking, strategic insights, tactical approaches, methods and methodologies, all challenging the status quo.  It is truly unique in its approach and execution.”

As Newhouse’s Department of Public Relations accepts this prestigious honor for the second consecutive year, assessing its formula for maintaining excellence can be summed up as follows:

  • Focus on Marketplace and Skills – Building and operating a globally renowned school of higher learning is akin to leading any major organization.  In Syracuse’s case, an incredible comprehension of the market – the market for talent.  What skills are companies looking for, needing, and developing based on their business expectations?
  • Connectivity to Students –  Bridging marketplace realities with student development is the basis for how successful job placement is upon graduation.  The right mix of course study, internships, mentorships, thought leadership, research, etc., determines one’s attractiveness in the marketplace.
  • Innovation and Experimentation – Given the pace of technology and the move toward individual, inclusive, and interactive, adopting and adapting to new forms of content, platforms, and formats in education is essential in acquiring mind share and developing thinking to today’s student.

All of us at W2O Group are proud and honored to be part of the Newhouse family and supporters of all institutions aimed at preparing the next generation of practitioners to conduct themselves with the highest levels of competence and integrity!

*A special thank you to W2O staffers Meriel McCaffrey and Lauryn Botterman (both SU Newhouse alums) for all their efforts in keeping the W2O Center for Social Commerce relevant and meaningful!

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Every year, we geek out on digital trends for a few days during our PreCommerce and Movers & Shapers Summit…..then, we need to take a break and eat some barbecue, drink a few beers and listen to some of our favorite bands at our Saturday night Geek-a-Cue.  Over the years, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting some amazing bands, including Lord Huron, Black Pistol Fire, Monte Montgomery, These Mad Dogs of Glory, Black Joe Lewis & The Honey Bears, Whiskey Shivers, the Reliques and more.  Pretty awesome group.

It leads to some magical moments.  Last year, we witnessed Black Pistol Fire break out as a band in front of 1,000 of us.  It was one of those moments where you just say “wow, this band is going big”.

This year we continue the tradition of hosting outstanding artists at #W2OatSXSW events:

  • During our annual PreCommerce Summit, we will hear from Joe, Marc’s Brother, thanks to our partner Bayer. This is a very talented band consisting of three guys from Jersey who can go from three-part harmonies to “psychedelic freak-out” in just a few bars.  Not a bad way to end our first day.
  • On Saturday night after our Movers & Shapers Summit, we will host our GeekACue, which starts with the Eric Tessmer Band (amazing Austin-based musician), then features LOLO (recently featured on the Bachelor) and ends with Tameca Jones (powerful, soulful vocals, also from Austin) for our after party.

Every year, we create a playlist that contains our favorites for our friends.  This year, what I thought I would do is share two lists that I keep myself on Spotify.  The first is called “Austin Bands”.  In this list, I put in top songs and bands that I’m listening to at the moment.  The list changes throughout the year.  The second is called “Bob P Favorite Songs”.  You’ll hear some Black Pistol Fire, These Mad Dogs of Glory and other favorites from Zeppelin to The Stones and more.  And here is our list of favorite songs from our Austin team for W2O Group.

Have fun in ATX!  See you soon, Bob

Last year, millennials were officially anointed the nation’s largest living generation, usurping Baby Boomers’ long-standing title. As more and more millennials reach positions of influence within the workforce, our generation is shaking up the status quo in innumerable ways—from championing for inclusivity and corporate social responsibility, to making jeans at work an acceptable norm.

We’ve also tangibly shifted the way marketers, reporters and businesses communicate and engage with us. As Bob Pearson explained in Storytizing, aligning the right message with the right audiences in the right time and place is more critical than ever. As the first generation of digital natives, millennials represent a particularly unique audience. We inspired organizations to adopt our preferred methods of communication—namely, social and digital media—in order to share their messages effectively

Inspired by this concept, and recognizing the impact that emerging leaders have had on the workplace, W2O Group is excited to host its first-ever Firing Up Emerging Leaders (FUEL) Forum this week in New York, a Social Media Week event. At FUEL Forum, we’ll bring together an ambitious group of young professionals to share advice and discuss the opportunities ahead of us. The event will be headlined by a stellar lineup of speakers across varied areas of expertise (see below), who have proven to be rising stars and trailblazers in their respective organizations

As a platform for millennials to connect and learn from each other, there’s so much potential for FUEL Forum to spark positive momentum for the next generation of innovators and C-Suite leaders. Stay tuned for highlights and insights from the event, and follow the conversation with the hashtag #SMWFUEL.

FUEL Forum Program & Speakers

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This blog was co-authored by Jacquelyn Matter, an Account Associate at W2O’s Los Angeles office. Jacquelyn assists with public relations efforts for a multitude of healthcare clients in the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device sectors. She also sits within the marketing and business development teams, where she helps with internal projects and events. Connect with her on LinkedIn or say hi to her on Twitter!

Almost exactly a year ago, I tried my hand at blogging about my transition from Intern to Account Associate here at W2O Group. Despite being onboard full-time for barely a few months and meek when it came to putting pen to paper, I enjoyed the experience. I was still very wet behind the ears last February, but had had made some solid contributions to my clients and company. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that I am a seasoned PR veteran a year later. That said, I have gained some invaluable perspective into agency life that I thought I’d share with you.

To start, let’s briefly rewind. I got my start at W2O Group in Summer 2015 after graduating from a small, liberal arts college without a degree in Communications but rather Spanish Literature. How did a Hispanophile decide to go into Tech PR, you ask? Thankfully, W2O saw my potential in the field through referrals and the interview process, and for that I am most grateful. That leads me to my first key takeaway from my W2O Group Journey: your background isn’t what’s most important. It’s more about what you bring to the table in the present day. Every day, I work on different accounts with a variety of team members. I bet you none of them know that instead of studying how to write press releases in college, I was analyzing heroes like Don Quixote and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz in a foreign language.

Despite not having a degree in PR, my writing background paid off. Not only did I publish a blog post right here a year ago, but I also had the opportunity to draft an award submission on behalf of a client this past Fall. The project reminded me a little bit of David vs. Goliath. Despite being a bigger guy, this time I assumed the role of David. I had never written an award submission before, and there were over 2,000 submissions. Like David, the daunting odds didn’t faze me. I owned the project from start to finish, which included review from the GM & Senior Vice President of one of America’s largest corporations. He liked it, and so did the selection committee. I have never felt prouder professionally than when I heard the news that my submission had won. My second takeaway from this journey: don’t be afraid to own projects, no matter your level of experience. Have confidence, work smart, and no objective is out of reach.

Bringing confidence and hard work to the table has helped me execute on numerous client deliverables here at W2O Group. Another example of owning and delivering has nothing to do with clients, or awards submissions. In fact, it has everything to do with pie. One of my fondest memories as a young professional has to be organizing and participating in our annual Pi Day, which occurs on 3/14, or 3.14, in celebration of the number pi. As a member of our office Culture Committee, I encouraged my colleagues to bring in homemade pie for a little friendly competition. Not only was the event one of the tastiest of 2016, it was a bonding experience for our office. I saw creative designers mingling with the finance team over slices of delicious pie. Seeing that was extremely rewarding for me, because I knew that without my initiative and participation in Culture Committee, these people might not have had that opportunity. So my last takeaway: get involved with office culture early and often, because there is no greater feeling than bringing people together so that they can laugh and eat dessert in good company

A lot has changed in the past year. I have switched projects, accounts, and teams on many occasions. Despite that fact, I come to work each morning energized knowing that I have the opportunity to contribute in a variety of ways. Whether I am organizing Culture Committee events or submitting (and winning) awards on behalf of clients, I am thrilled to be part of an organization that gives their people an opportunity not only to grow, but to shine.

 

 

 

 

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We’ve had an informal set of core values since I started this business nearly 14 years ago, and they really haven’t changed.  As we continue to grow, it’s critical for us to provide a consistent contextual framework, clarity and guidance across the organization as to the behaviors and actions that are expected and rewarded at W2O Group companies.  By formalizing and codifying our values, which must remain genuine and authentic to our organization, and backing them up operationally, they can serve as a critical filter for how we choose and evaluate both talent and business.

We strive to be the best in the business and want to be well known for our approach.  We seek to stay at the forefront of and continue to innovate in marketing and communications, and that means pushing us into new, sometimes uncomfortable territory.  It means staying scrappy and not worrying about hierarchies.  It means staying open to what’s possible and adapting to change – mastering the art of the pivot.

Ultimately, we are in this business to partner with our clients to enhance their businesses.  Clients are at the center of our world, and everything we do is in service to them.

Accordingly, our values tie back to providing the best client service possible by fostering an environment that supports that – meaning we create the space for ideation, knowledge sharing, collaboration, partnership and mutual experimentation – what we like to call pragmatic disruption of the status quo.   And, above all, we do everything we can to get the job done and done well and with total integrity.  We do what we say we are going to do . . . every time.

Value: Make it Happen 

If we were on a desert island and had only one value, this would probably be it – it’s about getting the job done for our customers and our colleagues with no excuses or caveats.  It’s simple.  And if barriers are slowing you down or holding things up, it is expected you will raise your hand, respectfully step on some toes and work diligently to solve and deliver.  This value speaks directly to our individual and mutual sense of urgency, doing what we promise and the power of perseverance.

#MakeItHappen from WCG on Vimeo.

Behaviors – Act with purpose and good intention, do what you say you will do, be scrappy and fail fast, breakdown silos and hierarchies

Value: Deal With It

We’ve been through extreme bouts of change over the past few years in terms of significant growth, innovation, evolution of business priorities and integration of services and teams.  But there are some things that will never change – including our commitment to excellent client service and best in class work.  In order to thrive in our marketplace, we have to be nimble and flexible – even as a mid-size organization, and that means change is inevitable.  People here do best when they “know thyself,” act and think like owners, take responsibility for their own career path and trajectory, can handle ambiguity, and who adapt to their environment to produce optimal outcomes for our colleagues and our clients.  To be clear this value does not mean “tolerate it” — especially at any cost — but rather get in the line of fire, pivot with the changes, hit the key issues or activities head on and get to solutions and resolution always versus grinning (with cold teeth) and bearing it or worse yet hating it.

#DealWithIt from WCG on Vimeo.

Behaviors – Get comfortable with change and adapt, leverage the diversity and blended expertise of your colleagues, be resourceful in approach and developing solutions

Value: Why Suck?

This goes hand-in-hand with “Make it Happen” because what’s the point of getting the job done if it’s not done well?  We’re not always perfect, but we should strive to provide the best product possible and deliver with flawless execution – always.  I have a nameplate on my desk in the office that says, “A+ or Nothing” and that motto still motivates me, but I also don’t let it stop us from growing and scaling.  To Become the Best, mistakes will happen and the route home can be circuitous.  As long as communications are clear and transparent and expectations are set with your clients and colleagues, slightly less than perfect can often be the perfect solution.

#WhySuck from WCG on Vimeo.

Behaviors – Follow your instincts and talent to achieve awesome outcomes, provide clients with epic work; strive to wow, be accountable to your clients and teammates and own the outcome

Value: Let’s Hang

Collaboration and camaraderie allows us to produce the best possible work for our clients, and that’s what this is all about.  It’s the reason we invest in experiences that bring our teams together outside the office – so that our people can share information and learn from one another.  Our direct communication style sets us apart from other organizations.  I discourage my team from withholding feedback; people deserve to receive timely and constructive feedback so they can improve.  We intend to create an environment of mutual coaching, responsibility and accountability and one where we are helping each other to succeed in the best interests of our clients and our collective self.

#LetsHang from WCG on Vimeo.

Behaviors – Collaborate with colleagues and clients to innovate, learn constantly from your colleagues and on your own, share what you learn for collective knowledge and growth, coach your colleagues

Value: No A**holes

I do believe it’s all one Web and one community:  Clients, Channel Partners, Consultants or Colleagues.  We live in an increasingly small world and the way we treat others – especially one another — will be remembered and comes with requisite consequences, good and bad.  In terms of behaviors, I recognize it is aspirational to “leave your ego at the door.”  It takes a lot of ambition and drive to come in and do what we do every day, and we should honor that.  But the way we show up for each other every day is really important, and we need to recognize that it’s not about “Moi.”  It’s about “we” and our clients. People should want to be here; we don’t want anyone here who has to be here or is here for the wrong reasons – making everyone miserable including themselves.  We have low to no tolerance for A**holes here, at our clients and with partners, so if direct communications and coaching doesn’t work to rectify it, then seek help from management to resolve it.  See also #ChooseHappiness.

#NoAholes from WCG on Vimeo.

Behaviors – Treat teammates with respect and expect the same treatment in return, we’re all here because we want to be here, leave your ego at the door

Value: Choose Happiness

It’s all a matter of choice:  The way you approach your work, the way you react to challenges, interact with colleagues and clients, friends and family.  We must encourage and create the space for creativity, innovation and work that really wows our clients and the industry.  While we expect full presence of mind and total engagement from the entire team, we encourage you to do so in the spirit of “get it done” optimism and aplomb that inspires and motivates versus pessimism and fear-driven directives that shut people down.  Let’s assume all of us have the best intentions at heart and in mind.  And that every member of the team is showing up and playing to win on behalf of themselves, their colleagues and, above all, our clients.  Only by working together and collaborating with a positive attitude and best intentions toward one another — while still pushing each other to do their best — will we produce the best work and outcomes.  Instead of sniping, complaining or cutting people down, let’s coach each other to play our best and get to the solutions and great work and work experience we all came here for.

#ChooseHappiness from WCG on Vimeo.

Behaviors – Remain curious and open to what’s possible, create the space for inspiration and creativity, step up and engage

I believe these six values and associated behaviors support our Integrity as a business and our goal to Become the Best.  Let’s keep it real, always.  And let’s own and take pride in who we are instead of apologizing for or compromising on it.  Let’s “bleed orange” together.

I want to thank all of you across the organization for helping us to define and articulate our values more concretely.  Many are core tenets that I’ve been talking about since Day 1 and really serve as the backbone of this organization. I was gratified, but not all that surprised frankly, to see that W2O Group’s teams not only agreed with these key tenets as being authentic to our organization, but also as important motivators for individuals when they thought of what attracted them and what has kept them here.

As we evolve, grow and scale and more new people enter the company, some of what got us here is exactly what we need to reinforce and use as a filter for hiring, selecting clients and retaining talent to truly Go.Ahead.

What’s your Why?  Why Matters.  What value do you identify most with? What experiences have you had recently that tie back to one of these?  Share your views in upcoming Town Halls, on the web and soon in our video competition – more details to come on that.

 

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Our goal is always to provide the most value for our clients in all we do.  It starts with our team.  And this is why we are placing more emphasis in the months and years ahead on building a more diverse workforce that identifies a wider range of talent and perspective.  Diversity of people = diversity of thought and we see that as powerfully translating into better ideas and results for our clients.  One way we’ve been making this real is continuing to build our partnership with The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF), an initiative that we are pretty jazzed about.

TLF is a nonprofit organization with a focus on addressing the lack of diversity in the advertising, marketing and public relations fields. Last year we announced a $50,000, three-year commitment to TLF to fund the Future Leaders in Healthcare Fellowship Program to provide opportunities for minority candidates pursuing careers in healthcare communications. Our inaugural class far exceeded our expectations with their drive, passion and expertise and we look forward to what’s next for this talented team.

Diversity of people thought, perspective and ideas is what makes America truly great. That has always been a core belief driving this perspective, involvement and our CEO Jim Weiss‘ personal and corporate contribution and partnership with TLF.  And the reason it’s TLF we partner with is because Kim Hunter, Founder & Chairmain of TLF, is committed to taking action that makes an impact versus just talking about it which doesn’t move the needle or accomplish very much.

We have moved a step further with Jim joining TLF’s board of directors to learn more and help us accelerate how we evolve our firm.


Check out former fellow, Dianique Ashley’s perspective on the program


Recently, we were fortunate to host the first of several TLF Career & Professional Development Workshops in our Austin office. Our marketing analytics team discussed the fundamentals of the practice and the evolution of marketing models, audience architecture, data sciences and the best way to meet client expectations. We look forward to continue hosting these workshops in our offices across the nation.

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Additionally, TLF Founder & Chairman, Kim Hunter took part in a roundtable discussion with our Austin team regarding diversity in the workplace and within our industry. Throughout the frank and mind-opening conversation Kim noted, “I love W2O Group for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that the firm hires ‘non-traditional’ people.” As a firm, we will continue to recognize the importance of hiring diverse people in order to access a truly diverse mindset for the work we do.

We’re thankful to Kim for his vision and leadership and we’re looking forward to what’s next as Jim gets involved at the board level.

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Each holiday season, I spend time reading 5-6 books, often around a theme.  This year, I focused on people who are shaping our world.  Here’s a brief summary of each book and the next book(s) I plan to read to continue this learning process in 2017.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight – Phil describes the chaotic journey of building a world class company.  He doesn’t discuss modern day Nike, but rather how it went from an idea for a paper at Stanford to fulfilling a life-long passion.  Knight realizes from the beginning that building Blue Ribbon, then Nike, was really an integration of his personal and professional life.  Nike became an extension of his family.  It is a great example of how entrepreneurs persevere, no matter how tough it gets, and how important it is to stay focused on the vision at all times, since many people with short-term views of the world have the potential to derail the success of the organization that is being built.  If Knight listened to the short-termers, Nike would not exist.

Next Book – Bryan Cranston’s Memoir…want to see how an actor who became successful later in life stuck to his dream, as well.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow – the book that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to create Hamilton, the musical, is impressive.  It made me realize how important the U.S. Constitution was, how uneasy many were with its creation and yet, how Hamilton stayed focused on building the first Treasury Department, the US Mint, the Federal Reserve, the first Navy and even The New York Post, among many other accomplishments.  Alexander Hamilton was not always well-liked.  He often was swimming against the views of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other notables, but he stayed focused on building a government that would withstand the ages.  In my view, one of the most entrepreneurial government leaders in U.S. History.

Next Book – Benjamin Franklin by Walter Issacson, John Adams by David McCullough and The War that Made America by Fred Anderson.  The latter is the prequel to the Declaration of Independence and the other two are foundational characters in the formation of the U.S., so this will round out what I learned by reading Alexander Hamilton.

The Terror Years by Lawrence Wright – I loved his prior book, Looming Towers, and learned a lot from reading about how Al-Qaeda has evolved and how the Islamic State has formed.  Although it often feels like this has all happened in years, these organizations have formed over decades, so to understand them better, it is worth going deep on their thinking and approach.

Next Book – The Qur’an by Bruce Lawrence and Understanding Iraq by William R. Polk.  My goal is to learn about the importance of the Islamic Faith (the many positive qualities of Islam) and to also better understand the region, country by country.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance – this is a great introspective look at poverty in America, particularly in the Kentucky/Ohio area, where the author grew up.  In a year where politicians are throwing around venomous comments about people, I wish that all of us would take more time to look at the real lives of people who are having trouble getting ahead, wherever they may live.  Understanding the history and drivers of poverty are one step in the direction of identifying solutions (and rhetoric) that is more appropriate.

Next BookThe Bargain from the Bazaar: A Family’s Day of Reckoning in Lahore by Haroon Ullah.  Haroon is a friend who works in the U.S. State Department.  He has written several books.  In The Bargain, he provides a deeper look at one family’s trials and tribulations in Pakistan.  In my view, reading about families and actual examples helps to better understand policies that may be effective.

Broken But Unbowed by Governor Greg Abbott – the story of Gov. Abbott is inspirational in reading about his journey from becoming paralyzed via a falling tree in his 20’s to his now role as Governor of Texas.  Gov. Abbott is a constitutional expert and this book is devoted to his views on how the U.S. Constitution can be protected more effectively, including his direct interactions with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Next Book – The Gene by Siddhartha Mukarjee.  Gov. Abbott goes deep on the Constitution.  Siddhartha goes deep on the importance of our human genome.  I love authors who focus intently on a topic.

And since these books are all non-fiction, I’m taking a break right now and finishing A Little Life, a Man Booker Award finalist by Hanya Yanagihara.  Great read about four friends and their journey through life together.

Let me know of the books you’re interested in.  Hope you all have a Happy and Healthy 2017.

Best, Bob

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