Posts Tagged ‘Face of America’

Happy Anniversary: Our Journey Continues

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Happy Anniversary: Our Journey Continues

A Year of Memorable Moments

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari and
Tony Mussari, Sr.
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD 2015
All Rights Reserved

To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it more fit for its prime function of looking forward. Margaret Fairless Barber

The Numbers

On this the last day of February in 2015, Kitch and I celebrate the fifth anniversary of our Face of America Journey.

These are the numbers for 2014:
FoA Map sm

We traveled 5,100 miles visiting 24 cities in eight states;

Eight screenings of our documentaries were held in seven cities;

We posted 36 articles in our blog;

Ten of these articles focused on medical issues as we documented every step in Kitch’s total knee replacement surgery and other medical experiences at Geisinger/CMC in Scranton;

Ten articles were posted about our documentary Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg.


As we review our travels, there are several moments that we will never IMG_6889_240_forget. The naturalization service in Binghampton, New York, on the day Dr. Rex & Viola Dumdum became American citizens is in a class all by itself. Rex and Viola are two people who personify America at its very best, and they define genuine friendship in acts not words.

Celebrating the people we met during Kitch’s knee replacementIMG_5627 surgery at Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists and Geisinger/Community Medical Center in Scranton brought both of us great joy. The people who cared for Kitch were thoughtful, kind and professional in every sense of the word.

Working with Drs. Judith and Bob Gardner and their associates in the Education Department at Wilkes University was an honor and a pleasure.

The opportunity Dr. Bill Kashatis gave us to work with Dr. Mollie Marti to tell the story of Judge Max Rosenn at the Annual History Conference at Luzerne County Community College was a delightful experience.


Our visit to Eagles Mere in July was simply beautiful. We enjoyed the setting, and the people we met were delightful. If all goes as planned we will return to this wonderful community again this year.

Our friend, Amy Clegg, invited us to participate in two seminars Amy Jack2sponsored by Express Employment Professionals. Amy is a consummate professional as is Jack Smalley.

We made two trips to Baltimore, Maryland: one to celebrate Vicki Perez and to present a short film about her heroic daughter, 2d.Lt. Emily Perez; the other to celebrate our friend Mary Jane Norris at the 15th Annual Women in Maritime History Awards Ceremony.

In the spring, we traveled to Marywood University to speak at the annual ethics conference. We returned to Marywood 11 months later to keynote a Speed Networking event. Both experiences produced special moments and new friendships that we treasure.

In May, we screened Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg at the high school in North Plainfield, New Jersey. Five months later we joined a delegation of wonderful people from North Plainfield at a screening of the same documentary at the Convention Center in Atlantic City.



Anyone who has followed our travels since 2010 knows that we have spent more time in North Plainfield, New Jersey, than anywhere else in the country. These are the numbers:

We produced four documentaries about students from North Plainfield and their educational experiences during their visits to Shanksville, PA and Gettysburg PA;

We produced three short videos about North Plainfield students for our website, and we published 44 articles about North Plainfield students, administrators, teachers and school board members in North Plainfield in our blog;

We averaged four trips a year to North Plainfield. If you add the location scouting and post-production trips we made to Shanksville and Gettysburg for location shoots, we have logged over 10,000 miles while working on these projects.

During our first visit to North Plainfield, we saw what we believe to be the Face of America’s tomorrow today in the high school. That a_20yardline7beautiful mosaic has not changed. In fact, it is forever enshrined in a special place in our hearts, in our minds and in our garden.

The road to and from North Plainfield is paved with all the things that life has to offer. There were beautiful moments of discovery. There were challenging moments of obstacles to be overcome. There were community moments of celebration and there were many, many wonderful teaching moments of growth, learning and transformation.

Unfortunately, the prophetic words of Candy Villagomez accurately describe the effort, energy and time we invested in the work we have done in North Plainfield: “Nothing lasts forever.”

The day before his death, Leonard Nimoy beautifully expressed this thought about endings with these words:

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memories.

This is the year our work in North Plainfield came to an end. The perfect moments will live on in our memories of this very special place.

The Dream

When we began our journey, we had three objectives:
FoA Logo copy

We wanted to visit every one of the 48 continental states;

We wanted to build a mosaic of the Face of America on its best day;

We wanted to write and publish a book about our discoveries.

As you know, we accomplished all but one of these goals. We could not find a publisher who was willing to take an interest in our book.

IMG_8304 for Article

This year we found an alternative.

Knowing that I am in the last quarter of my life, I decided to do something special for my grandchildren this Christmas. With encouragement and help from Kitch, we wrote a book entitled Papa Tony’s Gift: Life Lessons from the Heart.

It is a visual narrative. The majority of the pictures in the book were taken during our journey. The 214 graphics in the book speak to all of the values we associate with America on its best day.

The idea for the book is rooted in our experience at the 2013 Medal ofIMG_5862dp Honor Convention. Four months later during the screening of Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg, I looked out at the audience and my eyes focused on my grandchildren. Without thinking I spoke these words from my heart:

“I am worried about your future, your generation and the challenges you will face in your lifetime.”

I also made the point that we must not permit digital relationships to replace personal relationships.

Shortly after we returned home, I began researching and writing in February 2014. During their Christmas visit, we presented a draft copy of the book to the children. Recently, we picked up the final edition of the book at Offset Paperback Manufacturing, Inc.

Of all the things Kitch and I have had the opportunity to do and see during our journey, writing and publishing the book was the most challenging, difficult and rewarding experience.

Looking forward, we will be doing more writing and less documentary production. To be honest, as much as we enjoy the documentary process, writing is our first love.


Our year ended with a wonderful experience provided by a student at Marywood University. Matthew Parkyn needed a keynote speaker for a Speed Networking event, and he turned to us for help. That opportunity enabled us to spend five weeks researching and writing a presentation that has opened many doors for future activities.

To everyone who offered encouragement, empathy, help and the steadfast loyalty of friendship and understanding during this transitional year of our Face of America Journey, Kitch and I thank you with a promise. We will continue our search for examples of the Face of America, the people, the places and the values that speak to America at its best. We will continue to write about these experiences.

Looking back on our Face of America Journey in 2014, the words of a great writer and statesman come to mind:

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see. Winston Churchill

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Anniversary: Oh, How the Years Go By, Part 3

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Anniversary: Oh, How the Years Go By, Part 3

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2013
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

“Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart.” Eleanor Roosevelt

This morning, Kitch reminded me that today is the third anniversary of our Face of America journey to California, the official start of our search forIMG_6597 examples of America at its best.

To be more specific, on this date in 2010, our destination was Shanksville, Pennsylvania. On the way we made a sentimental stop in Centralia, PA, the place where our documentary career took flight in 1983. Then we drove to Mechanicsburg to have lunch with Katy and Bob Finn, two very special people in our life.  


We ended the day with three of the best people we know Janie Kiehl, Chuck and Jayne Wagner. For ten years, Janie, Chuck and Jayne helped us tell the story of Flight 93 and the People’s Memorial to the passengers and crew who gave IMG_6722their lives for their country on the day the earth stood still for America.

Our dinner and visit in Shanksville ended one of those days that can only be described as practically perfect in every way. Wherever we stopped on February 28, 2010, we felt the warmth and the sense of belonging that is central to America at its best.

The Numbers for 2013

These are the statistics for the third year of ourGNMP_0768_150 project:

9,000 miles traveled in 5 states and 20 cities;

44 articles posted on our Face of America website;

14 visits to Gettysburg.

We produced an hour documentary entitled Walking Into The Light At Gettysburg.

Title Walking Into the Light AA_250

We screened the documentary and hosted a banquet in Gettysburg on January 19, 2013. Without question this was the most ambitious, complicated, challenging, rewarding and time consuming activity of the year.

We are eternally grateful to Bonnie & Frank Orlando, Tim Johnson, Ann Costa, Mandy Moore, Tom Mazur, Ellen and Jerry Mondlak. They encouraged us, helped us and inspired us to make the documentary and the premiere weekend happen.

In July, we started production of a weekly “America at its Best” commentary for the Business Builders Show with Marty Wolff. What a wonderful learning experience this has been. Thank you, Marty.

During the year, we delivered guest lectures at Marywood University, The Community College of Baltimore, Luzerne County Community College and Wilkes University. Thank you, Gale, Rick, Bill, Judy and Bob; we are forever in your debt.

Book Report

This year, we had two false starts with our book America at its Best, and little success in finding a traditional publisher.Lincolnsm

At the moment we are exploring the opportunities available in digital publishing.

Last evening we received a telephone call from a representative of an alternative publishing company who encouraged us to sign a contract with her company. Strange as this may seem, this morning we had a request to write a chapter book about one of our life experiences.

Robert Dahl’s words about writing continue to inspire us: “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Looking Forward

In the days and weeks ahead, we will honor an invitation to screen Walking Into the title_250_GLLLight at the annual meeting of the Wyoming Valley Civil War Round Table.

We will present our thoughts about “Gettysburg, Lincoln and Leadership” at the 11th annual Forum and Conference on Ethical Leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility at Marywood University.

We will participate in the annual arts festival at the North Plainfield High School, and the school district will host a community screening of Walking Into The Light at Gettysburg.

We will host our annual Windsor Park Camp for our grandchildren. Without question it’s the best event of the summer.

We have a very special documentary project in its preproduction phase, and we will continue the renovation of the garden we began last summer.

A Moment Like No Other


Last month, we received this note from Martin Young:

Hi Tony, Kitch I just posted the song for you guys to check out, I hope you like it. I feel like it came out really well. I may still do a few more things to it but this is certainly very close. Hope everyone is well, take care, Martin

What a joy it was to hear the song we wrote about surviving cancer. We are indebted to Mike Lewis and Martin Young who helped us refine the words and produce the music.

We are in the process of securing a copyright.

A Priceless Gift

Yesterday we received a priceless gift from our friend, Bill Gaydos. Before we left Gettysburg on January 20, Bill told us he intended to write a poem about the documentary.  This week we received a beautiful framed first edition of Bill’s poem.

You can read Bill’s poignant verse at this address:

To everyone who helped realize our dream to produce a documentary about the magic and mystery of Gettysburg, we say thank you.

ALstu_9426_250This has not been the easiest year for us. We encountered many bumps on the road, and we are dealing with some challenges we never expected. That being said, we are determined to keep moving forward.

President Abraham Lincoln said it best: “Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did.”

Until the next time, we hope that all of your stories have happy endings.

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Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara: A Classic Face of America

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara: A Woman of Character, Leadership and Responsibility

Written by Tony Mussari
and Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

The uniform does not take away heart. VADM Sally Brice-O’Hara

A Woman with a Purpose

This is a story about Rear Admiral Sally Brice O’Hara, an impressive woman by any standard. She is a woman who knows something about leadership. She is a leader who knows something about compassion and service. For 38 years she has served her country in 19 different assignments in the United States Coast Guard.

Kitch and I met Sally Brice-O’Hara in 2001 at Training Center Cape May. We were there to produce a program for our series, Windsor Park Stories. It was one of the best days of our career.

Sally was the Commanding Officer of Training Center Cape May.  She was generous with her time, and every one of her associates helped us with our work. We did not know it when we arrived, but before the visit ended we received a crash course in leadership from a woman whose friendship we earned that day.

Quiet and determined by nature, Sally took us on a walking tour of the training center. It is her style to demonstrate with acts of competence, kindness and thoughtfulness rather than embellish events and experiences with words. Watching her engage with the young men and women who would spend less than two months learning the code of conduct and the practices of the U.S. Coast Guard, three things were obvious. This was a woman who loved her job. This was a woman who enjoyed all the responsibilities that came with the job. This was a woman who did her job well. 

The Admiral’s Rules

During her interview, the person who was about to become the second female Admiral in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard talked about the values that helped her earn that honor.

She identified honesty, integrity and responsibility as the most important values she learned at home from her parents and as a child growing up with a love of horses and all things equestrian.

When she entered the Coast Guard after college, she found these values to be aligned with the core values that are proudly displayed on bulkheads around the training center: Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty.

She was emphatic about one point.  Character does count.  It is the foundation that will last a lifetime, and it is essential to leading a good life.

She also stressed the importance of teamwork, and she made a very compelling point when she said, “I must live by these standards when I am in uniform and when I am on liberty.”

Over the years, Admiral Brice-O’Hara has taught these values as a leader, a mentor, a crisis manager and a friend.

During an interview with Veronique Freeman, she shared these thoughts:

Accountability is a vital component of leadership: accountability to one’s self, accountability to others, and accountability to the organization.

First, we should be true to ourselves, doing everything to the best of our ability. This
includes being humble enough to speak up and ask for advice when we need it – and to include others in the solution.

Second, we should always look after people who work for us, making sure they have everything they need to do their jobs well: the right equipment, adequate resources, clear policy and guidance, and strong TTP (Training, Techniques, and Procedures).

Third, we must strive to be the stellar Coast Guard men and women who wear the
uniform and represent the Coast Guard to the world – and to do so with very highest standards of drive, determination, success, and trustworthiness.


RADM Brice-O’Hara has very strong feelings about mentoring.  In an interview in 2009, she explained the benefits of mentoring:

My mentors contributed to my achievements with encouragement and timely advice, such as pointing me to specific things that could help expand my professional knowledge. They gave me tips on applicable courses, books and articles to read; some pushed me to seek collateral duties that would broaden my experience.

I attempt to do the same for the men and women that I mentor. Instead of focusing just on what they know, I try to open their perspectives and nudge them to things they may not have considered. Helping them understand and effectively use policies, identifying ways to take advantage of applicable tools the Service offers, or simply listening and providing a venue for venting are ways that I add value in the mentor-mentee relationship. Mentoring allows for some pretty frank conversation, which is healthy and should lead to better understanding about issues of concern.

And it works two ways, because as a mentor, generally to a more junior person, I benefit from hearing how Coast Guard policies and initiatives are received…was it as the organization intended, or were there unexpected consequences that necessitate further action by decision-makers?

…mentoring is a great way to further reinforce and embed values and principles among our fellow Guardians.

Leadership with Gratitude  

Kitch and I ended our Windsor Park Story about Sally Brice-O’Hara with this thought:

For the young men and women who join the United States Coast Guard, Rear Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara is an example they all should imitate. As long as there are people like Sally Brice-O’Hara in the service of America our homeland will be secure.

It was 2002, and a wonderful friendship was about to begin. During the past ten years, it has grown in many human and qualitative ways since we produced Making Waves:Rear Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara.

Kitch and I admire her attention to detail, her high expectations and standards, her respect for the dignity of the individual, her sense of reciprocity, her loyalty to friends and family.

She is a leader who never lost her sense of roots and her ability to connect with people from all walks of life. One of her most compelling characteristics is her genuine affection and appreciation for her parents, her husband and her children. She always gave them credit for their invaluable help and life-sustaining support

Sally Brice-O’Hara is a gratitude person with a heart of gold. She cares about people, and that may be her greatest strength.

In more ways than words can describe, she is an inspirational and memorable Face of America on its best day.  Every day of her service to America was a good day for America. She brought people together.  She helped people develop their talents. She affirmed the people on her team and she looked after people in a way that enabled them to find the best edition of themselves.

Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara lived what she taught. She enabled the success of others because it is fundamental to good leadership.

Those of us who are fortunate to know her, work with her, and serve America with her are better people because of her friendship and leadership.

This month, Admiral Brice-O’Hara will retire from the Coast Guard. When she leaves her office for the last time, the words of Isaiah will apply to her leadership and her service:

She can “Go out with joy and be led forth with peace.” She never let the uniform take away her heart.

Thank you Sally for showing us the way to become better people, and better Americans.

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Emily’s Legacy

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Four Days in North Plainfield, NJ, Part 3

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Teaching Moments

Written By Tony Mussari
Photographs By Kitch Mussari
Copyright 2011
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project,

Teaching Moments

“Nine-tenths of education is encouragement.” Anatole France

Doc 05: the Challenge

Prior to my visit to the North Plainfield High School for two presentations to the student body, I spent many restless nights conceptualizing the nature, objectives and tone for this unique teaching opportunity.

I wanted to connect with the students. I wanted to engage the students in a series of exercises that would reinvigorate the seeds of optimism and opportunity planted by their teachers. I wanted to inform the students about the material in our documentary about Shanksville and transformation. I wanted to define the word hero in a way they would not forget. I wanted to leave these students with positive memories about themselves and what they learned.

It was a tall order for a person who is old enough to be their grandfather. It was a challenging for someone who had not spoken to an audience of 500 students in a high school setting in more than 30 years.

For three weeks, I had been thinking, reading, planning and mulling over in my mind what I would say, and how I would say it.

To be very honest, I was somewhat apprehensive about the situation I had gotten myself into, but I was determined to make the best of it.

Several things worked to my advantage. I like these students. I admire the educational leaders in their school district. I respect their teachers. I know a good deal about the history and culture of the school district.  My wife and I have been here several times, and I taught small groups of students in their classrooms during our visits. I was a guest speaker at two athletic awards banquets, and I recorded a number of public service trips taken by the cheerleaders and their coach Skip Pulcrano.

When the light of discovery and direction finally went on in my mind, it was simple, understandable and very practical. I would do something my mother always encouraged me to do. I would be myself. I would teach in much the same way I taught in my own classroom, from my heart as well as my head. I would apply the information I learned from a teacher at Kent State University: “Effective teaching is as much about good performance as it is about good information.”

Doc 05: the Content

Now that I had a strategy, I could spend time thinking about content, examples and a theme.

The main event for the assembly was a screening of our documentary Shanksville, PA: A Place of Transformation. The film features 12 Cheerleaders from North Plainfield who visited the people’s memorial in Shanksville in 2010 during our Face of America Journey, three Flight 93 Ambassadors who helped us during our ten year What is America? project in Shanksville, the woman who took the only picture of Flight 93’s ending, Val McClatchey and the woman who created the 9/11 National Remembrance Flag, Joanne Galvin.

The film addresses several questions about America at its best, American heroes and American values. It begins with the North Plainfield High School Concert Band playing Flight of Valor.  It ends with a montage of images summarizing the events of September 11, to the music of Jo Ann Biviano’s I’ll Always Remember.   

This screening provided an excellent opportunity to talk about the person who inspired our Face of America Journey, 2LT Emily Perez, the first Black/Hispanic honors graduate to lose her life in Iraq. I could tie Emily’s Legacy into the life work of another inspirational American, Professor George N. Parks, the teacher who built a national reputation for the Minuteman Marching Band at the University of Massachusetts. His work with students could be linked with another motivational teacher and coach, Herb Brooks and his 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team.

The documentary films Kitch and I produced about Coach Brooks and Professor Parks and the short films we edited about Emily Perez, gave me all the material I needed to tell their stores in what I hoped would be a compelling and interesting way to the students in North Plainfield.

The narratives of each of these American heroes gave me an opportunity to address the question, What is a hero? I could make the significant distinction between a hero and a celebrity. That would open the door to the matter I wanted to emphasize for the students, the impressive examples of industry and service Kitch and I found in North Plainfield, the genuine goodness of this place and the radiant Face of America it projects.

Doc 05: The Moment

The first assembly began sometime after 9 a.m. on a beautiful Monday morning. After introductions by the principal, Jerard Stevenson and the Supervisor of Fine Arts, Tom Mazur, I climbed the steps to the stage. Standing behind the podium, I waited for a few seconds, and then I enthusiastically greeted the students.   

They responded and we were off to a very good start.

After a few moments, I made a costume change.

The year I retired from teaching, Kitch and I worked with twenty students on a documentary project about the 25th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice. It was designed to teach the students life lessons and work values by studying Coach Herb Brooks and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. During my final night as a teacher, the students gave me what they called a “Miracle Shirt.” It is one of my most treasured possessions. I wore it under my academic gown at graduation and one other time during a guest lecturer at St. Mary’s College in Moraga California.

I explained the importance of the shirt, and its symbolism.  Then, I walked to the easel next to the podium. I removed the shirt uncovering a framed picture of a smiling Emily Perez. Just before I put the shirt on, I told the students I was going to wear this shirt for the third time to honor them. The comment resonated with the audience.

For the next few minutes we did some exercises that got the students out of their seats and enabled them to have some fun, learn some lessons about life, success, coping with disappointment, pursuing excellence and accepting themselves.

Whatever I asked the students to do they did with zest and involvement. It was such a joyful experience.  We were working together, learning together, celebrating together and having a good time together.

To be honest, it felt good to be in a classroom with so many students who were enthusiastically participating.

My segue to the film was a short story about Emily Perez: her background; her accomplishments in the classroom, on the athletic field and her impressive record of selfless service to others. I compared her courage and heroism to the actions of the heroes of flight 93. I asked the students to watch the film with their hearts as well as their eyes. I asked them to listen with their ears and their hearts to the things their classmates would say about their hopes, their dreams and their country.

The room grew silent, the lights went out and the film began. I made my way to the back of the auditorium. My heart was pumping in overdrive, and my spirits were about as high as the azure blue sky above. It was one of the best teaching opportunities of my lifetime.
In my heart of hearts, I believed that I connected with the students. I did what I came here to do.   I reinforced my strong belief that this is a place where one finds the Face of America’s tomorrow today.

When the film ended, I had a few moments with the students, and then they left the auditorium to attend their regularly scheduled classes. As they filed out of the room, several students offered encouraging comments about their experience. When I was about to leave, I was greeted by a substitute teacher who, with tears in her eyes, hugged me and expressed her thanks.

Later in the day she wrote these words:

I wanted to thank you once again for all your incredible dedication and work in such a necessary area, that of reaffirming the goodness of our wonderful country and its young people, and that of honoring our fallen.

I cannot begin to describe to you how profound and cathartic an effect your work had upon me. I felt certain that I had composed myself long prior to approaching you, yet upon our handshake I felt this overwhelming wave of emotion come back over me.  Call it gratitude, call it inspiration, respect, etc. but I was very shocked at the depth and range of feelings I experienced. 

I feel your documentary does exactly what any great documentary is supposed to do:  it informs and extols while getting people to think and REACT to what they are learning.  I can’t call it anything less than a spiritual experience. 

It definitely has everything to do with the fact that I am so very proud of my brother, a current civilian private contractor, post-military officer who was presented a bronze medal and now works actively in the wage for peace in counter-terrorism intelligence. 

Please take my words with you as an additional level of affirmation and inspiration that you and your wife so richly deserve, as you have inspired so many. 

God has Blessed You, Dr. Mussari and your lovely wife… may your work never stop moving forward to inspire everyone

On Tuesday morning at 8:30 we returned to the auditorium for another assembly. It was a memorable beginning to a very long day that would culminate in a public screening at 7:00 p.m.

Throughout the day two thoughts reverberated in my mind:

The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book. Author Unknown

It’s not what is poured into a student that counts, but what is planted. Linda Conway

Thank You, Tom Mazur.

Thank you, Skip Pulcrano.

Thank You, Jerard Stephenson.

Thank You, Marilyn Birnbaum.

Thank you, North Plainfield students for giving an old teacher a new classroom and memories that will last a lifetime.

Tony & Kitch Mussari
The Face of America Project
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