Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

5 Blessings

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

Expressing Gratitude to the John Heinz Institute of Rehabilitation

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2017
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

Some people come in our life as blessings. Mother Teresa

A Fond Farewell

On December 5, 2016, I entered The John Heinz Institute of Rehabilitation
in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I did not know what to expect.

Almost five months later, April 20, 2017, I had my final session. Because of the caring, compassionate and welcoming environment, I felt compelled to express my thanks in a special way. So I designed a graphic with a picture of our garden and one of my favorite Irish blessings for the 5 therapists who made the experience positive and memorable.

This is but another attempt to express my gratitude:

Mark Miller

Mark, my wish for you is best summarized in this Irish blessing:

May the saddest day of your future
be no worse than the happiest day
of your past.

Mark Miller gives truth to the thoughtful words of
James Matthew Barrie:

Those who bring sunshine into the lives of
others cannot keep it from themselves.

Theresa Yaron

Theresa, the words of this Irish blessing reflect
my hope for you and your family:

May your troubles be less
and your blessings be more
and nothing but happiness
come through the door.

The 32nd President of the United States
Franklin D. Roosevelt gave us this great
insight into human nature:

If you treat people right they will
treat you right … ninety percent of
the time.

Theresa Yaron lives the spirit of these beautiful words.

Joanne Orlando:

Joanne, the words of this Irish blessing reflect
my hope for you and your family:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face
…and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

When Anne Rice penned these words,
she was describing Joanne Orlando:

Be kind. Always if you have a choice, be kind.

Nicole Pelosi

Nicole, watching you greet the children with
disabilities reminded me of this Irish proverb:

Mothers hold their children’s hands for
just a little while…
And their hearts forever.

The celebrated author Og Mandino defined one
of your greatest assets with these words:

A smile remains the most inexpensive gift
I can bestow on anyone and yet
its powers can vanquish kingdoms.

Flo Kohar

Flo, your warm greetings make this Irish blessing
appropriate for you.

May you have warm words on a cold evening
A full moon on a dark night;
And the road downhill all the way to your door.

H.Jackson Brown, Jr. gave us a great standard for success:

The best preparation for tomorrow is doing
is doing your best today.

Flo Kohar lives by that standard.

Thank You

Mark Miller
Theresa Yaron
Joanne Orlando
Nicole Pelosi
Flo Kohar

Thank you to all the men and women
who work at the John Heinz Institute of
Rehabilitation in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

This Irish blessing is for you:

May God grant you always…
A sunbeam to warm you, a
moonbeam to charm you,
a sheltering Angel so nothing
can harm you.
Laughter to cheer you.
Faithful friends near you.
And whenever you pray,
Heaven to hear you.

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Celebrating Our National Gratitude Day

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2016
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD  

To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven. Johannes A. Gaertner


While doing research for a speech to the Back Mountain Men’s Ecumenical Club, I came across a PowerPoint presentation Kitch and I flower-typefcdesigned about gratitude. It began with a beautiful picture from our garden. It ended with summary of George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation:

Acknowledge His Providence…

Be grateful for his benefits…

Establish a Day of Thanksgiving
and prayer…

Show our grateful hearts for His
favors and our government.

In 1863, 74 years later, President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday. He ended his proclamation with these words:

I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings… they do also fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

On this, our national day of gratitude, we thought it would be appropriate to share some the highlights from this presentation. We are doing this to offer encouragement and hope during these challenging times.

Gratitude Defined


Those in the know define gratitude with one word, Thankfulness.

Angeles Arrien, the author of Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life, believed that blessings, learnings, mercies, and protections are the four portals to a grateful heart.

She shared this important point with her readers:

The practice of gratitude bestows many benefits, anger, arrogance, and jealousy melt in its embrace. Fear and defensiveness dissolve. Gratitude diminishes barriers to love and evokes happiness.

Gratitude Examples

So what is this emancipating virtue called gratitude? These are some examples.

It could be a drawing like the one that came straight from the heart of an elementary school student.

This particular expression of gratitude was tacked on a bulletin board in a classroom in a school just a few blocks from the site of the 911 attack on New York city.

The words and the image speak to gratitude and its power of healing.

Thank you to the policemen and the firemen for trying to rescue the people. Thank you to the rescue dogs. Love Emma.


This may surprise you, but gratitude may be a song.

Affectionate Gratitude was written by a Sister of Charity in 1881.

It is preserved in the Library of Congress collection Music for the Nation.

Equally surprising, gratitude can be a boxcar. Yes, you read it correctly.

In 1949, the French government sent a very special gift to the peoplegratitude-boxcar of the United States. It was called the Merci (Gratitude) Train.

It is a unique symbol of gratitude for the $40 million in relief supplies Americans gave to war-torn France and Italy in 1947. The supplies were carried in a 700-car train appropriately named the Friendship Food Train.

Recently, Kitch and I had the opportunity to see one of those Gratitude box cars at Fort Indiantown Gap.

What a moment!

The Virtues of Gratitude


Gratitude is an attitude that is deeply rooted in kindness.

Gratitude permeates every aspect one’s life. One never misses an opportunity be kind and say thank you. Our friend Helene Bigiarelli clearly defined the connection between gratitude and kindness:

To receive kindness and understanding from my neighbors and friends, I have to be kind and understanding to them.

There is a mystical connection between gratitude and joy.


Amanda Gore, a popular motivational speaker and author, explained that connection with this beautiful thought:

Gratitude is the foundation for joy. That’s the secret! Until you find and live with gratitude and appreciation, you will never find joy.

Gratitude makes us more mindful and it helps to control the most divisive modern-day disease of “Mefulness.”

The celebrated author of Our Town, explained this important insight when he wrote these profound words:

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. Thornton Wilder

Gratitude is speaking kindly about someone who is angry with you. When your day revolves around being grateful, it is impossible to be depressed.

Expressing Gratitude

Sometimes the best way to express gratitude is in an old-fashioned, handwritten note to a friend or a loved one.

I was blessed to receive a priceless note this morning:

On this Thanksgiving, we’re facing a big medical challenge, but as with all the others, we hold hands and move through it. The sun will be shining on the other side. I’m by your side, and I thank you on this special day for all your love, kindness, and understanding.
I love you dearly,


I can think of no better way to end this article about Thanksgiving than to share a quote from William Arthur Ward:


God gave you a gift of 84,600 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say thank you?

We hope your Thanksgiving Day was blessed with peace, love and the joy of community with family and friends. May we all renew the Thanksgiving plea of our greatest American President Abraham Lincoln that our county is blessed with peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

God bless you for taking the time to read this article, and God bless America.

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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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2014 A Year of Priceless Gifts

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

2014 A Year of Priceless Gifts

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Tony Mussari
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD 2014
All Rights Reserved

Lord we thank Thee…for the health, the work, the food and the bright skies that make our lives delightful. Robert Louis Stevenson

The words of one of the most beloved poets best explain theGroup gratitude Kitch and I have for the priceless gifts we received in 2014 from our friends and family.

The year began with a memorable event at the Gateway Theater in Gettysburg. Thanks to the the kindness of Robert Monahan, Jr., the screening of Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg was a perfect way to share the story of the Medal of Honor convention, the values associated with the Medal of Honor and the transformation of the students from North Plainfield, New Jersey who attended almost all of the convention events recorded in the documentary.

After the screening, we received this comment from a mother and grandmother who attended the screening:

IT REALLY SHOULD BE SHOWN TO THE SCHOOLS as the majority of the youth are not exposed to the humility, sincerity and dedication that you presented.


In March, we had the good fortune to participate in the Annual Ethics Conference at Marywood University. Organized by Dr. Murray Pyle and several of his colleagues at Marywood, it was a day of learning, and a priceless opportunity to make new friends and experience the beauty and the welcoming atmosphere of Kitch’s Alma Mater.

This is one of the transformational thoughts offered at the conference; There is no dichotomy between being a good person and being a success in business.

Dr. Murray Pyle “We thank you for the peace accorded us this day.”

On a beautiful march day, we traveled to Baltimore to attend the 15thIMG_5217aMJKD Annual Women in Maritime History Awards. Our friend, Mary Jane Norris was the honoree. During her acceptance speech she shared this thought: Do small things well, because they all add up.

Mary Jane we thank you for the gift of your example.

In April, Dr. Rex Dumdum, Jr. arranged a screening of Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg at Marywood University. He attended to all the details of the event including dinner, a reception an afterglow, and the technical matters that make or break an event of this IMG_5597A250nature. Rex made sure there were no anxious or stressful moments before, during and after the screening.

It was an evening of community, friendship and learning.

There were no limits placed on the Q&A session. That enabled students, teachers and visitors to provide invaluable feedback. That experience inspired one of the students in attendance, Amber E. Clifford, to write a heartfelt comment about the documentary:

“Four Days of honor and Valor in Gettysburg is truly inspiring to those who are struggling to do what they know is right.”

Thank you Rex. You give special meaning to the words of Anna Sewell: “Good People make good places.”

In April, we participated in the annual Refresh Leadership Live Simulcast at the McCann School of Business in Wilkes-Barre, PA. ELL_5857_1_250

The facility was perfect for the event.

The people from the school were very pleasant.

The room where the event was held was an excellent choice for the session.

The members of the Express Pros team were very friendly and willing to do whatever they could to make everyone feel right at home. Their kind and welcoming way reduced the normal anxiety levels that accompany a presentation of this nature.

On that day, we met three radian faces of America, Kathleen Nolan Barrett and Kathy Barrett, Jeff Doran

In May, Amy Clegg invited us to participate in an Express Business Solutions Seminar in Scranton. Jack Smalley, the Director of HR Learning Amy Jack2and Development for Express Employment Professionals, gave an informative and inspirational presentation about leadership.

These are but two of the thoughts he shared with his audience:

Leaders are responsible. They leave the excuses behind.

Effective leaders do not accommodate falling stars. They encourage and reward excellence!

Jack Smalley is a man who exemplifies professionalism with heart.

Thank you, Jack for giving us the strength to encounter that which is to come.

In May, we traveled to North Plainfield, New Jersey for two screenings of our documentary. These events were organized by Tom Mazur. The screeningScreening 1_3_IMG_8045 at the High School enabled us to experience the ways in which the documentary resonates with students.

The comments students shared with us after the screening made the long and demanding days and nights of location shooting and editing worthwhile.

The evening screening showed us that adults relate to the messages in the documentary in very positive ways.

This screening gave us an opportunity to celebrate the leadership of the MB_Gift_8179retiring superintendant of schools, Dr. Marilyn Birnbaum. Without her belief in our work, we would not have been able to do what we have done in North Plainfield since 2009. That work may be over, but the positive memories will live on forever.

Later in the year, we joined a delegation from North Plainfield in Atlantic City. There we screenedFour Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg for a small audience at the New Jersey School Boards Association Convention. That venue proved the accuracy of Seneca’s words: It is quality rather than quantity that matters.

Several times this year, we had an opportunity to celebrate quiet heroes who make our world a better place because of their acts of kindness andIMG_4437 consideration. Many of these people are associated with Geisinger/CMC in Scranton and Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists. Several articles in our blog record the competent and compassionate medical care Kitch received during her total knee replacement surgery.

To Dr. Harry Schmaltz and his team of caring professionals an adaptation of Stevenson’s words best records our gratitude. We thank you for the hope with which we expect tomorrow.

In 2014, both Kitch and I spent a considerable amount of time in the hospital for tests and procedures. In our blog, we expressed our thanks to the people who did their jobs without noise or notice in an excellent and humane way.

Judy Bob200_9229sm

In October, we visited with our friends at Wilkes University. This occasion gave an old teacher a new classroom, and an opportunity to work with an impressive group of students who wanted to learn something about character education.

If you are looking for excellence in education, you need look no further than the creative work of Judy and Bob Gardner and their colleagues. What they are doing to enhance learning opportunities for students in the Education Department at Wilkes University is impressive.

Thank you Judy and Bob for giving us an opportunity to help you with the important work you are doing.

A few weeks later, we traveled to Luzerne County Community toIMG_6231 participate in the Annual History Conference. This year Bill Kashatus invited us to partner with Mollie Marti to tell the story of the life and legacy of Judge Max Rosenn. To do this we produced a new version of the Windsor Park Story we broadcast about Judge Rosenn in 2004. It was a sentimental journey to one of our favorite places with one of the most impressive leaders we have ever met, Judge Max Rosenn.


In November, we drove to Binghamton, New York to celebrate the naturalization of two of our very favorite people Viola and Rex Dumdum. Sitting in the historic courtroom where the ceremony took place gave us a better understanding of what America and the blessing of American citizenship is all about.

What a gift it was to welcome two magnificent citizens to America on their big day.

Perhaps the most challenging work we did during the year took place during the early morning hours after we had attended to our other responsibilities.

In January, shortly after the screening in Gettysburg, Kitch and I began to work on a book for our grandchildren. Designed to be a legacy gift, it is a visual narrative. It combines images from our Face of America project and several documentary projects like our What IsIMG_8304 for Article America? Series and our Miracle Project with the life lessons we have learned navigating the bumps on the road of life.

During their Christmas visit we presented the book as a surprise gift to the grandchildren and their parents.

In a way, it closed the circle for us.

An adaptation of the words in Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem Morning Prayer enables us to give thanks for the blessings of 2014 and look ahead to the New Year with hope:

Lord we thank Thee for the place in which we dwell… the peace accorded us this day…for our friends…give us the strength to encounter that which will come in 2015…that we may be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath and in all changes of fortune, and down to the gates of death, loyal and loving to one another.

Happy New Year!

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A Gratitude Moment in Gettysburg, Pt 2

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

A Gratitude Moment in Gettysburg, Pt 2

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari, Katie Hennessey & Bill Gaydos

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. Thornton Wilder

As most of the people who read our blog know, the work weGraphic have done in Gettysburg is central to our Face of America project. During this time of digital disconnection, economic dislocation and unsettling news about school shootings and crimes of passion that make all of us wonder about our future, we have decided to continue our search for examples of America at its best. We need them more today than when we started our journey in 2010.

That’s why we produced Walking Into the Light at Gettysburg and its sequel Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg. Gettysburg is where IOn LocationAmerica’s past and future meet. So much of the Gettysburg story is symbolic of America at its best. Having an opportunity to tell the story of the Medal of Honor in its Gettysburg setting was something Kitch and I wanted to do, and we were willing to make the sacrifices that were necessary to do it.

Although it is almost two weeks since the premiere of our documentary Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg, we continue to receive handwritten notes and e-mail messages about the documentary and the event.

These are a few of the priceless comments we received this week.

The atmosphere in the theater was of deep reverence and respect. I was in awe of what the two young gentlemen in the atudent Questionaudience had to say about the film- that it gave them hope and should be shown in classrooms. They summed it up so eloquently and from their hearts.

I love what the ROTC student said about the medal recipients never speaking about themselves only others.
I am still uplifted by the whole experience.

The content of the film delivers a very powerful message for those that should choose to receive it, and that in and of itself is the biggest challenge I believe we face as parents in this world today. Getting the right messages through and deflecting the wrong is a challenging task.

The aspect of the documentary that I loved most was defining "character." I know that it is often overlooked in our society these days, but I can assure that I speak of it everyday to my first grade students. I define it a bit differently, but I tell them, "Character is how you act when you THINK no one is watching you."

It can often be upsetting when it seems like most of Brian Giftthe people these days want to take instead of give. The film restored faith in humanity and reached out to the next generation of students showing them a path that is difficult to travel but a destination that is attainable, thanks to caring, encouraging, and faithful people like you and your wife.

I cannot thank you enough for all the memories you have helped make during our time spent with you and Kitch at Gettysburg. The entire experience has truly been life changing and I am grateful for the fact that I got the chance to go. Again, thank you so much for allowing us six cadets to partake in this life changing experience. We hope to see you again.

For the first time in my life, I can say I became oddly absorbed and as I viewed this screening I felt an almost AS_8611 out of body experience. I say this more because my attention became focused not so much on the subject matter, but I sat and became so absorbed in this true labor of perfected love, for a project that you both invested so, so many tireless hours getting every minor detail perfected. I was mesmerized by every bit of attention to detail throughout the entire documentary.

Thank YOU for everything you did. It was a wonderful event and its impact it had on everyone will surely not be forgotten.
Thank you for your kind note and beautiful picture! I have it displayed at home as a reminder to be thankful!!

I am very happy that I was able to make it to the showing of your documentary and I look forward to seeing more of your work.

What a beautiful way to focus some well deserved MoHR_9224jattention on the recipients of the Medal of Honor. The film encompassed a valuable learning experience for those young ROTC Cadets. Keep up the good fight for our country, our veterans and the young students in North Plainfield.

God bless you both.

Thank you so much for the premiere. The special thanks and everything you do. It was really cool to see your OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApassion on the big screen. I hope it does well and lots of people get to enjoy it as we did. Thank you and Kitch for the gift that you did not have to get me. Seeing how passionate the two of you are is gift enough.

Take care my friend and God Bless

These notes lift our spirits and give us hope. They remind us of a beautiful moment of sharing made possible by the CEO & President of the 2013 Medal of Honor Convention Robert J. Monahan, Jr. This article and the ones that precede it are offered as an expression of gratitude to Bob for his belief in our work and his determination to help us tell this story.

What Kitch and I are feeling was best expressed by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

To everyone who stayed in touch with us when we needed encouragement, to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts about the documentary, and to everyone who helped us do this work, we say thank you. You kind words and deeds give us the energy and the purpose to keep on keeping on, and we are in your debt.

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A Gratitude Moment in Gettysburg

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg: A Gratitude Moment

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by
Katie Hennessey and Bill Gaydos

What began fifteen months ago with an act of kindness came fullGraphic circle in the Gateway Theater in Gettysburg on a cold January evening. In what was designed as a gratitude celebration, Kitch and I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to premiere Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg.

Robert J. Monahan, Jr., the chairman of the 2013 Medal of Honor Convention, and the person who made the production, the screening and the reception possible, served as Master of Ceremonies.

His comments celebrated all of the events associated with the Medal of Honor Convention. They reflected the light of his goodness, his kindness, his friendship and his heart of gold.


Medal of Honor recipient Brian Thacker offered warm and welcoming comments about the Medal of Honor, the values it represents and the heroes who earned it. He is the living legacy of everything the Medal of Honor symbolizes. When you are in his presence, you can feel the warmth of his caring heart.

After the opening remarks, the lights in the theater dimmed, the huge room went silent as guests from eight states and the District of Columbia were enveloped by the sights and sounds projected on the 56 foot screen that demanded the attention of everyone in the audience.

For Kitch and me, it was a beautiful moment of community and sharing. It was also a moment of anxiety and relief. The documentary had been the focus of our life for more than a year. Now, others would see it and determined if it touched their hearts and souls in the way it was intended.

These are a few excerpts from the notes we received after the event.

Last night hit me with a lot of emotion.  Like Clarenceeveryone of those Medal of Honor recipients talked about – just do the right thing.  If you do the right thing, everything else will fall in place.  Thankfully and hopefully I will never experience war and death like all of those men did.  But the issues I have been facing over the past few years have been my own personal war. 

Your show last night had bigger meaning and importance than me.  But I felt like the only guy in that theater last night because it was something that I needed to hear. 

No matter how old we get – we all need these reminders that 4 days of honor and valor portray.  We all need to stay focused on just Loving – and doing the right thing. 

How can one say a proper "Thank You" to people LBN_Studentswho have touched so many lives in such a positive and heartwarming way? Your exceptional love of and dedication to your family, your friends, your students, your newest "student family" additions, and especially your country cannot be denied. We in North Plainfield are blessed to have had the privilege of making your acquaintance and having received your friendship, your shared commitment to excellence, and your interest in and artistic inclusion of our students in your "Face of America" series.

Great nite last nite, Doc! Thank you so much for the framed photo! A picture is worth a thousand words and a lifetime of memories!

Your documentary was a masterpiece. The ROTC students experiencing the Medal of Honor Convention was extremely moving and touching. It was very enlightening and educational. I learned so much this weekend.

The theatre was a full house! Congratulations. You must be walking on air today.
Brian 2ad

The reception was so warm and welcoming. My son and his friend were impressed to meet Brian Thacker. They asked very good questions and Mr. Thacker showed so much interest in talking to them.

Thank you and Kitch for allowing me to be part of your documentary and your life. I am told over and over by those who saw your piece how amazing it was and how important it is to share it with students. I hope that whatever the future holds, it includes this piece being part of the growth of our youth in America.

Thank you also for the gift you gave me. It is beautiful and a wonderful way to be reminded of the special opportunity you provided to me and to all of us who were involved.

Stacey's gift_

Truly awesome!

With a theater full – you could hear a pin drop.
Also with a theater full I’m sure that only you and Kitch
were the only ones who had a true idea of all the
hours & work put into the production.

It was a wonderful work of art that was truly enjoyed by all.

IT REALLY SHOULD BE SHOWN TO THE SCHOOLS as the majorityOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA of the youth are not exposed to the humility, sincerity and dedication that you presented.

Wow! What an impact your film had on me and obviously the entire audience.
One word that would describe it is LOVE. As you said in the intro it is a love story.

It’s been a long, challenging, demanding and emotionally exhausting journey from October 2012 to January 2014. On January 18, the film spoke for itself. In the end, what matters most for Kitch and me is the substance of the story and the impact it has on the people who see it. It’s not about celebrity, fame, fortune or notoriety. It’s about making people think. It’s about giving people hope. It’s about providing models and leadership that will enable people to embrace and practice the advice of Abraham Lincoln:

It often requires more courage to dare to do right than to fear to do wrong.

In everything we do and say, we try to honor our responsibilities as teachers. The guiding light of our teaching philosophy was best described by Janette Rankin:

You can take people as far as they want to go, not as far as you want them to go.

That quotation was prominently displayed in our classroom, and it is permanently engraved on our hearts.

Recently someone asked me to describe the theme that permeates Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg. My response was short and to the point. It’s a love story about ourAdrianas comment_ country and the values that speak to America and Americans at their very best.

To everyone who took the time and made the effort to help us when we were struggling, we say thank you.

A special note of thanks to the people who helped us with the organization, planning and staging of the premiere:

General Thomas Wilkerson, President & CEO Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation;

Stacey Fox, Vice President of Marketing Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau;

Kristin Holland, Senior Director the Webster Group;

Carl Whitehill, Media Relations Director Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau;

Ted Chamberlain, Confederation of Union Generals;

Hans Schreiber, Director of Sales and Marketing, Wyndham Gettysburg,

Lindsey Wherley, Convention Services Manager Wyndham Gettysburg,

Lyn Miller: Administrative Assistant to Robert Monahan,

Dan Spence and Courtney Schaeffer, The Gateway Theater:

Our friends at Marquis Art and Frame Shop;

Ellen & Jerry Mondlak, Mondlak Printery.

Michael Sackett, Let’s Rock Carved Stone

To Robert J. Monahan, Jr., the words of Kevin Arnold apply:

Over the course of the average lifetime you meet a lot of people. Some of them stick with you through thick and thin. Some weave their way through your life and disappear forever. But once in a while someone comes along who earns a permanent place in your heart.

Thank you for making the dream become a reality.

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From Gettysburg with Gratitude

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

From Gettysburg with Gratitude

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

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. William Arthur Ward

Words On A Page

When it comes to words of inspiration, gratitude and wisdom, William Arthur Ward is in a class all byWAW book himself. His book, Fountains of Faith, is a roadmap for anyone who wants to live a life of peace, happiness and contentment.

On the good days, I remember his maxim, “We must be silent before we can listen. We must listen before we can learn. We must learn before we can prepare. We must prepare before we can serve. We must serve before we can lead.”

On the bad days, his advice is even more important, “Today is a most unusual day, because we have never lived it before; we will never live it again; it is the only day we have.”

Gratitude Personified

During a recent visit to Gettysburg both of Ward’s maxims enhanced the experience.

I was flying solo. It was a beautiful day. Traffic IMG_peace for _todaywas unusually light. The weather was perfect for recording video and snapping digital pictures. Everywhere I went I met people who were welcoming and helpful. A visit with Mandy Moore and meetings with Mayor Bill Troxell, Frank and Bonnie Orlando, AKA General and Mrs. Robert E. Lee, Stacey Fox and Bob Monahan were joyful and productive.

Late in the afternoon, I had some down time, so I decided to visit the battlefield. It was one of the best decisions of the day.

When I arrived at the Pennsylvania State Monument, the sun was beginning to disappear behind the mountains that surround this sacred place where the blood of 51,000 combatants paved the entrance to America’s new birth of freedom. The cornucopia of nature’s pallet was simply breathtaking, and I did my best to capture some of these priceless scenes.

Looking through the viewfinder of my camera, my eyes saw the obvious, while my heart connected with the sights and sounds that filled this place during its moment of honor and valor.

Then it happened, I remembered the words Kitch used to describe her first visit to Gettysburg. “I can sense their presence, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for what they did here.”

The Gratitude of Place

Gettysburg is more than a place where 1,300 monuments celebrate the greatest battle ever fought inIMG_Thankful Heart_ heart the Western Hemisphere. It is more than a story about unprecedented heroics.

Gettysburg is a place that personifies gratitude. Wherever you go on the battlefield, you feel a persistent urge to say thank you for their courage, their selfless service, their love of comrades and country, their belief in tomorrow.

In the silence of this place of honor, you learn that gratitude is the parent of honor.

That message was reinforced during the Medal of Honor Convention in September. Every recipient we met spoke words of gratitude for what others did to empower them to make the right choice and get the job done.

In the stillness of the evening hours at Gettysburg, I felt the transformational power of the most important words in the English language, Thank You. The emotion was just as powerful as it was all those years ago when I first came to Gettysburg with my older brother.

IMG_kingdom of_ night

On this Thanksgiving Day, Kitch and I will give thanks for family, friends and the blessings we inherited by birth and citizenship: opportunity, equality and justice for all.

We will give thanks for the support we received in North Plainfield to introduce the next generation to the Gettysburg story and the values personified in the Medal of Honor.

We will express that gratitude in deeds, prayers, words and work. We will accept the inspirational challenge of William Arthur Ward:

God gave you a gift of 84,600 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say thank you?

We will remember his sage advice as we continue our work to tell the story of the Face of America at its best:

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool.IMG_only_prayer
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To hope is to risk pain.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

From our hearts to your heart we thank you for your kindness and your friendship, and we pray that Providence will bless you with good health, happiness and peace of heart and mind on this day of gratitude and every day of your life.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Tony & Kitch

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Gettysburg Gifts: Part 5, Robert J. Monahan, Jr.

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

Gettysburg Gifts: Part 5, Robert J. Monahan, Jr.

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari & Tony Mussari
Copyright 2013, Face of America, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

Nothing is more important than creating an environment in which people feel they make a difference. Jack Stack

Robert J. Monahan, Jr., knows something about creating an environment in which people feel they make a difference. He was born,bobM_2sm raised and educated in Gettysburg.  It is fair to say that he loves this city and its legacy, and he has spent a good part of his life helping his hometown prosper and grow. 

Today, he is making the last minute arrangements for the 2013 Medal of Honor Convention which will be held in Gettysburg.

Last year, I had the privilege of watching Bob Monahan do what he does best, lead by making people feel they make a difference.

It was beautiful October day. The place was Lincoln Square, and the occasion was the raising of the Medal of Honor Flag. It was a bobM_Flag2smtouching symbolic event marking the beginning of a year of activities designed to commemorate the Medal of Honor and its living recipients at the annual Medal of Honor Society convention.

Little did I know then that almost a year later, Kitch and I would be preparing the production of a documentary to be shot on location at the convention. To be very honest, the person who made this possible was Bob Monahan.

He read the article we published in our blog. He took the time to make contact. He showed a genuine interest in our work. He invited us to meet with him. He encouraged us to move forward with the documentary, and he promised to do everything in his power to help us realize our dream. He delivered on his promise.

In my mind, Bob Monahan personifies all of the characteristics of the Face of America on its best day.

He is helpful, honest, and genuine. He cares about others. He is generous with his time, and he knows how to bring out the best in the members of his team.

Bob Monahan is a service-oriented person who gives to give not to get. His philosophy of leadership is deeply rooted in finding out what people can do, and helping them do it.

He is the person who initiated the idea to have Gettysburg host the Medal of Honor Convention to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle that changed America forever. He has worked tirelessly for three years to make this event happen.


All that being said, one of his most compelling characteristics is his welcoming and friendly way. He is the kind of person you would want to be your neighbor. His life is centered in his family. When you visit his office, the pictures occupying the most prominent spaces speak to family and friendship.  The reception you get from Bob is warm and supportive.

Bob Monahan enjoys making things happen. He does it in quietbobM_office3sm ways with determination and perseverance that is always wrapped in a package of dignity and class.

When Kitch and I think about our best moments in Gettysburg, our visits with Bob Monahan and his correspondence with us always come to mind.

When we think about America at its best, we think about his goodness, his kindness, his concern for others and his willingness to help.


For us, these words of Amelia Earhart provide a perfect description of Robert. J. Monahan, Jr., a classic Face of America on its best day:

No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.  

Kitch and I would like to adapt the words of William J.H. Boetcker to express our gratitude:

Your greatness is measured by your kindness; your education and intellect by your modesty… and your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others.

Thank you Bob for making our dream become a reality.

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For more information about the Congressional Medal of Honor,
please go to

(The studio pictures of Bob Monahan were taken from his Qurvis Focus Washington interview,

If the Walls Could Talk: Thanksgiving 2012

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

If the Walls Could Talk: Thanksgiving 2012

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates
All Rights Reserved
The Face of America Project

To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.  Johannes A. Gaertner

Wellstones of Gratitude

The walls in the room where I work are covered with symbols of affirmation, encouragement and gratitude. On the difficult days they give me hope, on the good days they remind me of my responsibility to be the best person I can be.

On this day before Thanksgiving, I decided to sit back and think about what they tell me about life, love, happiness and gratitude. 

From the Heart of a Child

By far, the largest collection of mementoes came from my grandchildren.

Thank you for the GIANT marshmallows, chips, pretzels Cracker Jacks and the popcorn.  I really like them.  Love Julia

Dear Papa Tony and Grand Kitch, Thank You, PJ.

To our Grandpa, We love you.

I always marvel at the honesty of children.  They say what they mean and they mean what they say.

Through the Eyes of a Child

Pictures of my children are everywhere. They capture various stages of growth and development.

For some reason, my eyes always land on two pictures, one with my daughter, the other with my son.

Both shots are joyful. Both scenes are memorable.

In each picture the eyes and the body language say everything about a perfect moment of happiness, joy and security.

These are the moments a parent lives for, hopes for, and prays for. These are memories parents cherish forever, because they help us navigate the bumps in the road of life.

Classroom Moments

Two of my favorite notes were handcrafted by students. Both speak to gratitude. One reads, “Thank you for coming to our classroom.”  The other addresses what I like to call a learning attitude, “Thank you for asking me those questions. I liked it.”

Notes like these remind old teachers like me that teaching is a noble profession, and teachers have an obligation to help students grow. To do that, we must make an effort to grow in the ways of the heart and mind every day of our life.

Art from the Heart

A number of the items on the walls are original works of art:

Two paintings of Windsor Park by Sue Hand;

A magnificent photograph of the Amish given to us by Bill Coleman;

Children’s art designed by Julia and PJ;

A beautiful representation of the American flag that welcomed people to one of our screenings at the North Plainfield High School;

A picture taken with the North Plainfield cheerleaders at the Memorial to the Heroes of Flight 93;

A handcrafted gratitude note designed by Adriana, one the students in our Gettysburg Project.

Collectively these images spell HOPE, LOVE, GRATITUDE and SERVICE


Messages from friends fill in almost all of the empty spaces on the walls. Some are handwritten, others are typed and a good number are cards with inspirational sayings:

Thanks for being so nice, so thoughtful and so giving;

Thank you for the phone call;

Tony. I thought deeply… prayerfully about you and Kitch…

Wishing you a day that makes you feel good…

I can’t begin to tell you how your kindness through taking the time to write this letter has elevated my spirits in a way that monetary bonuses and superficial job titles could never affect;

Hope is stronger than death.

Each one speaks to a quality or a value that makes life worth living.

The Face of America

A very select group of mementoes represent magic moments from our Face of America journey. They include:

A map of our travels;

A postcard from Mount Rushmore:

A note from a student who attended the guest lecture I gave in Julie Marvel’s class at, St. Mary’s College in California;

A post card from Little America, Wyoming; and a gift bag that proudly proclaims the Little America philosophy, “A Tradition of Excellence Since 1934;

A gift bag from the book store at the University of Iowa, a place of great significance in my life;

A picture of an outdoor advertising sign featuring Abraham Lincoln and these words, “Failed, failed, failed And then… PERSISTENCE, Pass It On,

Kitch’s Magic

The final group I will mention without any elaboration. They are handwritten notes from Kitch. They speak to her beautiful heart and her wonderful spirit. They reflect the light of her love and partnership.

Every day I am surrounded by these images. Needless to say for me they are priceless. They help me bring a gratitude mindset to my work, but more important they remind me to affirm others, to care about others, to share with others and to appreciate the opportunities I have, and the freedom our country guarantees everyone who lives here.

To paraphrase the words of William A. Ward, God gave us 86,400 seconds in this day. I took a few of them to stare at the images on my wall, and they reinforced the words of the ancients:

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues. Cicero
Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart. Seneca

Kitch and I agree with those who believe that “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates vision for tomorrow.”

Thank you America for the freedom, justice and liberty we enjoy.

Thank you North Plainfield for giving an old teacher a new classroom.

Thank you Gettysburg for giving life and meaning to the words of Abraham Lincoln, “We cannot escape our History.”

Thank you Dan Kopen, MD, Sal Lawrence, MD, David Greenwald, MD, and Norman Schulman, MD for giving Kitch a second chance at life.

Thank you dear friends and relatives all, you light the way with profound and poignant examples of caring, kindness, and goodness. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about, and that’s what America is on its very best day.

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A Letter to a Graduate: Happiness and Success

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Graduation 2012: Making the Earth and Everything in it Yours

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

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. Booker T. Washington


It seems like only yesterday when Kitch and I met Julie Marvel and her son James in the Olympic Museum at Lake Placid, New York. It’s hard to believe that seven years have passed since that fateful day. During that time, Julie, Kitch and I have developed a wonderful frendship.

Julie has been central to our Face of America journey. She invited us to speak to her class at St. Mary’s College. She went out of her way to make our visits to California memorable and productive. She has opened doors, offered wise advice, and she provided encouragement and inspiraton when Kitch was battling cancer.

In our opinion, Julie is everything a friend should be and more. She is a model of the Face of America on its best day.

Recently, Julie invited us to attend James’ high school graduation in California.  Unfortunately, we were not able make the trip.  In addition to the traditional graduation gift, I decided to write something about graduation for James and his parents.

The writing process here is a simple one. I do the research and I write the articles. Kitch is the proofreader and editor. When she finishes her refinements, I always ask her this question: “What do you think?”

I trust her Judgment, and I value her insights.

Her response to the article I wrote for James was direct and very encouraging: “This is beautiful.  It has universal appeal.  You should post it in the Face of America blog so everyone can read it, especially your friends in North Plainfield, New Jersey.”

For every high school student we met at North Plainfield High School in New Jersey, the students we joined during the Tyler Winstead Memorial at GAR High School in our home town, the students From Dallas, High School who visited our garden and the students we met at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, during our Face of America journey this is for you.

More than 50 years ago, I sat where you will be sitting on June 9.  Like most teenagers about to graduate from high school, I was anxious, confident, excited and filled with a feeling of accomplishment and relief. I made it, and I was about to move on to the next phase of my life, a job as a maintenance man in a cemetery so I could earn some money for college.

What you are about to experience provided me with an opportunity to look back on that magical event and think about the things I wish I had known in 1959. It was a much different time and place: no internet, no smart phones, no texting, no social media, no digital divide.
To be sure, you live in a much different world, and yet some things remain unchanged. You and your classmates want to be happy and successful. So did we.

So what are some of the things I wish someone had told me about happiness and success? What are some of the things I learned the hard way? What are some of the things I learned about life?

As a graduation gift, I would like to answer these questions with candor and honesty so that you might benefit and thus avoid some of the bumps on the road that are waiting for you and your classmates.  I hope the quotations and the life experiences recorded below will give definition and meaning to some of the most important lessons I have learned about life since my high school graduation.

Lessons Learned

1. There is no such thing as perfection. Do the best you can whenever you can. No one can expect more from you, and you should expect no less from yourself.

Salvador Dali gave us sound advice with these words: “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”

Coach Vince Lombardi put it another way: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

2. Don’t fear the unknown. Embrace it, and learn from every mistake you make.  Believe me, you will make many. Most often in life, mistakes are the portals to discovery and success.

Follow the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”

3. Don’t define yourself by what you don’t have. Be thankful for what you have and make the most of it.

Cicero gave us a great gift when he wrote these words: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

The advice of William Arthur Ward will transform your bad days into good days: “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

4. Be kind to yourself by being kind to others. Self indulgence eventually will destroy you. Every kind act you do for someone else will enhance you and make you feel good about yourself.

Dr. Leo Buscaglia’s words are central to a happy life: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Harold Kushner provided an invaluable insight when he described the personal effect of an act of kindness. “When you carry out acts of kindness you get a wonderful feeling inside. It is as though something inside your body responds and says, yes, this is how I ought to feel.”

5. Accept rejection gracefully. It’s the part of life no one wants and few of us are prepared for. It’s the feeding ground of resilience, and without resilience there will be no success, and very little happiness.

The words of Kelly Cutrone apply; “When you’re following your inner voice, doors tend to eventually open for you, even if they mostly slam first.”

6. Don’t buy into what Kitch calls the “controlled frenzy” of our world. Being busy to be busy will deprive you of many of the most life-sustaining pleasures of life.  Take time to think, reflect, and act with care and personal investment not reflex.

Coach John Wooden said it best in five words: “Don’t mistake activity with achievement.”

7. Fame and fortune do not guarantee peace of mind. Rather than belaboring this point, I offer the priceless words of Albert Einstein:
“Try not to be a person of success but rather a person of value.”

8. There is no substitute for working hard and smart. Every time I took a shortcut, every time I felt entitled, I paid a heavy price.

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”  Beverly Sills

The legendary Babe Ruth put it another way: “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

Make this Latin proverb your motto: "Per ardura et astra (through hardship to the stars)."

9. Family matters. There is no substitute for quality family life, and you cannot have it without making time for the people you love. Follow the example of your wonderful parents.

“The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works is the family.” Lee Iacocca

“I know why families were created with all their imperfections. They humanize you. They are made to make you forget yourself occasionally, so that the beautiful balance of life is not destroyed.” Anais Nin

“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” George Santayana

10. Character counts. Character is not about getting, having and taking.  It is often about what you will not do, what you will not take.
Larry Holmes made this point in a memorable way when he told a group of students in Scranton, PA: “There is some money that ain’t worth making.”

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.” Helen Keller

11. Avoid conflict, contention, pettiness and revenge. They are counterproductive. They sap your energy and waste your time. They never produce positive results.

Our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, was quick to make this point about life and success: “Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention.”

12. Empower others to be all that they can be. What you will remember most, when you get to be my age, are the times when you used your position, your talent and your experience to help someone succeed. I had a priceless moment yesterday. During a chance meeting with a former student, now a successful college professor she gave me a memory I will cherish forever:

“Without your help, I would be an unemployed high school teacher today.”

13. Never stop learning.  Make time to learn at least one new thing every day.

“The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.” C.S. Lewis

“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” B.B. King

“Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.” Aristotle

14. Forgive yourself and forgive others.

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.” Hannah Arendt

15. Build something that will last.

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made, or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.” Ray Bradbury  

A Lasting Memory

The thing I remember most about my high school graduation is the card I received from my parents. It contained a famous poem written by a poet for his son in 1909.

Yesterday, I asked Kitch to stop at the Hallmark Store to buy the card for you.  Unfortunately, she could not find the card there or in any of the other four stores she visited.  “We don’t make that card anymore,” she was told. “It’s an old card and it’s out of date.”

Fortunately, we have the internet, and I found a copy of the poem. Please read it and judge for yourself. I think it was then and is now the blueprint for the two things every high school graduate is looking for: happiness and success.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Congratulations graduates, thanks Julie, best wishes James and may good fortune always be your friend.

Tony & Kitch Mussari
June 4, 2012
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Our Kentucky Home

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Our Kentucky Home

By Tony Mussari

Every moment and every event of everyman’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men."           Thomas Merton                                          

If you drive about 700 miles east from Windsor Park, you will arrive at the gates of the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani. It’s a beautifully quiet place of spiritual health and healing.  It is a physically beautiful place decorated with simple reminders of what is really important in life.

Kitch and I wanted this to be our first stop on our cross country search for the Face of America. In the deepest part of our heart and soul, we believe that to successfully find the Face of America we must first connect with the Face of God.

That’s what happens at Gethsemani. People from all walks of life come here to experience what the Trappists describe as God Alone.

The monks live a God-centered life.  They pray seven times a day.  When they are not together in prayer, they work and they read.  They live mostly in silence, and contrary to popular belief, they do speak.  They do laugh. They do interact with visitors. 

We visited with two very engaging monks in the welcome center, Fr. Camillus Epp and Fr. Seamus Malvy, and one very joyful monk named Father Carlos at the reception desk in the retreat house.

I think it is fair to say that most people go to this sacred place not to talk with the monks, but to find peace of heart and mind.  That is most effectively done by being in the presence of these saintly men, participating with them in their prayer services, by walking alone in their garden and their cemetery.

It is found in the peaceful serenity of this place.  It is embedded in the artifacts of spirituality that are found in many different locations around the Abbey. It is found in the hospitality of the Benedictine Rule, the liturgical music and chanting that resonate off the plain brick walls of the monastery, and the majestic bells that crescendo from the bell tower throughout the day.

Kitch and I found it in the unpretentious simplicity and conversational way Mass was read at 6:15 in the morning.

Wherever we went and with everyone we spoke while we were at Gethsemani, people were happy, not a giddy, artificial, and commodified happy. It was genuine happiness deeply rooted in faith, worship and the words of St Benedict:

Let all guests that come be received like Christ.

Before we left the abbey, we made our way to the very simple marker that read Fr. Louis Merton, December 10, 1968. We stood in silence offering prayers for relatives and friends whose lives have been touched by tragedy. Then we knelt and placed a miniature 9/11 Remembrance Flag next to the cross honoring the monk who wrote these words:

"To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.

Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference."

Sometimes the face of America can best be seen in the gratitude we express for the freedoms we enjoy, especially religious freedom that is central to America .

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

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