Posts Tagged ‘Love’

Leadership, Love and Lincoln

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Leadership, Love and Lincoln

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Digital Photographs Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2013
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
Historical Images from the Library of Congress Digital Collection

“Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves.  Love, therefore, is its
own reward.”
Thomas Merton

On this Valentine’s Day, Kitch and I would like to share a few of the things we learned about love from our 16th president, AbrahamIMG_9232_250 Lincoln, during our Face of America journey.

Ten months ago, we were recording scenes for our documentary Walking Into The Light At Gettysburg. During the presentation of the living historian who was interpreting Abraham Lincoln for the students from North Plainfield High School, I asked this question:

Help these students understand the importance of these two words compassion and tolerance?

He answered with words I did not expect to hear:


It’s hard for me, because when you are talking about ‘oh tell us about your leadership style…’

A lot of it you just do because you think it is the right thing to do and it comes from …love. Love of my fellow man.

I was a politician because I loved people.  I loved being a politician because you can help people. I think if you come from a position of love of your fellow man, I don’t think you can go wrong.

I think that out of love comes all of the actions. It’s the fountainhead. That’s what I try to do…and to me that’s all it takes, love and effort.

Granted this was an actor playing Lincoln, but in so many ways his words ring true.

When I think about the greatness of Abraham Lincoln, I think about a leader who personified:

Courtesy not acrimony;

Understanding not hostility;

Thoughtfulness not theatrics;

Kindness not callousness;

Giving not taking;

Magnanimity not meanness;

Love not enmity.

So what does this have to do with our national day of love?

In my opinion, a great deal.

In all things great and small, Lincoln gives us a blueprint of what America is on its best day.  He reminds us of what we can be at our very best, and it’s all about love of country, love of our neighbors, compassion for those who are hurting, and tolerance for those who are different.

You may not find specific quotations from Lincoln about love, but you can find many examples of his kind and gentle heart reaching out to help others in need, and his steadfast determination to preserve the union and promote equal opportunity for everyone.

Of all the lines he authored, this is his most inspirational thought for me:

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have.”

And what animates that light?


Happy Valentine’s Day.

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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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The Love of a Listening Heart

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Defining Love on a Day of Love

By Tony Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.” Leo Buscaglia

Finding Love

Waiting for the Valentine’s Day sunrise of 2012, I have been thinking about love. I know we all need it.  Some of us were fortunate enough to have found it in our homes and classrooms during the early days of our journey.

I never studied love.  I learned what I know about love by watching my parents love each other and their children. It was love deeply rooted in discipline, loyalty and responsibility.

At one point in my life I was a great admirer of “Dr. Love,” Leo Buscaglia.  His poetic words helped me at a time when love was in short supply, or at least the road rashes of life made me think that way.

Today as I approach the Indian Summer of my life, I have a much better appreciation and understanding of the healing power of love.

If truth be told, life has been the greatest teacher in that regard, and last year I earned my Ph.D. in love.

Watching, helping and caring for Kitch while she battled cancer gave me more opportunities than any man deserves to think about the essence of love.

Permit me to share what I learned with words that are both old and new, words that best illuminate that mystical, and often elusive, virtue that can heal the empty places in our life.

Defining Love

Love is all we have; the only way that each can help the other. Euripides

Love is the beauty of the soul.  Saint Augustine

Fortune and love favor the brave. Ovid

Love conquers all. Virgil

Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.  Marcus Aurelius

Who so loves believes the impossible. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love – and to put its trust in life. Joseph Conrad

The art of love is largely the art of persistence.   Albert Ellis

Where there is love there is life.   Mahatma Gandhi

You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love. Henry Drummond

Living a life of Love

And what, I ask myself, is the spirit of love?

The obvious answer speaks to caring, sharing, helping, giving, enhancing, affirming and living for someone other than yourself.  Yet there is another nuance of love that seldom gets much attention.  It’s the beauty and power of a listening heart.

Sister Joan Chittister’s poem "A Listening Heart" says all one needs to know about that life sustaining aspect of love.

There is a magnet in a seeker’s heart
whose true north is God.
It bends toward the Voice of God
with the ear of the heart
and, like sunflowers in the sun,
turns all of life toward
the living of the Word.

This listening is pure of pride
and free of arrogance.
It seeks wisdom—
everywhere, at all times—
and knows wisdom by the way
it echoes
the call of the scriptures.

The compass of God implanted
in the seeker’s heart
stretches toward truth
and signals the way to justice.

A truly listening heart knows

that we lose the chance for truth
if we give another—any other—
either too much, or too little,
control over the conscience
that is meant to be ours alone.

And yet, at the same time
mutual obedience,
real listening,
holy listening
forever seeks the spiritual dialogue
holy wisdom demands.

This listening with the heart
to the insights of another
is not the obedience of children,
or soldiers,
or servants,
or minions.
It is the obedience given to a lover
because of love alone.

During Kitch’s battle with cancer we experienced what “Dr. Love” called  the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring from family, friends, physicians, nurses, and medical technicians. These acts of love turned our life around and taught us how to listen to the challenges we faced with our hearts.

From now until we reach the other side, we intend to transmit the light of love to others who travel the long dark gravel road called cancer.

May your Valentine’s Day be blessed with the love of a listening heart.

Tony & Kitch Mussari
The Face of America Project
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(A listening heart was excerpted from the book The Monastery of the Heart by Joan Chittister, OSB. It was used with permission: