We get to do some pretty cool things on our show every day, no doubt but it's days like today that we are really proud of. It's days like today where we get to put courageous people front and center–in this case, one courageous person. Gay, straight, black, white, rich or poor–it does not matter, when it comes to the bullying of our world's children to the point where they are hanging themselves or shooting themselves at 11, 12 or 13 years old there is only one position. One.
Fort Worth councilman Joel Burns
took 13 minutes of city time to share a very personal story on
It was a risk.
But he did it. He did it for Billy Lucas. He did it for Justin Oberg. He
did it for Tyler Clemente. He did it for Raymond Chase. He did it for
Zach Carrington. He did it for Seth Walsh. He did it for Asher Brown. He did it for District 9. He did it for his parents. He did it for he and
his husband, JD.
We invite you to share your thoughts here. Share your thoughts on Ali's Facebook page. Keep the conversation going. In the meantime, we've put some links below that are great resources in the cause:
Follow @JoelBurns on Twitter...Talk with children. Join our conversation...
KELLY: Executive Producer & Professional Juggler Twitter:@KellyFrankCNN
I grew up with Brokaw and Jennings as the journalists who shaped me, thinking Hemingway was the greatest writer who ever lived, certain I would marry George Michael and believing I could grow up and do anything. Three out of four ain't bad. For a living, I brainstorm, prod creative, wonderful minds, jump through hoops, negotiate space and time, exist in multiple places at the same time, influence and inform mass amounts of people and occasionally lose my cool. It's called Executive Producing and most days, I'm the luckiest girl on earth. So thanks for allowing me to be. I've worked for NBC and FOX along the way. My career has taken me from Columbus, Ohio to Milwaukee to Phoenix to D.C. to around the world. In a previous life, I had a mean curve ball that paid for my English degree. I'm a diehard Buckeye fan, have two ridiculously gorgeous golden retrievers who leave dog hair on everything I own, like my guacamole spicy and *may* have a minor addiction to Neil Diamond and all things Apple.
EP NOTE: I'm very proud of this show. The reason this show is what it is, is because of the team that builds it. Ali and I are so fortunate to have such talent and interesting perspectives working alongside us. As you will see by what you are about to read–they are very unique, smart & interesting in their own ways. We have fun. We hope it shows in what you see.
SARA: Producer & Fashion Guru Twitter:@SaraMcCNN
News is my passion… but coming in a close second is volunteering - especially to improve the lives of women and children. I’m originally from Texas, although I haven’t lived there since I was in college. I do make annual treks home – those wide open plains and starry skies make it a hard state to stay away from. Other true loves: traveling, reading, observing, dancing, laughing, eating chocolate ice cream, watching college football … and yes, dare I say it: the mall.
CHRISTINA: Producer & Resident Geek Twitter:@ChristinaCNN
“I have a blast working with one of the hardest working and best dressed men in TV news. And no, I’m not just saying that ‘cause he’s my boss. I am the resident science geek and space nerd on the show. I handle The Big I segment that airs Monday-Friday around 1:50pm EDT every day. Having worked & lived in Nashville, Little Rock and Orlando, I do have to say that Atlanta is my favorite city thus far. And without sounding too much like a personal ad, I love the beach, the mountains, reading, writing, but not arithmetic.”
CINTERRO: Writer & Segment Producer
When people ask me what I do at CNN, my response is that it depends on the day of the week, and it really does. I spend the first part of the week either writing or copy editing for Ali’s shows. On the weekends, I’m in the control room as the PM fonts editor. I came to CNN in September 2006, and I only recently joined Ali’s team in June. Before CNN, I worked as a line producer for more than 10 years in Atlanta, West Palm Beach, Florida and Columbus, Georgia. I graduated from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Telecommunication/Film.
"GUTH": Lead Writer, Segment Producer & Political Junkie
Ronald Reagan was president, gas cost $1.20 a gallon and tween heartthrob Justin Bieber was five years away from being born when I started work at Headline News (now HLN) in January 1989. CNN was not yet nine years old; Headline News had just turned seven. I was 12. In my earlier youth I attended Northwestern University and produced local newscasts in Lexington and Louisville, Ky. I moved to CNN just before the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, and though I’ve always been, and always will be, a “writer,” the job itself has grown and changed – and grown - along with the network, the business and the world. I hope to keep growing with it.
WALT: Writer, Segment Producer & hands down-team expert on all things Afghanistan
A diehard print journalist who mysteriously ended up in TV after a brief stint on a small newspaper in east Tennessee and 11 years in Asia reporting for UPI and the Atlanta-Journal Constitution (back in the days when it was a real newspaper). Along the way, I covered wars, military coups, Cory Aquino’s People Power Revolution, political assassinations, the Pope, Charles and Diana (we exchanged pleasantries at a Tokyo reception), the madness and amazement of the Indian subcontinent, opening of China to the U.S., Orwellian North Korea (actually it’s much worse), the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan where I became known as Walter of Afghanistan after a three-week trek with my Mujahideen (Afghan freedom fighters – don’t confuse them with the Taliban),bizarre and fascinating Japan (at the time a 21 century country in the 20 century), the intrigue and freighting Burma (now ruled by thugs under the name of Myanmar), seductive and mysterious Thailand, Summerset Maugham’s Malaysia and Singapore, former British colony and world of Suzy Wong Hong Kong, romantic and gambler’s paradise Macau, the Golden Triangle, and Graham Greene’s Vietnam, especially the war ghosts of Hue and Da Nang. My advice – be adventurous and answer the call of your Wanderlust.
JASON a.k.a. "JReid": Associate Producer (also can be seen as the Ali Velshi Team Resident Basketball TV Expert during March Madness) Twitter:@JReidCNN
If I were a tree, I’d be a Redwood; namely because I’m tall and my hair bares a shade of red… or ‘burnt orange’ as it’s been called. I started at CNN almost 4 years ago as a VJ. Almost immediately I drew attention, mostly because of my height and the booming voice I used to give anchors time cues in commercial breaks. I’ve worked in various capacities since that fateful day in August of 2006: VJ, Editorial Assistant, Assignment Editor, and the title I’ve attached to various e-mails for the past year or so: Associate Producer. So what does that mean? Where there’s a camera, there’s raw video. Where there’s raw video, there’s a guy like me waiting on the ‘production line’ ready to make some sense of it and help tell the story that our expert writers carefully put together each day. Outside of the daily TV grind I’m an avid runner, coffee drinker, smiler, and part-time geek. I read just about any blog dealing with tech/gadgets and I’m certain my bank account thanks those crafty writers for keeping it active. Born and raised in the south, but unfortunately don’t have the accent to prove it (still working on that after all these years).
MICHAEL: Senior Director, Master Problem Solver, Mr. Solution and just all around Fix-It Man!
My career in Television News started here at CNN. After earning a BA in Speech Communications/Broadcasting from Penn State, and a Master's degree in Media Arts from The University of South Carolina, I was hired as a Video Journalist (see also entry level position). Today, after much hard work and luck, I am the Director of the Ali Velshi Show; the smartest show at CNN.
Senior Editorial Producer a.k.a. Master Booker! Twitter: @MarieCNN
Born and raised in the Bronx, NY-home of my favorite NY Yankees, Fordham University (my alma mater), and the other "Little Italy"-I’m a news junkie—having most likely been born with a newspaper in hand and transistor radio by my ear! I’m originally from the world of news-talk radio, spending my formative career years with the best in the business, then moving on to the world of CNN where I honed my craft during primetime at 8pm. I now have the extraordinary privilege of working with the brilliant and oh so stylish Mr. Velshi! I handle ALL things guest and editorial related for the smartest broadcast on television, and have names, numbers and ideas in all parts of my brain! I truly love my job and this outstanding, accomplished team…I get to do what I always wanted to…pretty wonderful and rare! I’m a super proud mom of the finest young man and athlete I know, and wear multiple hats at all times!!
For the past several years, I’ve been producing some of the most important stories of our time, have met newsmakers from all over the world and not a day goes by where I don’t pinch myself! My passions include travel, music, all things Sinatra and fine dining……while holding a secret wish that I will one day realize my dream of becoming either a sommelier or wine/lounge owner–— but I guess that’s not such a secret anymore!
I came to CNN 2007 and worked my way up from studio assistant, to CNN International, and then coming over to the Ali show. Before landing in Atlanta I worked at an orphanage in Lesotho, Africa. I have also spent time in the slums of Kenya working at a Mother Teresa orphanage. I have a passion for anything involving Africa and the fight against HIV/Aids! I am originally from Jacksonville, Florida, and have no idea how I ended up living without a beach in my backyard. I graduated from the University of Florida School of Journalism so I consider myself an expert in Hurricane Coverage and winning National Championships, Go Gators! In my “free time” I am working towards my Master’s in Theology. I should be done in like four more years! My role on the team includes looking for video elements, creating segments that are visually interesting, and going on wild goose chases for the best images. My favorite thing about working with the team is the desire to take a story deeper, and the shenanigans that go on behind the scenes!
Allison: Floor Director & Moonlights as Ali's Hair Stylist
Proving that great things come in small packages, Allie, or “Little Allie” as I am known by the team hails from New Jersey (Not Joisey!) and I am the Chief Velshi Wrangler, also known as floor director. Using only my bare hands (and occasionally a cattle prod when Big Ali gets feisty), I make sure the boss gets to where he needs to be with minimum light glares off his head (we call them intelligence beams) and makes sure his cup runneth over… with cough syrup. My dream was to combine my three passions; journalism, helping others, and coffee. As Kelly said before, two out of three ain’t bad. I'm still trying to find a way to break into journalism…
Chris: Copy editor and Softball Chaffeur
My journalism career began on a whim when I was a sophomore at USC (Go Gamecocks!). I walked into the local UPI bureau to ask about a part-time job. They sat me down at a computer and said "write a story." It showed up on page A6 of the New York Times the next day. And I was hooked. My junior year, I got a second job as a TV reporter, even though I looked 12. I spent way more time chasing stories than I did in class. After graduating, I did a little creative advertising work (my real major) for a couple of months. But I missed the news, so it was on to CNN. That was 1989. My first big story was the Alaska oil spill. Then came the Gulf War, sitting in court with O.J., Sept. 11th, more wars, another oil spill, and too many other stories in between to remember. Twenty-one years later, I still can't wait for the next big one to break. And I still have a full head of hair.
Doug: Writer & Segment Producer
I bring a unique historical perspective to the team, because I'm actually several hundred years old. Though you can't tell by my young looks. This is my 10-th incarnation. In 8 of my previous "lives", I died gloriously on the field of battle. Anzio, Gallipoli, the Alamo, Bull Run, all sites of my demise. It's through those experiences that I can bring a much needed glass-half-empty take on the stories of the day. In this current "life" I have steered clear of armed conflict, though for a time I wrestled professionally under the name "Jelly Donut." If you are wondering, in "life" number 3, I was a cobbler in Amsterdam, but died from an infection caused by a wooden shoe splinter.
When Ali and I first met, we didn't like each other very much. He'll be the first to tell you that! As a newbie to CNN a couple of years ago, I didn't quite know how it worked so you could say I bent some rules and didn't exactly approach things in the usual fashion. With all things in this business though, our paths crossed often and a about a year and a half ago, I was sent on assignment to New York. I worked side by side with Ali for about 6 weeks and what was a head-banging relationship become one that would never be the same. (Translation: I wore him out!)
Truth is...we couldn't be more alike! We joke that we share a brain. I know what he's thinking 99% of the time now; he's the first person to email me in the morning and the last before I fall asleep; if we go too long without a chat, it's a problem; we have a "meeting maker" in our calendar each day to walk to make sure we spend 25 minutes getting lunch to regroup one on one pre-show; we still bang heads but contain it to email and closed doors and it's usually productive and passionate and all for the show; he brings me Coke Zero when it seems I need one; and I often quip when Ali is going a mile a minute and translation is needed that "I speak Ali".
Why does all this matter? Because now I am his Executive Producer and our relationship is representative of our amazing team and how we all do what we do every day. It's not an assembly line of wires and stories and dictation and regurgitation. If you scroll down this page, you can read more about who puts this show together...but each morning at 8am we get together and labor over what we are going to do with every block of the show because your time matters to us. Our time matters to us.
Ali and I revisit what we do every week. Do we matter? Are we relevant? Who are we doing this for? Does the viewer give a crap about what we are about to put on the air? Would we? So that's what we aim for. We want to take you on a news ride so to speak...a tour, if you will. Consider Ali your guide. Packed complete with information and ready to rock. We don't want to be your moral compass, your political compass or anything in between. We want to take you on a two hour hike through information mountain and along the way if you are able to imagine, innovate and ideate -then all the better because our show doesn't want to be just access to today, if we're doing our jobs right...we want to be your access to tomorrow.
THE BIG I: It's the stuff you once saw on "Back to the Future" but the future is NOW if Nike has their way! Our Big I today takes a look at self-lacing shoes. Yes–you read this right, shoes that lace themselves! They aren't quite ready for wear yet but the patent is in the works. You can check out more here and here!
CHALK TALK: On this show, we are committed to bringing you solutions to big problems...especially those in schools. Orpheus Crutchfield is joining us today. He is the President of Strategenius, an organization devoted to improving the conditions for black education in America. He focuses specifically on teachers and role models. You can read all about his organization here.
TIME NOW FOR THE XYZ OF IT...It's Labor Day and SOME people – clearly – ARE working today. Let me take a minute to talk about Labor Day. The first observance of Labor Day appears to have been a parade on September 5th, 1882 in New York City. By 1893, more than half the states were observing a labor day of sorts and a year later, Congress passed a bill making the first Monday in September as Labor Day. Now, other than being the last REAL day of summer, at least for school kids, the beginning of the campaign season, and the last day your can wear white and seersucker in some parts of the country, what does it stand for today? Well, let’s start with the obvious. We're celebrating labor. Let me give you some stats about our labor force, by the numbers:
Finally, while we've come a long way from the first labor day, we still have some distance to travel. My last two numbers:
That's my XYZ.
CHALK TALK: She's a nine-time Grammy award winning artist, an actress and all-around super star but Mary J. Blige is taking on a new cause–Educating young girls and getting them interested in science, engineering and math! The R&B star has paired up with NASA and is showing young girls that not even the sky is the limits. You can read all about what Mary J is doing on her foundation website!
MISSION POSSIBLE: If you were watching today, chances are Tae Tae Davis captured your heart-if you weren't, she will! This 13 year-old is a on a mission to keep art in school and isn't just talking about it, she's acting! Read all about Tae Tae here!
TIME NOW FOR THE XYZ OF IT...:
It's the last week of summer vacation for most public school students; a week filled with dread, excitement, back to school shopping or last minute vacations. And it's a time of stress and anticipation for their families, many of whom see school as the key to a bright future. For NINETY percent of American students, school means PUBLIC school. Some public schools are exemplary – with teachers and lessons and buildings that will remain in a student's consciousness forever. Others are marred by violence, poverty, poor equipment, frustrated teachers and bullies. But public education in the United States remains the absolute best hope for the future. On this show, you've seen our Chalk Talk segment, but this week CNN is dedicated to a week-long discussion called "Fix Our Schools"
Literacy is high in America – among the highest in the world. Despite that, America is NOT graduating the most competitive students, and we're not giving them the number of instructional hours that some of the world's most competitive economies provide. Now, "Fix Our Schools" DOES presume something is broken when, in fact, much is right in U.S. public schools. Education is compulsory in the U.S. and, although schools are increasingly calling on families to provide supplies, public education is, for the most part, free. What, exactly IS broken in public schools? Disputes center around cost, curriculum and control. What sort of facilities are best? Does the environment matter as much as what students learn, how they learn and who teaches them? Is the role that teachers play more important than the role parents play? And are we adequately dealing with the fact that many students in America – in 2010 – still go to school hungry. Then there's standardized testing. Does it guarantee that students are uniformly competitive with their peers here and around the world? Or does it encourage the teaching and memorization of facts rather than concepts and theories? And should standards be set by the feds, the state, or the locals? Another issue is whether parents should be allowed to CHOOSE their children's public school, or should they just go to the nearest? And what about charter schools, which allow public money to be used for selective admission? While they improve education, do they impoverish the overall system by creating a two tier world?
On this show we feature solutions – And we'd like to hear from you – Add a Comment right here on this page. We are listening and thanks for watching.
THE BIG I: They may be pesky and ruin a few good picnics but we can learn a thing or two from bugs! Yes–bugs! Specifically ANTS!
Peter Miller joined us to talk all about these unbelievable creatures for our BIG I. Discover more than you can imagine right here!
MISSION POSSIBLE: A Nobel Peace Prize winner who believes anyone can change the world. Muhammad Yunus joined Ali today. If you missed it, don't worry. You can learn all about this remarkable man right here!
Time now for the XYZ of it...
Yesterday, for the first time, I dipped a toe into the debate about the proposed Islamic Center and Mosque near ground zero. I had held back because, frankly, another voice wasn't needed. I have been reading and listening and talking to you on Twitter and Facebook about it, and I could see a growing trend of misinformation and prejudice. So I put an idea out there yesterday – not an opinion – but an idea. I compared the anger over this proposed Islamic Center and Mosque to the Oklahoma City bombings, and asked whether Timothy McVeigh's Catholicism would create objections to a Catholic church near the Murrah Building. Moments later, I read a tweet which, out of context, implied that I had SUGGESTED banning Catholic churches from Oklahoma because of McVeigh. Obviously, I didn't. But it seems in this climate it's hard to profess ideas without ideologues trying to pin you down. Moments after that, adjectives were added to the dozens of retweets, identifying me both as "Kenyan born" and a "Muslim". I am Kenyan born and, unlike President Obama who faces the same accusation from some quarters, I actually AM a Muslim; he's not.
I wish I were as open to ideas as I profess to be on a daily basis. But the truth is we all have inherent prejudices. That's why I work really hard to make THIS show a place for ideas; ideas about technology and science and health and education and politics. And so what I said about the Mosque yesterday – well – those were some ideas to provoke discussion and thought. It clearly provoked something, and so many of you offered thoughtful responses. I agree with some of you and disagreed with some, but that's why this dialogue is so great – we can agree or disagree and still respect so much about ideas.