Socrates Cafe Online, Tue, Fri, Sat, 1st. Sun, 6:30 pm Denver MDT Correct Meeting ID and password posted below at 6 pm. Free until 1/1/2024 Watch1 Lead1 Start1

Friday, September 14, 2007

To an unprecedented degree, this is the era of educational entrepreneurship. Unconventional thinkers have waded into the world of K-12 education…While their efforts constitute a still-minuscule portion of schooling, they are responsible for many of the most exciting developments in 21st-century education.
Fredrick M Hess, Phi Delta Kappan, September 2007

It was quite a surprise when two famous people recently jumped out of the history books to join me in a fascinating conversation.

Here’s the transcript of the encounter between Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) and Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). Although they lived about 600 years apart, it’s clear they share many similar beliefs about the human condition.

Franklin: I am honored to meet the great Rabbi Maimonides. In April 1788, I made a financial contribution to the building fund of Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel synagogue. The congregation’s members mentioned your name many times; always with reverence. They said you were the greatest Jewish leader and thinker since the biblical Moses…

I regret the terrible things that have happened to Jews throughout the centuries. Religion should make people better and improve society. I once wrote that I could never believe in “any thing that should prejudice any one, of any sect.”

Maimonides: Indeed. I once said that religion should keep people “equidistant from extremes ... not irascible or easily provoked to anger ... they should only desire those things which are necessary and indispensable ... should give to charity ... and be not hilarious and mirthful, nor gloomy and melancholy ... the middle course is the wisest.”

Franklin: Exactly! I see why you are so respected. I based my life on 13 virtues. I attempted to follow them, but not always with success.

Maimonides: That is true for every human. God wants us to turn from our evil ways and repent. Thirteen virtues? I, too, posited the exact same number of beliefs. Which were yours?.

Franklin: Temperance, a middle course of food and drink. Silence, so I may learn from others. Order, a set time for life’s activities. Resolution, do what life requires. Frugality, waste nothing. Industry, do something useful. Sincerity, hurt no one by deed or word. Justice, the basis of a good society. Moderation, precisely your “middle course.” Cleanliness, of body and residence. Tranquility, strike a positive balance in life. Chastity, never sexually abuse another person. And Humility, no false pride or hubris.

Maimonides: My list starts with the declaration that God exists, that God is one and unique, without bodily form and is eternal. Prayers are directed to God alone, who gave us prophets of truth, especially Moses and the unique Torah — the collection of all Jewish wisdom and teaching. He is a God who knows our thoughts and deeds, who rewards and punishes. I finished up with a belief in the coming of the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead.

Franklin: You are far more theological than I. But we do have some similar concepts. A month before I died, Yale University President Ezra Stiles asked about my beliefs. I summed it up this way: “I believe in One God, Creator of the Universe, that he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children.”

Maimonides: I made reason a core of my belief. In my book, A Guide for the Perplexed, I stressed reason as a foundation for religious belief, but it must be combined with personal piety.

Franklin: I share your love of reason. I wrote, “To follow by faith alone is to follow blindly ... we cannot shut the Eye of Reason.”

Rabbi A. James Rudin: On the record with Maimonides and Ben Franklin.
Kansas City Star

Monday, September 10, 2007

New Online IDEA Café is going to be test this Wednesday at 2 p.m. Mountain Time. Mark your calendar now, then join us from anywhere in the world! Just click on the TalkShoe link to the left at the time of the meeting,
RSVP now at

At our regular Denver IDEA Café this Friday, September 14, Chris Lowell will share his startup experience and we do brainstorming
Any one who is starting a new project, a new business, a new career or a new career is invited to join us. We help people turn their inspiration into effective action.


I just sent out this news release to Denver media:

Good discussion about important topics.

"Our first meeting was the Friday after September 11, 2002. We almost canceled. The topic of that first meeting was 'how do we fight terrorism in our own head?' and it was a great discussion," said John Wren, founder of the Denver Socrates Cafe.

Socrates Cafe meetings started across the country when people like Wren were inspired by Chris Phillips book by the same title in 2002. For more information see

"That first group is still meeting each Friday evening from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Panera Bread, 13th & Grant here in Denver near the Capitol. It is free and open to all, and no RSVP is required, just show up.

"Now there is a 2nd group that is a bit more structured. It meets each Thursday evening from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Trinity Church, 18th & Broadway. Details and RSVP at" said Wren. was started by Scott Heiferman shortly after 9/11, he tells his startup story in a short video at Wren was one of the first in the country to mash the two concepts (Socrates Cafe and together.



I just sent this email to my friends Dick Wadhams and Pat Waak, the State Chairs of the GOP and Dem parties here in Colorado. Would you like to join us Wednesday? RSVP at

Dear Dick & Pat,

We are having a CoCaCoP (Colorado Caucus Community of Practice) meeting this Wednesday at 6:30 at Panera Bread, 13th & Grant here in Denver.

Because of the recent changes in Colorado Revised Statues regarding the caucus, there is a lot of confusion about deadlines for registration, etc. At our meeting Wednesday we will finalize wording for a news release we will make to local media concerning these issues, and meetings we plan on holding through local chambers of commerce to publicize caucus participation.

Would it be possible for you to each have a representative at the meeting Wednesday as we finalize our plans?




Interesting book review:
(have you read this book yet?)

Author advocates honesty in marketingAuthor Lois Kelly proposes that truth resonates with everyone, and by presenting it in the appropriate context, your customers will be more likely to respond favorably to your message.

Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. Lois Kelly. AMACON. 228 pages.
published 9/10/07 in The Miami Herald and posted at

One of the best, most eye-opening books I ever read about marketing was full of obvious, head-slapping observations. I sat there, turning pages, nodding in agreement as I read it. The Cluetrain Manifesto is as potent and relevant now as it was when came out, seven or so years ago.

Lois Kelly has delivered a prodigious and worthy successor to that book by looking at the ways humans communicate with each other and how conversational aspects, hooks and themes can be used for marketing. She brings the proverbial cluetrain into the station and unpacks some of the freight.

It's a great idea, really, to examine the ways that people speak with each other and the basic subjects that engage us. Author and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki thought so much of this aspect of the book, in fact, that he quotes it at length in his blog: http:/ people-tal.html

Here's an excerpt of Kelly's ``Nine Themes That Always Get People Talking'':

1. Aspirations and beliefs: helpful because they help us connect emotionally to the speaker, the company, and the issues. They help us see into a person or company's soul.

2. David vs. Goliath: Sharing stories about how a small organization is taking on a big company is great business sport. Rooting for the underdog grabs our emotions, creates meaning, and invokes passion.

3. Avalanche about to roll. You want to tune in and listen because you know that there's a chance that you will be killed if caught unaware. This theme taps into our desire to get the inside story before it's widely known.

4. Contrarian/counterintuitive/challenging assumptions. The boldness of contrarian views grabs attention; the more original and less arrogant they are, the more useful they will be in provoking meaningful conversations.

5. Anxieties. People are becoming skeptical, and rightly so. Too many politicians, companies have bombarded us with FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) with no facts to back up their point.

6. Personalities and personal stories. There's nothing more interesting than a personal story. Robert Goizueta, the respected CEO of Coca-Cola, said he hated giving speeches but he was always telling stories

7. How-to stories and advice. To be interesting, how-to themes need to be fresh and original, providing a new twist to what people already know or tackle thorny issues.

8. Glitz and glam. Finding a way to logically link to something glitzy and glamorous is a surefire conversation starter.

9. Seasonal/event-related. Last, and least interesting, but seems to resonate, is tying your topic into seasonal or major events.''

Kelly makes specific suggestions for tying many of these things into marketing messages, but she stresses that you can't fake it; the quality and content of your communication must be authentic and credible. For example, if a CEO blogs about her experience with a product, a patently self-serving claim or testimonial about her own company's goods would appear insincere. And it would be, even if it were true.

Kelly also discusses ways to conduct presentations, meetings and conversations more effectively -- and honestly. The downside to all of this authenticity and openness is that many companies probably have inferior products or may not possess a compelling story to tell. In those cases, bring out the taco-loving Chihuahuas and beer-drinking dogs.

Richard Pachter

Miami Herald Business book columns at

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Streetwise Veteran Schooled Young Obama
New York Times

The rise of Barack Obama includes one glaring episode of political miscalculation. Even friends told Mr. Obama it was a bad idea when he decided in 1999 to challenge an incumbent congressman and former Black Panther, Bobby L. Rush, whose stronghold on the South Side of Chicago was overwhelmingly black, Democratic and working class.

Mr. Obama was a 38-year-old state senator and University of Chicago lecturer, unknown in much of Mr. Rush’s Congressional district. He lived in its most rarefied neighborhood, Hyde Park. He was taking on a local legend, a former alderman and four-term incumbent who had given voters no obvious reason to displace him…

Mr. Rush won the primary with 62 percent of the vote; Mr. Obama had less than 30 percent…Obama learned from that experience. Mr. Mikva recalls telling him about advice once given to John F. Kennedy by Cardinal Richard Cushing: “The cardinal said to him, ‘Jack, you have to learn to speak more Irish and less Harvard.’ I think I recounted that anecdote to Barack. Clearly, he learned how to speak more Chicago and less Harvard in subsequent campaigning.”

In March 2004, Mr. Obama won the Democratic primary for the United States Senate with nearly 67 percent of the vote, racking up huge totals in wards he had lost to Mr. Rush in 2000. (Mr. Rush, still stung by Mr. Obama’s challenge to him, endorsed a white candidate in the race, Blair Hull, a former securities trader.) Mr. Obama won the general election with the biggest margin ever in an Illinois Senate race.

Today, Mr. Rush, a practicing Baptist minister in his eighth term in Congress who is backing Mr. Obama’s presidential candidacy, still seems to be ruminating about the Obama phenomenon with grievance and wonder. Mr. Obama’s ambition has found its audience, he said. In a Congressional race, your neighbors “hold you to a different standard…”

Mr. Rush has an explanation for Mr. Obama’s emergence after the dark days of 2000 as a political star four years later. He vanquished a field of multimillionaires, some more experienced and better known, and benefited from fortuitous domestic scandals that sidelined two opponents and left him facing a Republican widely seen as unable to win.

“I would characterize the Senate race as being a race where Obama was, let’s say, blessed and highly favored,” Mr. Rush said, chuckling. “That’s not routine. There’s something else going on.”

What was he suggesting?

“I think that Obama, his election to the Senate, was divinely ordered,” Mr. Rush said, all other explanations failing. “I’m a preacher and a pastor; I know that that was God’s plan. Obama has certain qualities that — I think he is being used for some purpose. I really believe that.”

Friday, September 07, 2007

American Dreamers—Ideas into Action.
By John S. Wren, MBA+, Founder of the IDEA Café.

How did successful entrepreneur Kenton Kuhn, founder
of the popular, get started?

Kenton saw a computer and modem for the first time in 1985,
several years before the commercial availability of the Internet.
He started online bulletin boards, developing one into a very profitable

“Some just go out and do it, that’s the kind of entrepreneur that I am.”
In 2001 he saw an opportunity and started Blacktie in just a few days with
no formal market research and no formal planning.

Today, Sept 7, 2 p.m., Denver IDEA Cafe. Brainstorming and Mad Max Young,
Renaissance Adventure Guides, will share his startup experience. Panera Bread,
13th & Grant, Denver. Free. More info and RSVP at

“Begin it now!” Goethe


New Franklin Circle CEO peer support groups now forming. For more information
see or contact John Wren, (303)861-1447 or


Free Computer Skills Training!!!
Innovant Business Solutions is having its Grand Opening!

Innovant is a new computer skills and Continuing Professional Education training company in the Lakewood area started by Michael Babb, a former professor at one of the world’s leading business universities.

To celebrate their Grand Opening, they are offering their Microsoft Office 2003 Basic Skills Class for only $100 per day, that’s a $35 savings per day off of the normal price!

Classes will run from 8:00 AM through 12:00 PM each day.

The following topics will be covered:

Sept 10th - Excel 2003
Sept 11th - Word 2003
Sept 12th - Outlook 2003
Sept 13th - Powerpoint 2003
Sept 14th - Access 2003

Attend one session or for any combination of them.

As an extra incentive, Innovant is offering one free seat in the Microsoft Office 2003 Basic Skills class to the first person that registers and mentions this email.

Enrollment is limited, so call them at (303) 988-5134 to reserve your spot today!

INNOVANT Business Solutions
(303) 988-5134 or


Are you happy with your work?

Yes? That's, great! Tell us about it at the IDEA Cafe!

No? Attend the Denver IDEA Cafe & join or start a Franklin Circle!

More info & RSVP at


How may I help you?


John S. Wren, MBA+
Founder, IDEA Cafe/ Franklin Circles and the new
Ben Franklin's Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Inc.
Ideas into action since 1727.
Business Consultant & Group Facilitator.

960 Grant St. #727
Denver, CO 80203

LinkedIn Profile:

The Need to Believe
Bernard Rapoport | September 07, 2007 | Afterword
The following is excerpted from a speech delivered by Bernard Rapoport at his 90th birthday party on July 17, 2007.

Just a few hours and some 90 years ago, I came into this world. It was a time when there were more horses and buggies than cars. There was no air-conditioning. There were not any of the multitudes of inventions that have, on a personal basis, made life more comfortable, such as air-conditioning, the cell phone, and the computer. These have made life easier, but not necessarily fulfilling.

Since this is my birthday, it’s time for me to remember what I owe, and to whom, the many who have helped make possible what I have achieved.

I think the first sentence I ever heard (of course, I didn’t understand it then) was, “Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!” The author was Karl Marx. Yes, I was born mixed up. My mother was a Hasidic Jew who spent lots of time in the synagogue. My father looked on this with disdain because he believed in the Marxist doctrine.

Despite these rifts, we were a closely knit family. My sister is three years younger than I. She leaned a little more toward what Mother believed, and I, a little more toward what Papa believed. But the important thing, as far as I’m concerned, is that we were a believing family. How we believed and what we believed could differ, but what transcended that cul-de-sac was the respect each of us had for the other’s beliefs. We had many discussions that ended with each of us at rest.

I had the best teachers that anyone had a right to expect. By the time I received my B.A. degree from the University of Texas, I felt that I was educated, because I knew where to go to find the appropriate sources to sustain what I believed. That was a transition, though. Marx to John Dewey was a very big jump, but I made it, and with that jump I’ve had reinforcement in Dewey’s commitment to pragmatism. He was seminal in his thinking, and his syllogistic approach made it easy to accept his view of what is required for a democratic society.

Tonight is an evening to which I’ve looked forward because I have been blessed with so many friends. Many of you are in this room, and you are people I could not do without. I learned so much from you. I’ve learned about knowledge; I’ve learned about love; I’ve learned about politics; and you were my teachers. I only hope that I was as good a student as you are teachers.

My father used to tell me that everyone who had money was selfish and ignorant. He had no use for people with lots of resources. As I started in 1951 to build my company, I said, “Papa, I’m going to build a company, and we’re going to get rich!” He said, “Don’t tell me about it. Most people that are rich are selfish and ignorant.” He had that Marxist attitude that had permeated his thinking so deeply. Well, it is not unreasonable to expect this attitude, which resulted in his being imprisoned for his political beliefs.

We initiated the American Income Life Insurance Co., and there are many in this room who helped in building the company. They are the ones that made it work. I think the most idiotic people I’ve ever met are those that assume that they are self-made; that their success is a result of themselves. They give no credit to those that were involved in the process that produced the successful venture. So many of these marvelous people that did believe in what we were doing at American Income contributed to building a billion-dollar company and careers for so many who would never have dreamed that what they achieved would be possible. In this room are so many of these wonderful associates to whom I owe so much. Together we were believers. As someone reminded us, “Believing may be difficult, but the need for believing is inescapable.”

Also, in this room are many labor leaders who believed me when I said that American Income would be THE union company, and this was a major contribution to the growth of the company. The other day I was in Washington, and there was a full-page ad on why we shouldn’t have unions. It made me angry. Anti-unionism represents to me a desire by management to manage in the way that it would like, without regard for the interests or benefit of those who are contributing to the success of the company. I remember many times when we were in contract negotiations; we gave even more than what I had anticipated we would, and the success of American Income came because we did listen. The union was our partner; the unions of America want to be partners with American business, partners in the sense that their views are respected and that they will be listened to and that they will be given consideration. Like it or not, my feeling is that any company that fears the union does not have much confidence in its ability to lead.

Then there are also so many in this room that have been inspirational to me: great senators, great congressmen, plus some potential presidents. To all of these in public office, I owe a great deal. I learned a lot from them. I hope I learned how to be a better citizen. The reason that you are here, I know, is because you know the love I have for you, and I, in turn, know the love you have for me.

I also want to mention that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have been friends of mine for many years. I love both of them. This notwithstanding, when my secretary tells me it is Nancy or Harry on the phone, I pick up the phone and don’t wait for them to talk, I just say, “To whom and how much?” They’ve honored me this evening with their presence, and for this I am grateful. They are committed to making the U.S. greater today than it was yesterday!

Finally, one of the most important lessons in life, to wit, “Don’t Want it All.” When I was young, very young, 7 or 8 years old, my favorite game was playing marbles. Generally, my friend had 30 marbles, and I had 30 marbles. If I won all 30 of his, I gave him back 10, not because I was sweet or lovable or generous; even at that age I understood that if I had it all, I wouldn’t have anybody to play with. It was a lesson I’ve never forgotten. As I see a society where 1 percent of the population has more assets than the bottom 100 million, I think that 1 percent isn’t nearly as smart as they think they are.

I close with this admonition from David Hume about two farmers:

Your corn is ripe today; mine will be so tomorrow. ‘Tis profit for us both, that I shou’d labour with you today, and that you shou’d aid me tomorrow. I have no kindness for you, and know you have as little for me. I will not, therefore, take any pains upon your account; and should I labour with you upon my own account, in expectation of a return, I know I shou’d in vain depend upon your gratitude. Here then I leave you to labour alone; You treat me in the same manner. The seasons change; and both of us lose our harvests for want of mutual confidence and security.

Yes, when we work separately, none of us benefits. When we work together, we can achieve the requisites for a better society.

Bernard Rapoport is head of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation, chairman emeritus of American Income Life Insurance Co., and a board member of The Texas Observer.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

Maybe what we really need in this country is an entrepreneur/ small business day. Why isn't the Small Business Administration working on that?

I'm in Houston, Texas visiting my wonderful daughter and son-in-law (who are expecting twins, their first!) and picking up my other wonderful daughter who is going to Olympia, Washington to start graduate school.