June 25th, 2012, by

The student debt crisis has reached critical mass leaving many Americans concerned

No matter what your political views or ideology, most everyone agrees that the student debt crisis in the U.S. has reached critical mass. Rising tuition and fees across the nation’s colleges and universities have many Americans wondering if college was truly the best path for them when there aren’t enough jobs to keep pace with the amount of graduates each year.

For many graduates, student loan debt has become one of the most pressing issues in the new economy. In a recent TIME magazine article, Jon Meacham writes that issues like student loan debt, rising healthcare and housing costs are making The American Dream more and more elusive. Many graduates are working harder, gaining less and constantly struggling to keep some semblance of life amid one of the toughest financial recessions in a generation.

While there have been efforts in the Obama administration to offset and help Americans dealing with student debt, many, like Robert Applebaum, believe there is still much left to be accomplished. Applebaum is the founder and executive director of forgivestudentloandebt.com. His goal is to alleviate the burden associated with student loan debt for all Americans. I caught up with him to get his thoughts on how everyday Americans can work to change the current crisis.

NIXON: Do you feel politicians have been reluctant, unaware or unconcerned on this issue?

APPLEBAUM: There’s a great deal of ignorance about the student debt crisis, not just in Congress, but across the nation. Those affected by the crisis feel they have no voice (or at least felt that way until this movement came along), and those without student debt are completely oblivious. I put Congress into the oblivious category, because I’d like to believe that if they were truly aware of the reality of the crisis, they’d do everything they can to avoid another financial crisis like the one in 2007-2008. The good news is that we’ve been moderately successful in educating the general public, including Congress, and I’m, therefore, hopeful that Congress will eventually stop the partisan bickering and gridlock and start doing the work that they were elected to do.

NIXON: Outside of asking for individuals to sign a petition, what else can they do to get lawmakers’ attention on this issue?

APPLEBAUM: Write and call as often as possible. Repeatedly. Share personal stories of student loan hell. Engage others on social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and help continue to educate the public and lawmakers. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and, as such, it is my belief that the more we stay on top of those who purport to represent us, the public pressure will eventually reach a point where it’s too loud to be ignored.

Persistence is key. I have a very loyal, enthusiastic base of support, with hundreds, if not thousands of people actively engaged on a daily basis in terms of contacting members of Congress either by phone or in person, writing letters to the White House, the Department of Education, etc. Many have written letters to the editor of their local newspapers, and all of these things are actions that anyone can and should take as often as possible to drive the message home. Rome wasn’t built in a day and, when you consider that this movement is only a mere 3-5 years old, I think we’ve made incredible strides towards restoring sanity to a very broken system.

Earlier this year, the student debt clock hit $1 trillion dollars. It is one of the largest student loan amounts in the history of the U.S. In order to change this very broken system, it will take a coordinated effort from men and women across this country to alleviate not only the catastrophic debt, but recapture The American Dream.  More to come on this topic soon.

June 18th, 2012, by

In this round of guest quotables, a bold line between the realms of imagination and reality was drawn. On team “imagination/daydream,” we had actors Christina Ricci and John Slattery. On team “reality,” we had writer Buzz Bissinger, singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin and “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot Capt. Chesley Sullenberger.

Love is a frequent topic of discussion, and this week was no exception, thanks to blues musician Buddy Guy, sportswriter Frank Deford and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Check out the gallery for some extra photos and notable quotes from the last two weeks of interviews and share your thoughts.

All images by Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

June 17th, 2012, by

Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal is on the right track Photo credit: Pat Arnow

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest proposal on marijuana possession gets passed, it will, in effect, reduce the amount of Black and brown people from having unnecessary criminal records. And, while I’m all for the governor’s proposal, it’s missing a few things.

Under current New York law, marijuana possession has two completely different punishments. The law states that if someone is in possession of marijuana in private, it is considered to be a violation punishable by a fine. But, if that substance is lit or viewable in public, the individual is then subject to an arrest and a criminal record.

Police in New York City often stop young persons of color and ask them to empty out their pockets, essentially forcing individuals to incriminate themselves. As a result, many citizens, civil rights organizations and others have condemned the stop-and-frisk laws that unfairly penalize young persons of color for having small amounts of marijuana in their possession.

In a recent Huffington Post article, the governor admitted to the need to change the law: Cuomo acknowledged the existing approach disproportionately affects minority youths, with 94 percent of arrests in New York City, more than half of those arrested younger than 25 and 82 percent either black or Hispanic.

With the data clearly proving that law enforcement has dropped the ball over the years in effectively carrying out the law, I strongly believe work must now be done to seal or remove the criminal records that young people have unfairly acquired. While these youth, at one point, made a mistake, they don’t deserve to have their lives marginalized due to an inconsistent drug law policy and botched police work.

So, while Gov. Cuomo’s proposal would essentially fine individuals for public possession of marijuana the same way as a private possession, it must go further. The law should also be implemented retroactively, to seal the records of those who were penalized by the system’s flaws. That would be an even greater sign of leadership, practicality and governance on behalf of the State of New York and Gov. Cuomo.

June 16th, 2012, by

For many individuals across the country, Father’s Day carries with it a mixed set of emotions. I sat down recently with a gentleman who shares the following account of his relationship with his dad.

The story about my dad is not a fairytale. My parents divorced when I was a 1-year-old. When my father left my mom, he not only left her, but his relationship with his children as well. Every month, until each child turned 18 years old, my mother received child support. It wasn’t enough, but I assumed it was the best my father could do.

My time with my father was very limited. The only times we took vacations were on the mandatory visitations ordered by a judge. He never remembered my birthday. The best he could do is call me a month or so after and make a joke that he thought I was born later. He would then ask me if I received his birthday card, implying that he sent it. He hadn’t.

He would complain about the service of the post office and, within two days, I would receive a card, backdated, with a $25 check, to make it appear that it was the post office’s fault for the delay and not his. I didn’t mind, because again, I thought he was doing his best.

When I was 18, he called me. He told me if I ever needed any money, to give him a call for a loan. He would then mention that he had given this same offer to my older brothers and gloatingly proceed to tell me how much they owed him. It was the only help he had ever offered me as his son. We didn’t keep in much contact after my 18th birthday, but 10 years later, after the divorce from his second wife, he sent me an email. Here is part of it:

I wish to say how sorry I am for not being your father in the truest sense of the word or even your dad. I have failed in nearly every aspect of human relationships with women and family.

If you can find it in your heart to forgive me then that is all I seek.

May I be so bold as to offer you some advice? Find the right woman, love her forever and stay close with your children for nothing else really matters. I just learned it too late.


If my father truly did his best and still failed, I forgive him. He did what he was legally bound to do, and I am thankful for that. Many children have deadbeat dads and live in poverty because of it; I did not. Happy Father’s Day to the dads who did their best, because I believe this was the best my father could do.

Brad Denney is a freelance blogger in the San Francisco Bay Area.

June 12th, 2012, by

Photo courtesy: Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.


Airdates | Wednesday, June 13

Hometown | Baltimore, MD

Why You (Should) Know Him

  • For starters, he’s logged in 50 years with Sports Illustrated, where he is now the senior contributing writer. See this video clip on his thoughts of the evolution of sports writing.
  • You can catch him on National Public Radio and on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel from time to time.
  • According to his NPR profile, he’s been referred to as “the most influential sports voice among members of the print media” and “the world’s greatest sportswriter.”

Why He’s Buzzing | After such an illustrious career, he’s somehow managed to chronicle his life and fit it all into one book. That book, Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter, is now published and up for grabs.


  • To date, Deford has been named Sportswriter of the Year a total of six times. He’s also been voted Magazine Writer of the Year by Washington Journalism Review.
  • In 2012, he received the Red Smith Award. He’s the first magazine writer to be honored with the award.
  • His novel Everybody’s All-American was named one of Sports Illustrated’s Top 25 Sports Books of All Time in 1981. It was also adapted for a film of the same title.
  • For a time, Deford served as editor-in-chief of The National and wrote for Newsweek and Vanity Fair.
  • He’s an advocate for the research and treatment of cystic fibrosis and served as chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for nearly 20 years; he’s still chairman emeritus. His daughter, Alex, was diagnosed with the illness and passed away at age 8. Deford honored her memory in the text Alex: The Life of a Child and, subsequently, a movie was made in 1986.
  • He’s a member of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
  • Even though he’s a sportswriter, most of his novels do not take place in the world of sports.
  • Deford’s life and work are highlighted by ESPN’s “You Write Better Than You Play” documentary.

Selection of Awards and Accomplishments

1988     Emmy Award for his work as a writer during the Seoul Olympics
1994     CableACE for writing Arthur Ashe: Citizen of the World, an HBO sports documentary
1999     National Magazine Award for Sports Illustrated article on Bill Russell
1999     Peabody Award for writer on Dare to Compete, an HBO documentary

Selected works (Bibliography)

1971      Five Strides on the Banked Track: The Life and Times of the Roller Derby
1981     Everybody’s All-American
1983     Alex: The Life of a Child
1993     Love and Infamy
2001    The Other Adonis: A Novel
2002    An American Summer: A Novel
2005    The Old Ball Game
2010     Bliss, Remembered
2012     Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter


June 5th, 2012, by

As one of the cities hardest-hit by the 21st century’s economic downturn, Detroit has more than its share of troubles. One of the few good things to come of the city’s woes, however, is a blossoming of art amidst the ruins. One such endeavor is Mike Kelley‘s “Mobile Homestead” a life-sized model of a ranch-style home, similar to the one he grew up in on the outskirts of the city.

Begun in 2005, Kelley took the homestead on a tour of downtown Detroit, where it has now found a permanent home adjacent to the Detroit Museum of Modern Art. Set to open next month, the “Mobile Homestead” exhibit will house free classes, a barbershop and a studio for local artists.

Kelley died earlier this year, and the house will stand as something of a memorial to both the artist and his hope for the return of prosperity to Detroit.

June 4th, 2012, by

Photo courtesy: Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

Airdate | Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hometown | Lettsworth, LA

Birth name | George Guy

Parents | Sam and Isabel Guy

Why You (Should) Know Him

  • As a member of Muddy Waters’ band, Guy is credited as the pioneer of the Chicago blues sound, and he’s often credited as the bridge between blues and rock and roll.
  • He’s ranked 30th in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time.
  • His flair for entertaining, whether it’s playing his guitar with drumsticks or walking into the audience during a solo, helped him make a name for himself.
  • On March 14, 2005, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Eric Clapton and B.B. King. (See video below)

Why He’s Buzzing | On May 8 2012, he released his autobiography, When I Left Home: My Story.


  • He was born to a sharecropper’s family and raised on a plantation.
  • By the time he was seven years old, he made his first instrument. According to his website, he ‘fashioned his first makeshift “guitar”–a two-string contraption attached to a piece of wood and secured with his mother’s hairpins.’
  • His Harmony acoustic guitar was donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • He owns Legends club in Chicago and performs there frequently.
  • By the time he started recording his own music, he was already a major influence on other artists, such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He notably picked the guitar with his teeth and played it over his head–two tricks that later influenced Jimi Hendrix.
  • In 2008, he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
  • His daughter, Rashawnna “Shawnna” Guy, was the first female artist to be signed to Def Jam through Ludacris’ Disturbing the Peace Records.
  • His late brother, Phil Guy, was also an American blues guitarist.
  • His song “Stone Crazy” was ranked 78th in the list of 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time, also of Rolling Stone.
  • He is the recipient of 23 W.C. Handy Awards, which is more than any other artist. He is also the second recipient of Billboard magazine’s The Century Award.

Selections from discography and awards

2003 Awarded the National Medal of Arts
1965 “Hoodoo Man Blues”
1967 “I Left My Blues in San Francisco”
1968 “A Man and the Blues”
1991 “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” – Won 1991 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album
1993 “Feels Like Rain” – Won 1993 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album
1994 “Slippin’ In” – Won 1995 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album
1999 “Buddy’s Baddest: The Best of Buddy Guy”
2001 “Sweet Tea” – Nominated for 2001 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album
2003 “Blues Singer” – Won 2003 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album
2009 “The Definitive Buddy Guy”
2010 “Living Proof” – Won 2010 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album)

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2005

Eric Clapton and B.B. King Induct Buddy Guy into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLOcD54OlNc]

Buddy Guy’s Acceptance Speech
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsVk5C9sZbE]
“If you don’t think you have the blues, just keep living.” – Buddy Guy, 2005

Rock and Hall of Fame Induction Performance
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ntkb8BC3-k&feature=channel&list=UL]


June 4th, 2012, by

On May 29, 2012, President Obama awarded cultural and political icons with the Medal of Freedom at a ceremony held at the White House. Among the recipients were past show guests Madeleine Albright, Toni Morrison and Delores Huerta.

The Medal of Freedom ranks as the highest civilian honor. According to the Los Angeles Times, ‘the year 1962 looms especially large in President Obama’s picks: that was the year [Bob] Dylan put out his first album, when [Delores] Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association and when [John] Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.’

Madeleine Albright

On January 23, 1997, Albright was sworn in as the first female to become the U.S. Secretary of State, under former President Bill Clinton.

On October 28, 2009, she sat down with us to weigh in on the situations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, discuss her memoir Madam Secretary and her token brooches as fashion statements and diplomatic tools. Watch the 2009 conversation and share your thoughts.

(View full post to see video)

“Life is grim, and we don’t have to be grim all the time.” – Madeleine Albright, 2008


June 3rd, 2012, by

One of the most famous mysteries of the 20th century surrounds the disappearance of Amelia Earhart on her quest to circle the globe in 1937. A female aviation pioneer, she was the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic ocean, for which she received the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Congressional medal.

Ever since Earhart’s circumnavigation was cut short 75 years ago, there has been much speculation around the circumstances of her disappearance and death. This week, new evidence has emerged suggesting Earhart, along with navigator Fred Noonan, spent her final days subsisting on fish, mollusks and seabirds on a remote and uninhabited Japanese coral atoll.

From the Christian Science Monitor: “(TIGHAR), a non-profit foundation promoting aviation archaeology and historic aircraft preservation, reported new details Friday leading researchers to this conclusion: Earhart and Noonan, low on fuel and unable to find their next scheduled stopping point – Howland Island – radioed their position, then landed on a reef at uninhabited Gardner Island, a small coral atoll now known as Nikumaroro Island.”

According to the same article, researchers from TIGHAR will return to the site next month and use submersibles to search for remnants of Earhart’s plane.

As well as being historically relevant, and adding a final chapter to one of the most fascinating American stories of the 20th century, the revelation that Earhart’s plane didn’t simply vanish (despite what innumerable conspiracy theorists say) serves as a potent reminder that it’s far easier to put forth an outlandish theory, than it is to actually prove what happened. Conspiracy theories may be provocative, but they are rarely even close to accurate.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

May 27th, 2012, by

The untimely death of famous white-boy-rapper and Beastie Boys co-founder MCA produced an outpouring of affection for the hip-hop pioneer, who, along with his bandmates, proved that if a bunch of middle-class Jewish guys could become legit rappers, anyone could.

The appearance recently of teen-girl-rapper Kitty Pryde–a 19-year-old from Florida with lyrics about Justin Bieber and casual drug use–shows the next step in that evolution. At worst, Kitty Pryde (who takes her name from an X-Men comic book character) could be written off as another vapid brat-rapper in the school of Uffie or Kreayshawn, but, initially at least, it seems like there’s more to her than that.

The laid-back laconic rhyming of her new single “OK Cupid” isn’t on par, technically, with the best rappers of our day (or even those who cover them), but Kitty Pryde’s perspective and melding of teenage girly-ness with a genre totally at odds with that seems significant. Much like MCA and the Beastie Boys, Kitty Pryde doesn’t look or sound like your average rapper, but her self-effacing lyrics–she knows she’s a skinny white girl from Florida as well as anyone–allow people to enjoy it without necessarily taking it seriously.

It’s highly unlikely that Kitty Pryde’s impact on our culture, or her longevity, will come anywhere near that of the Beastie Boys, but at the very least she’s an important milestone in the evolution of rap and proof that hip-hop is becoming the most democratic musical genre of our time.

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