Imagine growing up in town left behind, caught in economic depression since the 70’s. That was Scranton, Pennsylvania. For me, movies took me to a place far away, with inspiration and dreams of what could be. My parents sacrificed so much to put food on the table, provide me and my sister all the education they never received, and to keep the lights on. My parents faced layoff after layoff, strikes after strikes for not having “the right skills” to keep us afloat. Union organizations hindered by corruption lost sight of actually helping employees in their careers and came tumbling down. They stopped putting people first. The sky was often gray in Scranton – not by the decades of coal mining, but due to good people being unable to work. Gray-Heart replaced Black-Lung.

I watched and witnessed both of my parents as union stewards fight for employee rights, wages, and benefits. I remember their unfailing phone calls end in tears, anger and frustration. But they pushed on to educate my sister and me. And they did so without college educations, without companies investing in them, and without the help of others. They might as well have been on Tatooine. Why? Because good people sacrifice everything to give their children the better lives they couldn’t have.

My sister and I got the education we needed to succeed and were able to leave Scran-tooine (this is a Jedi story) to further develop ourselves, but at a substantial cost to my parents. My father worked 3 jobs just to put us through Prep School. To help out, I aided my mother with ongoing tests at her job at Bell Atlantic to get further in her career. She had no other options. I don’t know if you can imagine the insanity of the daily stress. It led to chronic infighting that destroyed us as a family.

Leaving Scran-tooine seemed like opportunity of a lifetime. I got out. I was educated, with a Bachelor’s degree and ready to go. The towers went down the year I graduated – May 2001 from Saint Joseph’s University. I was in debt even though my parents broke their back and I had scholarships. I believed I was a force to be reckoned with. But it wasn’t enough.

Turns out, I was unemployable. I did not yet have the skills needed for the job market – sound familiar? So, I went back to Scran-tooine , and much like my dad got 3 jobs and went to the Liquor Store to buy a Blue Label Whiskey. I am not a whiskey drinker, but the Jesuits, you know the ones that look like Ol’ Ben Kenobi, at the University of Scran-tooine were. I drove up to the university, spoke with a few Jesuits and got into graduate school without taking the GRE’s. Hey, why not? I was already in debt but I still believed that education was my key to success, so I went all in. I worked 3 jobs much like my dad did a long time ago – I tutored kids, waitress-ed & bar-tended, and worked at Lackawanna County in the HR department, which, by the way, was very lively! They had a ton of union contracts up, and meditations and arbitrations were daily. I went to school full time, taking 7 classes a semester to graduate in 1 year and begin my career, again. You would’ve wanted to leave Scran-tooine that quickly too. I did it, now $75K in debt and believing that the Force was with me. I moved to Boston the following year, where I landed a job in my first week.

We were still in a recession, but I figured it out and managed to get into a great company. My profession was HR, not the administrative legal mitigation type though, I chose it to help, not just administer. I wanted to help people. I saw HR differently.

My first calling may have influenced my HR approach as HR was not my first calling – medical school was in my youth. Upon going to Saint Joseph’s I saved my neighbor from a stroke and did CPR using my life-guarding experience. Loving that I saved someone, I was accepted into the accelerated program between Saint Joseph’s and Thomas Jefferson Medical School in Philly to make my dream happen! After losing a friend in college the medical field escaped me. I couldn’t enter into something that I could not fix or save literally in this sense. So, out with Thomas Jefferson and in with HR. I had always worked throughout college to lessen the burden of the big bill to come and I had the ability to work for a company in HR throughout my schooling at SJU. It was a good company. It was a tech company and they advanced the many young talent to accelerate themselves and for us to accelerate ourselves. I was part of an acquisition at the ripe age of 20 and I will never forget the words the CEO said at that time. “This acquisition will help us and we will help you. Do not fear losing your job, embrace the opportunity.” And they did that and now are one of the biggest mega-companies in media. Kinda like the rebel alliance.

So, back to Boston with my education and experience, ready to take on the world! But, the world was still Scran-tooine. Chronic layoffs, firing of good people and me passing pink slips and severance packages rather than helping people. Being a young Jedi can be very frustrating and disillusioning. I hated it and pushed on. Years later after reorg, restructure, retitling, layoffs (like being back on Tatooine) did I land myself in a good company. An education company with the most amazing people I have met and learned from to date. I was partnered with a leader, Yoda, who was almost too smart and super introverted and we just jived. I helped him where he fell down and vice versa. We were building a tech company – an e-learning company – inside a publishing business. Every day was electrifying. Meeting the smartest minds in the world building the software to help students and I provided tons of training and developed people in our division along the way as we ignited! I cherished every day. Very rarely did we let go of employees and we helped lay the groundwork for where the company is now. What a wonderful universe far, far away.

And then something happened back at Scrantooine. My dad who labored everyday to pay for our education along with my mom was very sick. The sickness was a darkness of turmoil, mental illness and never living his own talent due that he was left behind. Even the Jawas didn’t want him. He was left behind like much of this country now due to antiquated skills – yet he had the potential, ability and agility but no one would give him a chance. He turned to self medicating- a lot – which led to much deeper issues. Granted my dad will never win an award for dad of the year – he was awful even in his vigor to help me and my sister. He’s a casualty of a heartless system. He tried to help people in their jobs and faced turmoil everyday due to greedy companies that were bottom line driven and not people driven. He was hurt on the job many times and forced back to work due to terrible laws in our country. He was a recovering alcoholic who was prescribed Oxycontin by doctors to help with his pain even though it was the last thing he needed – another addiction. Even in his early horror of being a dad who was trying to make it for his kids – companies, doctors, and even me failed him. He was left behind to be as sick as he is right now. Cancer, heart attack, rehab, and the list goes on – I remember him most on the phone fighting for employee rights with the unions. Which leads me to…….

So, I left Boston to come to NYC to get closer to help him and my family. I failed in this effort. I only saw a shell. A shell of something that was there but was so beaten down over the years from society that left him behind. Granted I was bullied in this same society too – In Scran-tooine – I was too different and not good enough- In Philly – I tried to do the right thing – only to get met with more bullying. In Boston, I asked for help and at times got laughed at and in New York I was discriminated against, bullied, sexually harassed and fired for trying to protect employees and their basic human rights — twice. Yeah, I left Scran-tooine – but Scran-tooine was everywhere. Everything I hated about Scran-tooine was surrounding me in my profession – city by city. I began to wonder if it was me? Am I a Sith? Am I the problem? Do I suck this bad? Is this Korriban? Yet, everyday I saw, witnessed, experienced good people being treated terribly – again.  I seemed to be the only person saying something. Why am I an outcast when it is clearly not cool to jump on a table and tell your team how bad they suck? Why am I an outcast when I called people out that is not cool to subject an email labeled “choke a bitch”. Seems kinda storm-trooper like (again Star Wars reference). And who creates a rap song about girls underwear and raps it to a company? Why am I seeing this as a problem and no one else. And who the hell gave this guy money to start a company? Did he rap that song to get the money?

Seeing good people being fired for lacking a few skills that are trainable, I continually begged for budget to bring in resources to help them. Then on the other side I endured people leaving companies because they did not feel safe. I felt the pain of the dark force witnessing others completely demoralized on a regular basis for not being good enough. And it had nothing to do with being good enough. It had to do with being given a chance and a bit of training & coaching to develop them along the way. And as humans in all these companies we recycled and replaced—-and kicker – they were educated employees, so now everyone is being left behind. It just isn’t those that are uneducated, it is those that educated too. So in summary, everyone is disposable. It was already a problem that we set up walls based on difference of race, religion, gender, but now we are setting up walls on basic morals and values? The Death Star is getting strong.

After $75K in student debt I was finding education degrees meant nothing and capitalism of the Siths was everything – and you were either in or out. So, fast forward after leaving a job that I loved because a Sith Lord bullied me on a daily basis, sexually harassed me when I had a torn Achilles and he refused to approve my expenses for months because he was mad at me for speaking my voice protecting others. I swung money from my savings account regularly to pay the corporate credit card because he thought it was funny to do this to me. Evidently he did this to all women that spoke their voice in times of pain and need. I have not forgotten you and what you did to me and many others.

And fast forward through a few more jobs of chronic firings and layoffs and with me defending young women who were bullied, fired, hazed at times and sexually harassed and then again defending American workers who were being taken advantage by a Danish company because of our terrible at – will laws. I’m still here – we are still here. And a few years of consulting where again, I dealt with defending women who were sexually harassed only for the acquiring company to write if off.  I’m still here. We are still here. I have dealt with Siths – much like all of you my entire life. They try to bully you, they try to gaslight you, they try to tear you down. And yeah, girl from Scran-tooine just started my own company last year with all the money I personally negotiated with Sith companies who did not do the right thing. Who threw people out. Who allowed sexual harassment and who did not educate their employees. I have taken all the blood money to power it into something for everyone, so no one is left behind at work, so no one is treated less than human, so no one gets destroyed by the Death Star. We are creating continuous learning for all regardless of who you are, what your education is –  none of that matters. The only thing that matters is providing help to others so they can succeed and we can succeed as a people. In 5 months, I have gathered over a 100 Jedi’s to train others to help them in their career.

Look around, there are Sith Lords everywhere. They are in our government in the highest seats taking advantage of people and their vulnerabilities. They are CEO’s of companies timing pee breaks and making employees work 9 to 9 – 7 days a week. They allow sexual predators to exist. They allow discrimination to happen. They allow the good ole Sith club of oppression to exist.

America is ours- not theirs.

This is a call to action to be a Jedi and help others, to educate others and to bring America back. The current Sith Lord in the White House is just a mascot of our our own ignorance. He is not the only one as there are many that reside in government and companies with faulty leadership that depict evils of our current state. We need to band together to help each other. We need to educate and learn from another. We need to own our lives, our freedom and choices. We need to grow in our careers through each other as Jedi’s to teach each other, to learn from another, to protect each other.

The time is now for us to take us back. Remember earlier in I relayed in my childhood that movies helped to inspire me even in the darkness. My go to- obviously is Star Wars as you have read. Just note, it is not a movie anymore, it is real life……..

So, let’s be force together to beat the many Sith Lords out there so no one is left behind. So, that we can provide to our families, feel good about what we are doing and providing for our next generation to come in and succeed with continuous learning. The force is strong, when you believe it and amplify it. We are the New Hope to continue on the mission of people first.

On a last note,  Dad – a.k.a. Vader –  while you and I will never be a family just know while you sacrificed everything for us including your sanity, I am sacrificing everything to ensure your mission continues on. We will help people that need help, we will educate people that need education and we will ensure families do not get destroyed due to jobs and lack of money when they have coachable skills. If anything, I am carrying your torch in a different way. And I know you have a Jedi heart but the Siths beat you down like many others. Guess what – your lightsaber never went out, it was passed down to me and now being passed to many others that are people first – that are human and that will help people in their careers. We are here to ensure the Sith Lords don’t kill all inspiration, innovation and mostly the heart of all of us.

We are the new force.

May the force be with us,