Redeeming Cuba: Historical Perceptions Through a Pop Culture Lens

IMG_6061We are all stamped mentally with our own personal imagery of Cuba in a peripheral way. We really cannot escape it: the epic stories of Fidel Castro’s meteoric rise, the Bay of Pigs disaster that, in the end, accelerated the communist legend overnight and created New Age Communism.

People of my generation grew up fearing the Cold War and the Iron Curtain like nothing else, often having childhood nightmares because our parents told us a complicated story at the dinner table that the world almost ended over a 9-day period, because Cuba let Russia aim active missiles right at our backyards. Literally, with only a few communist fingers tapping buttons, it would have been the end of the world as we know it.

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What would Che Guevara and Fidel Castro say today about their political partnership?

(This is the first in a two-part series.)

I’m not going to lie, I don’t really even like drinking rum or smoking cigars. But when I got my first chance to travel to Cuba and look inside the Castro hype, I was in from day one.

IMG_6054With the help of the leadership team and our amazing Bluegrass Chapter at YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization), we secured a license as a humanitarian group taking medicine and aid, and supporting local artists while studying their world-renowned arts.

This would give all of us our first real chance to take a deeper look at the communist political model up close and personal. The ‘Marxist Revolutionary’ school of thought has been our greatest ideological competition, and really, our greatest enemy for the last 100 years.

From the beginning, it was Fidel’s revolution and his partnership with Che Guevara, combined with other historic events, that have kept governmental resentment sky high, even now.

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Feeling The Impact Of Nelson Mandela Firsthand

Mandela

When we booked our first trip to Africa, we never thought about Nelson Mandela’s potential passing or President Obama’s potential farewell visit. However, as the trip became very close, we realized tensions would be high because both events were possible during the same trip.

From the minute we landed in Johannesburg, everywhere you turn you feel or see the impact of Mandela has on the entire country, and it should remind us that one person really can still impact the world. Hopefully that will never change. Everywhere, we see signs, bumper stickers, dinner prayers with other South Africans, casual talk among locals, the pride you see in the eyes of workers everywhere or the prideful white leaders who have passionately embraced the new day.

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White House Visit

L-R: George Timmering, Mayor Fischer, Joe Steier

Several weeks back, I was very blessed to go with my childhood best friend, George, to the White House with Mayor Fischer and a diverse group of community business leaders who help define one of the most livable cities anywhere in the U.S. – Louisville!

What a great experience, walking the White House grounds, feeling the famed White House with the Mayor and new friends all feeling the same humble respect and awe of our amazing heritage while getting ready for the meeting with many of President Obama’s top leaders at a facilitated lunch about each leaders special journey and why we were all there. You always think your walk is really special, but there were many who inspired me to think bigger by just hearing their stories.

It was time.

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Giving China A Second Chance

I remember the first time I ever heard about China.

I was six, digging a hole in my backyard, when Steve Peake said, ‘if we keep fighting, we’ll eventually get to China’ – that’s how far away it was.  Then, at age 12, an adopted girl from China who moved in two blocks away became the “new kid in town.”

Outside of Kim and digging holes, China was only covered infrequently in world history classes…the massive Red Army, ethics of Confucius, old world dynasties. But it never was a big part of my thought process until 1999, when me and my childhood friends from a middle-class Louisville neighborhood called Hikes Point, were trying to build a pizza empire called Bearno’s that we bought with my money from old paper route savings, first communion money, and a creative SBA loan, scrapping our limited capital so we could buy out one of our best friends’ father who founded the famed ‘Mama’ special. (more…)