Nicholas David Eastman Eulogy

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imageI hadn’t ever considered what it would be like to write a eulogy for my brother. If I had, I’m sure I would have assumed I’d have another 40 or 50 years before that would be asked of me. It was painful and healing at the same time. I am moving through my grief, one foot in front of the other. There have been gifts – I’ve never felt more close to my parents, I’ve gotten the chance to see family and friends, and I’ve spent countless time remembering Nick’s life. But this is also the most painful thing I have ever experienced. What a rollercoaster.

Sharing my feelings with my broader community has been so helpful these last several days. So, in that spirit, I wanted to share some more memories of Nick here.

Nicholas David Eastman
March 18, 2015

Friends, loved ones, and family –

It is an honor and privilege for me to pay tribute today to a very special person, my brother Nicholas David Eastman. Thank you for being here on this tragic occasion to pay your respects to my brother. Many of you have traveled long distances to be here and my family and I are very grateful. Everyone’s love, condolences, and memories have helped us get through this difficult time.

Nick lost his life far too soon. He had a lot left to accomplish and many more people to make smile, and so it is terribly sad that he is not here with us today.

This morning as I found a quiet moment to write a few words to share with you, I imagined he was sitting with me helping me tell his story. I know he’d want me to tell you about my favorite memories of him and about the impact he had on all of us, and so I’d like to share some of those stories and lessons he taught us now.

Nick was loyal and dedicated to those he loved. The last time I spoke with Nick a few weeks ago, it was because he was calling me to let me know that one of our family members was in the hospital (she’s fine now – it was a brief illness). He had tried to call her cell phone but she wasn’t answering, so he found the phone number to her hospital room and tried that. No answer still. So he began calling around to different nurses’ stations in the hospital until he was successful in charming one of them to bring her personal cell phone into the room so that Nick could speak with our family member and make sure she was OK. He always put family first, and this story is just one of many that makes that clear. He would never leave a conversation or an interaction with us without saying, “I love you.” Because he had trouble saying Jessica when he was first learning to talk, he has always called me Sis. So whenever he said goodbye to me, it was always, “I love you, Sis,” or, when he was feeling fancy, “I love you, Sister”.

In this, he taught us how to make family our first priority.

He was also quite the charmer – he could convince people he’d just met to do just about anything. People just adored Nick. He was hard not to love. This served him well in his brief career as a telemarketer where he was significantly more successful than any of his coworkers at selling newspapers with that country boy accent that would inspire trust from anyone with which he spoke. He used these charming abilities on our family as well. Each Christmas Eve, my mom would say that this year would be the year we were going to wait until Christmas morning to open up all of our gifts. And each year without fail, Nick would eventually succeed in convincing her to let us open just one (or sometimes two or three) presents on Christmas Eve. And he was the most successful of our entire family in convincing my Aunt Rhonda to make her famous chocolate gravy for him for breakfast whenever she was with us.

In this, he taught us that if you treat people well and take care of them, they will do the same for you.

Being around Nick was guaranteed to be a fun time. His laugh was infectious – I found a video in the last few days where he is laughing along with his baby niece, and I can barely stop myself from watching it over and over again. His friends have been sharing memories with us these last few days, and almost without exception, they are stories of long laughter and so much fun. If you were in a serious mood, you better expect that to change really quickly if Nick was around.

In this, he taught us to not take ourselves too seriously and enjoy life.

We had a typical brother/sister relationship growing up. We’d argue with each other and then be back in each others’ good graces within minutes. I can just hear our young voices yelling out across the house – “I hate you, get off the phone while I’m on it!” or “No, it’s YOUR turn to mow the lawn!” followed shortly thereafter by “Do you want to watch a movie?” or “Do you want to eat some macaroni and cheese with me?”.

In this, he taught me to forgive and forget so that you can have space for love.

He took care of people. When I was in college, a friend of mine offered to change the oil in my car. My friend was embarrassed that he was unable to find where the oil filter was. I knew my brother would know, so I covered for my friend by calling Nick and telling him that I was changing my oil and couldn’t find the filter. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, Nick was on the other side of the line saying, “Oh my god. Jess. You cannot change the oil in your car. Stop it. You do not know how to do this. Drive to a Jiffy Lube right now.” (And then to a friend nearby) “Can you believe my sister is trying to change the oil in her car? My god.” Even though he was my little brother, he was protective of me. And clearly he did not have a lot of belief in my mechanical skills either. During my wedding weekend, we were having a brunch the morning after the wedding. He accidentally got the location of the brunch wrong and showed up at another fancy brunch spot that morning. When they told him that they did not have a reservation for our wedding party, he immediately asked to speak to a manager because he was not going to let anything mess up his sister’s wedding weekend. He could not believe that this restaurant had lost our reservation! Luckily, we eventually got in touch with him and were able to let him know that, while he was fighting the good fight at that restaurant, we were in the meantime happily dining already at another spot across town.

In this, he taught us to take care of our people. In that spirit, I’d like to share a poem that has taken care of me in the last few days.

The Unfinished
Do not judge a biography by it’s length,
Nor by the number of pages in it.
Judge it by the richness of it’s contents
Sometimes those unfinished are among the most poignant
Do not judge a song by it’s duration
Nor by the number of it’s notes
Judge it by the way it touches and lifts the soul
Sometimes those unfinished are among the most beautiful
And when something has enriched your life
And when it’s melody lingers on in your heart
Is it unfinished?
Or is it endless?

Nick and I were football rivals from the time we were kids. As all children growing up in Alabama do, we had to pick a side. I chose Auburn and Nick chose Alabama. Though I always refused to cheer for Alabama in any situation, Nick wanted to find a middle ground. Though he certainly always wanted his Tide to win, he also wanted Auburn to win anytime that they weren’t playing Bama. He knew that Auburn winning would make me happy, and so he’d cheer for my team as often as he could. I was always staunchly opposed to this idea and could not imagine myself cheering for that other school no matter what. Well, Roll Tide, Brother. I’ll be cheering for your Crimson Tide (as long as they’re not playing my Tigers) because I know you’ll need someone here on Earth doing your cheering for you.

I know that it will be very difficult for my family and I going forward without Nick in our lives. However, I also know that my brother would not want us to be overwhelmed with sadness. He would want us to smile when we remember him, so let’s make him proud and try our best to do that.

Goodbye, Nick. Goodbye, Brother. We will be loving you from afar every single day until we join you.


Want to be great at your job? Structure opportunities to give and get feedback.


As you might have seen in our list of 40 things to do before we turn 40, one of the things I’m trying is blogging about professional topics. I set my measure of success for “trying this out” as writing at least 10 blogs. I’m going to see if I can manage one per month for a period of time. Are there particular topics you’re interested in? Let me know in the comments or via email/FB message/carrier pigeon.

For context on me professionally for those of you who aren’t my colleagues, I got the opportunity to engage in leadership development in high school and college via various student organizations and then started my career as a teacher for four years in Oakland. I then transitioned into a staff role at Teach For America Bay Area as the Director of Teaching and Learning. I then transitioned to my current role of Managing Director at GO Public Schools Leadership Center.

The workstreams and areas of responsibility of my current role have changed quite a bit over time. When I joined the organization, there were just a few of us. We are now a team of nearly 20 full-time employees – in short, we provide information, help develop and organize leaders at the grassroots and grasstops levels, and do policy and political advocacy (the politics is done with our associated 501(c)(4) org).

One of My Favorite Structures for Giving Professional Feedback
noahs_ark_photosculpturFor this first topic, I’m cheating just a little bit. I was asked to write some tips for the Tip of the Day blog at New Organizing Institute a few years back, and a version of what you see below was  one of them. I figured it couldn’t hurt to share with you all!

We all know that getting and giving good feedback to our colleagues and volunteers is a critical part of running successful organizations and winning our campaigns. It’s important to offer feedback regularly in our work – sometimes daily and weekly – to our colleagues. But we all know that structures can support us to be better than we might be without them.

One of these structures that helps me prioritize giving feedback is one I’ve learned over the years from those wiser than myself — it’s called a “2×2 conversation.”

In brief, it’s a conversation in which each person shares:

  • Two things that they think they are doing well in their own work
  • Two things they want to improve upon in their own work
  • Two things their colleague is doing well in their work
  • Two things they think their colleague could improve upon in their own work

Before the conversation, we’ve found it’s best if the two people engaging send each other an email with their thoughts. Then schedule a lunch, coffee, or walk and discuss your thoughts and ideas about how the two of you can take your work together to the next level.

At this point in my career, I’ve probably had more than thirty 2×2 conversations. And regardless of the situation, I can honestly share that every one of these conversations has been helpful. I’ve gotten excellent feedback from managers, those I manage, and lateral peers, and gotten to share thoughts with others that I might not have otherwise made time to share given a busy schedule.

We have in the past done organization-wide 2×2 conversations at least once a year where teammates have these conversations with several staff with whom they work closely, and we also schedule one for 6 weeks into someone new joining the team (with that person’s manager).

There’s little that’s more important to your work than how you interact with your teammates. Those working relationships are worth the investment, and this is one tested strategy that you’ll love.

Have another tip on giving feedback? Share in the comments!

Brooklyn meets Nonna and Uncle Kieran

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Posted by Jon “Poppa” Stewart

January was an especially fun month for us as my mother and brother made the trek to Oakland to visit Brooklyn for the first time.  Unfortunately, my father wasn’t able to make it this time due to illness, but we’re hoping to visit NJ in the summer so he can meet Brooklyn as well.

Uncle Kieran and Nonna were very excited to meet Brooklyn and experience awesome Bay Area weather.  When they left Newark there was snow coming down, while Oakland was 60 degrees and sunny during their entire visit.

Brooklyn was excited to have Kieran read to her before bed time.

We explored some fun spots in San Francisco. While in San Francisco we had lunch at Hunan Home’s Restaurant in Chinatown – a must visit if you’re in the area.

The “painted ladies”.

Waterfall in Golden Gate Park.

The Golden Gate bridge.

The trip culminated in a fantastic brunch at Portal near Lake Merritt in Oakland – highly recommend it!

Amazing brunch at Portal.

We had a great time hosting Nonna and Uncle Kieran. This cutie is looking forward to their next visit to Oakland.

Cutie McCuterson

Stewart Family 40 by 40 List


As you might know, Jon and I both had lists of 30 things we wanted to do by the time we were turned 30 years old. We completed most of our lists (missed a few), and enjoyed the process.

About 10 months ago on Valentine’s Day, we spent our evening with Indian takeout and a notebook writing down ideas for our next list – a “40 by 40”. We have revisited and refined the list a bit over the last year (things got a little busy with the addition of an adorable baby), and we finally finished it up recently. There are actually 42 things on this list because we figured we could use a little wiggle room and couldn’t figure out more to cut.

Below is the list – being publicly accountable will help us make these things happen. You’ll see we’ve completed one so far – getting a king-sized bed (!), and that there are a few private goals as well.

We’ve got about 8.5 years until we’re both 40 years old – let’s get started.

Stewart Family 40 by 40 List

For our family:

  1. Have a dog join the family.
  2. Live and/or vacation internationally for at least one 3 month period.
  3. Take a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park.
  4. Jessica & Jonathan take at least 3 trips with no children, including one for our 10th anniversary.
  5. Take one trip with a destination we decide after having already arrived at the airport to leave.
  6. Lose a collective 15% of our combined body weights keep it off for one year.
  7. Be financially able to purchase a home (or have purchased one).
  8. Make a trip to an Auburn football game in an RV.
  9. Renew our marriage vows.
  10. Create one source of passive income.
  11. Participate in a TV show audience.
  12. 5+ family camping trips.
  13. Take a trip to Europe as a family.
  14. Visit Disneyland.
  15. At least one of us donates our hair to a good cause.
  16. Take a vacation in which at least part of the time is spent on a humanitarian/volunteer cause.
  17. Two weeks of no screens (phones, TV, etc.) after 5pm.
  18. One month of exercising every single day.
  19. Pay for a child’s cleft lip surgery.
  20. Foster at least one animal.
  21. Spend one month eating vegan as a family.
  22. Own a king-sized bed.
  23. Plant a tree.
  24. Private Goal 1
  25. Private Goal 2
  26. Private Goal 3

For Jonathon:

  1. Have a conversation in Spanish with our daughter.
  2. At work, be managing a team of people.
  3. Attend the Homebrewer’s Conference at least once.
  4. Take a beer judging class to learn to be a better taster.
  5. Participate in a long-distance biking event.
  6. Join a nonprofit board of directors.
  7. Take a cooking class series.

For Jessica:

  1. Participate in a flash mob.
  2. Try karaoke.
  3. Attend a Garth Brooks concert.
  4. Officiate a wedding.
  5. Be a mentor to someone.
  6. Donate blood 6 times in one calendar year.
  7. Be known professionally as a model for work and life balance.
  8. Try out blogging on professional topics (at least 10 posts).
  9. Participate in at least one endurance exercise event.

Happy New Year 2014!

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We wanted to share what we’ve been up to the last few years!Image

Jon graduated from UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy in May 2012 and started working as a Data Visualization Analyst for Aspire Public Schools (a charter school network with schools in CA and TN) soon after. He’s still at Aspire enjoying his work, and was recently selected for a national Public Leaders Fellowship with Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE).

Jess left her job at Teach For America in 2011 to begin working full-time at an organization we helped start back in 2008/2009, Great Oakland Public Schools (often called GO Public Schools), an education advocacy organization. She’s the Managing Director there and has


enjoyed the last two and a half years, which included the chance to dip her toes back into the political world with GO’s support of three school board candidates in 2012 who all won their seats in landslide victories. She’s been enjoying attending the high school graduation ceremonies and writing college recommendation letters for her former 6th grade students. She recently graduated from Leadership Oakland and serves as the Chair of the board for Camp Phoenix, a summer camp serving low-income Oakland kids.

The last few years we have found ourselves incredibly lucky to enjoy traveling, which is one of our favorite things and most important priorities. We’ve visited South Africa, run a half marathon in Bermuda (where Jess lived as a


child), spent a few great weekends at Lake Tahoe, enjoyed watching wedding ceremonies for friends all over the country from NYC to Austin to Alabama, watched sunsets in Maui, taken our annual wine country trip every March to Sonoma, saw Jon’s little brother, Kieran,  graduate from high school in New Jersey, and enjoyed glaciers and freezing snorkeling on a cruise to Alaska. We also make sure to not miss a year of attending at least one Auburn football game, and we had the time of our lives seeing Auburn win the National Championship in Arizona in 2010. We look forward to being in Pasadena in January 2014 to see Auburn try again for another championship.

ImageAnd, last but certainly not least, we are so excited to be growing our little family by one in June 2014! The pregnancy has been an exciting time for us and (knock on wood) not too tough on Jess so far. Our cats Barnum & Bailey are very excited to be becoming a big brother and big sister. We’re looking forward to taking a trip to Kauai in March to spend some fun time together before our new addition arrives.

In anticipation of Baby Stewart (and because we were very ready for a kitchen that fit both of us at the same time), we’ve moved and are now in the Laurel District of Oakland. Email us if you’d like the new address.


Jonathon, Jessica, Barnum, Bailey, & Baby Stewart

Candlelight Vigil for Trayvon Martin

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Dr. King


More photos from the vigil: http://bit.ly/TrayvonOak.

Tonight in Oakland

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Tonight in Oakland

Tonight, we walked a few miles from our apartment to the Trayvon Martin Candlelight Vigil. En route, I decided to capture some of the sights. Oakland has a particular reputation in the media and across the country. These photos are a little peek into this slice of the city on this one night.

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