55: Craig Pomranz on Respecting and Empowering Children


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Craig is an internationally known singer/song-stylist, actor and author.  

His first children’s book Made By Raffi is published in 8 languages and 11 countries to date by UK publishers Quarto and their imprint, Frances Lincoln.

Made by Raffi can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all book retailer sites.

Inspired by Made by Raffi composers Amanda McBroom (Bette Midler’s award-winning song “The Rose”) and Michele Brourman (The Land Before Time series) have written the song “Different”.   You can find it on youtube and of course Craig’s youtube channel.

His popular CDs “More Than A Seasonal Thing” and “My Heart Don’t Skip A Beat” are heard on radio stations around the world and available on iTunes, CDBaby and his website www.CraigPomranz.com.  

Originally from St. Louis, MO Craig got his professional start at age 12 performing at The MUNY (the largest outdoor theater in the country).  Craig attended Carnegie-Mellon and The Goodman Theatre – The Art Institute of Chicago.

Craig lives in New York City and travels the world performing in nightclubs and theatres. 

Among his awards are New York’s MAC Award for Best Male Vocalist and the TOR Award for best actor in a musical venue.

He is busy working on his next series of books hoping to empower children. 

You can find out more on his website www.CraigPomranz.com.

Follow him on twitter @MadebyRaffi, Instagram #CraigPomranzHere and like Made by Raffi on Facebook.




YOUR HOST: Mike Domitrz is the founder of The Center for Respect where he helps educational institutions, the US Military and businesses of all sizes create a culture of respect throughout their organizations. From addressing consent to helping corporations build a workplace free from fear (reducing sexual harassment and helping employees thrive by treating them with respect every day), Domitrz engages audiences by sharing skill sets they can implement into their lives immediately. As an author, trainer, keynote speaker and coach, Mike Domitrz loves working with leaders at all levels. Learn more at http://www.CenterForRespect.com



Mike Domitrz:                   Welcome to The RESPECT Podcast. I’m your host, Mike Domitrz from mikespeaks.com where we help organizations of all sizes, educational institutions, and the US military create a culture of respect. And respect is exactly what we discuss on this show, so let’s get started.

Mike Domitrz:                   Welcome to this week’s episode of The RESPECT Podcast. Excited to have with us today, Craig Pomranz. He’s an internationally known singer, song stylist and author. I love the word song stylist, so cool. He writes children’s books with the hope he helps empower children. So Craig, thank you so much for joining us today.

Craig Pomranz:                  Thank you for having me.

Mike Domitrz:                   Absolutely thrilled to have you here. And you work with children, particularly I love song stylist. So how is that different than a writer?

Craig Pomranz:                  Well, a song stylist is basically someone who it’s all about interpreting the material that you’re doing. So whether it’s a pop song or an old song, it’s about telling the story in a song is what I do.

Mike Domitrz:                   Oh, very cool. So storytelling through song, I love it.

Craig Pomranz:                  Exactly. That’s what I believe all singers should do.

Mike Domitrz:                   I agree. I mean the songs that stick with us, right, that emotionally attach to us, there’s some story we attach to, some language in there that we’re attaching to that connects to some past history of our own. When I think of singers like Prince, when they passed away, and people go, “Why is it so emotional for some of us?” It’s not that we knew the singer or that we went crazy for the singer, it was that that song at that time in our lives has a memory attached to it. I remember the tough times of high school, junior year, those kind of thoughts, and that’s what it’s taking us to.

Craig Pomranz:                  One of the great experiences of singing live in front of people is as wonderful as that is, it’s always afterwards when someone comes up and you’ve touched that one person who says, “That song meant so much to me because something in my life happened,” and they remember it, and it reminds you of why you do the work you do. It’s wonderful to just sing and entertain and do that for a living, but it’s even more wonderful to know you’ve had an impact on one person.

Mike Domitrz:                   So Craig, who is the most common audience you perform in front of?

Craig Pomranz:                  It’s a wide demographic. Not only because the age range is different, but because in different cities, if I’m in London it’s very different than I’m singing in Chicago.

Mike Domitrz:                   Absolutely. So because you write children’s books, the reason I ask that question is some people could think, “Oh he only sings for children.” So that’s why I wanted to say well what’s the demographic, how can it vary?

Craig Pomranz:                  Yeah. I don’t really sing for … I sing in nightclubs. So in general, no one under 14 is allowed in a club. Although I encourage people to bring younger people because I want to introduce them to the great American songbook that I know. So one of the great experiences I have is being able to mentor young people, to hear songs that they will never hear, except for the obvious ones like Over The Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz. But the great American songbook goes all the way, even the Beatles because they’re so big on other kind of music. So I like to introduce them to expand their knowledge of what music is.

Mike Domitrz:                   I love it. And how do you feel that respect plays a role in music?

Craig Pomranz:                  It’s so layered. I mean I think that not only because you start to … I think respect is all about, and you can help me with this because this is what you do. But I think respect is all about understanding and getting information on an intimate level, so that when you understand what you’re hearing musically, the words and the story that it’s telling, and then you can relate to it and you understand it and therefore you build respect around it, which is hopefully what books do and hopefully what we do. And when we look for respect, a lack of respect is usually ignorance on a topic or ignorance on somebody. You don’t know who that is, you don’t understand it, so the more you understand, then the more you can respect that person or that idea.

Mike Domitrz:                   I love that. And there are people who say there’s music from certain genres or certain artists that is very degrading, disrespectful. And some people would argue, well actually they’re telling the story of where they came from. By them telling that story, you could hear it as promoting violence or promoting degradation, but they’re speaking of a reality they were raised in. And therefore you’re not respecting their world by just saying you can’t talk about the world you grew up in, you can’t speak that way. So it’s an interesting discussion that can happen.

Craig Pomranz:                  It’s a hard one because because a lot of people fall on either side of that topic. So yes, you can listen to the music and then you can sit there and say, “Wait a minute, that’s so anti woman and so negative and blah, blah, blah.” But as you’re saying, until you know why they’re putting that song out there, then you don’t know. So it’s good to try and find out, but that’s not so easy. And because there also is music that’s done just for the provocativeness of it, and that’s not necessarily, “I’m trying to show the world that I live someplace that you don’t know and I want you to experience what I experienced.” So it’s very hard to find that line.

Mike Domitrz:                   Yeah. Very, very true. So that’s why I love having these in depth conversations. And you talk to children through your books, through your children’s books. What are ways that you think we can help teach respecting of differences? Because what we just referred to is a difference of understanding potentially of what those lyrics are trying to say. So how do we respect differences?

Craig Pomranz:                  Well, I think as we’re talking is that it’s to take the time to try and understand where that person comes from, I guess empathy is the best way to put it, I guess. Because ignorance is the problem. In this day and age especially, it’s so easy to make an immediate designation about something, an immediate response to something, rather than take a minute, take a breath and try and think about and be thoughtful where that information has come from and how it’s being delivered to really understand it so that you can respect that person’s view on something without attacking them.

Mike Domitrz:                   Right. Having empathy versus tolerance. Right. There’s a big difference. To tolerate doesn’t mean I have to understand you at all.

Craig Pomranz:                  I actually don’t like the word tolerance.

Mike Domitrz:                   Same here. That’s what I’m saying. I’m not a fan of it because it doesn’t mean I have to understand you. It just means I tolerate you, which is not a kind place to be at all, really.

Craig Pomranz:                  No, it’s absolutely, I find it very negative and yeah, it’s like, “I don’t really have to know what you’re about. I’ll just tolerate your existence for whatever reason.” Because immediately it’s I’m supposed to or I should or something rather than start to really understand how things differ.

Mike Domitrz:                   And in your work, before we did the show here [inaudible 00:07:05] discuss this. One of the things was respecting children. I think this is one that falls into that. People go, “Well I can tolerate kids, but I don’t care for kids.” How do parents, caretakers, teachers, why do you think some find it hard to respect children? Like they love children, but that doesn’t mean they respect children, which is a false understanding of love. But they’ll say, “I love my kids,” but man, they seem to struggle to respect them or give them respect of boundaries.

Craig Pomranz:                  I don’t believe that things change. I think human nature is human nature throughout time. But society changes and the expectations change and they’re actually quite cyclical. Sometimes we’re a lot more sort of evolved in our ideas and a lot more liberal and sometimes we’re more conservative for whatever reasons. But what I find really hard at this point is we seem to be at least parenting and caregiving in a world that seems so dangerous.

Craig Pomranz:                  It seems to be a problem of protecting a child, which is not necessarily respecting a child. And the other issue that I try and tell parents, which as I often laugh at this since I of course love giving advice to parents since I have no children, but you can’t protect a child really and you have to let them experience life. But we live in a very sort of perceived dangerous society. I mean just look what happened yesterday. So everyone wants to protect their child from danger, but then they also don’t realize that they keep them, not always, but they can keep them from learning and growing and understanding who they are in their own skin because they have all these people surrounding them saying, “No, no, no, no, no or be careful, be careful, be careful,” and rules that don’t necessarily apply to them as they grow older.

Mike Domitrz:                   And it’s important for our listeners to know, because the show can air months after we record, that what you’re referencing there was another school shooting. So unfortunately this could play three months from now and you could reference that saying yesterday and it’s possible one happened, it’s a sad state of grace we’re in now. What do you think, when we talk about that respecting children, and I agree with you, I do parent programs all over and I said, “Look, the one thing you have to understand as a parent is you don’t have control. You build the foundation and then they build the house. You don’t get to control how that house is built.”

Mike Domitrz:                   And if a parent who says, “I’ve got control over my kids.” Okay, either your kid’s not old enough to tell you what really happened when they were 18 or 17, like when they get to 28 and they go, “Well, let me tell you what really happened.” Right? So even parents, you think you’re hearing everything, there’s still something they’re keeping privately because they’re an individual, a private human being. But yeah, or you’re highly misleading yourself that you’re so control oriented that you believe you have it when the fact is you just don’t, they’re their own human being. If you had total control, then every child would be exactly like their parent because they would make all the same choices their parent would make because the parent have total control. We know that’s not true. You don’t have control.

Craig Pomranz:                  That is so true and that is so difficult. It’s easy to say and we should be trying to learn how to communicate with each other as well as our children. Right? But the problem is communication means different things to different people. And it’s very hard for some people to communicate things when they don’t feel trusted, when they don’t feel respected or when they feel like, “Oh I’m going to make that person angry.” And yet those are part of the skins that you have to try on to become a whole person. So you have to somehow allow that to happen for your children, not to your children, but for them.

Mike Domitrz:                   Yeah, and I think it’s a really powerful discussion because I can hear a few people, I can picture a few people right now who might be listening, thinking, “Well wait a second. I know you’re saying I can’t control my kids. I know I have to let them live their life. But how is that disrespecting them by me trying to protect them?” And you said it, you’re right. You cannot protect your kids 100% and the more you try to protect, the more you are in a control mode versus a teaching, a supporting and empowering mode.

Craig Pomranz:                  And I think in general parents have the right idea, that intellectually they understand guide and let go. This is what I’m doing. I’m guiding you, I’m giving you some parameters and then I have to let you go. But the letting go is very difficult, especially and when in general, and I mean I think in general when kids start to become teenagers and start to have their own say and start to rebel just for their own sake, you start to lose track of like, “Wait, wait, I’m going to guide you harder. The guidelines are closing in.” Instead of allowing them to, as long as they’re not hurting themselves, you have to let them explore what life is for them and how different it may be from who you are.

Mike Domitrz:                   Yes. And it’s tough. I mean what you said there is so brilliant, that the more they push back, the more we want to grab control. I certainly made that mistake at times as a parent, and it’s interesting with every child you learn, right? So some kids will go, “Oh the youngest was treated differently than I.” Yeah, because I made mistakes. And that’s where parents fail to admit that like, “Yes, you are correct because you taught me this lesson that I didn’t want to repeat the mistake of again going forward.” And in some ways that sucks, right? Because they went through the harder part of it by me not understanding fully, but other times they were able to do things their younger weren’t because we also didn’t have the education in what was happening. So there’s a bending back and forth in every direction.

Craig Pomranz:                  Well, because it reminds you of yourself. So it’s like you go through these things, and if something positive or negative happens, it reflects on what you remember as you were a kid. And you start to think, “Well, my feeling, I want to either protect them so that they don’t feel as horrible as I felt, or I want to make it better for them because I didn’t get what I wanted, what I perceive as what I wanted when I was praised.” And that’s hard. That’s hard, because really letting go and letting them have these experiences on their own is a difficult thing.

Mike Domitrz:                   Yeah, it’s powerful. So how do you help a child’s voice be heard?

Craig Pomranz:                  Well, first of all, if it’s a young child, you go down to their level physically and you look at them face to face. I think that’s a really important, very specific issue. And as far as, I mean, that would go for I guess any child. But you look at someone face to face and you listen to what they say, and before you respond, you have to allow them the right to say what they have to say and see if you can understand and question them about, really question them.

Craig Pomranz:                  Which I think a lot of parents, it’s hard because you don’t want to invade privacy and a lot of kids don’t want to divulge their privacy. It’s a problem, it’s an issue and … it’s not a problem, it’s an issue. But what I find is true is that the willingness to converse, the willingness to communicate always, always benefits everybody. Because then down the road, even the things that you’re not told immediately, this is why I write these children books for such a young age, is because the impact is there at a very young age and they know growing up they’re always able to at some point come to you for something.

Mike Domitrz:                   So what are the challenges of raising a child who exhibits behavior out of the norm? You brought up, “Well as long as they’re not hurting themselves.” And what if a parent’s saying, “Well this could lead to them hurting themselves or it is hurting themselves?”

Craig Pomranz:                  Well, I think that when there’s physical danger, I think obviously that’s when you can go in. But I think that if you can be supportive, which is different than tolerating again and different than encouraging. I don’t encouraging behavior or tolerating behavior is a good thing. But supporting behavior helps everyone understand where everyone is at. And if the child feels supported, then they’re less likely to feel teased or bullied because they will be able to have more security in their own self. And I think what we all long for is for a child to be whole in themselves and have enough self-assurance that whatever they do, the outside forces, they’ll roll off their back because they say, “Look, I’m my own person and I can do this and I have the support behind me.”

Mike Domitrz:                   So what is some language you could give parents for helping with that? Some ways they can either stop and think in those moments and or wording they can actually use in those moments.

Craig Pomranz:                  These are the tough questions, aren’t they? I don’t know. I mean I don’t know if there’s specific language other than being there and being supportive, and the question is how you can be supportive, and you can be supportive by listening and not judging. Part of the problem with judging is not even your immediate response, but it’s just sort of like your physical response.

Craig Pomranz:                  If a child is trying to say something to you and you judge it somehow and sort of give them a funny look that makes … they see that. I mean children see everything and I think it’s important to sort of, as I said, be on their physical level and look at them eye to eye and say, “Tell me what’s going on as best as you can,” but without pushing them, because they may only want to tell you so much because something might be embarrassing. And you know something? Embarrassing is okay. “Oh, you didn’t do that? That’s fine. Then let’s see if we can work together to make it better for you. Or if you want to learn to do that on your own, great.” But communication, it’s always about trying to communicate and letting a child know that you’re there, that you’re present is the most important thing I think.

Mike Domitrz:                   That key there is that presence without judgment. Kids will say all the time, “I wish I could talk to my parents. It’s the fear of judgment that stops me from actually doing that.”

Craig Pomranz:                  Well, there’s also the aspect of a child who’s like, “Well I don’t want to tell my parents that.” I mean because there are obviously the intimate personal things that are just, people are afraid to share. I mean, as I said, I don’t have children, but I have a lot of children in my life, and many of them come to me first before they go to their parents to talk about the intimate things that they’re too embarrassed to talk to their parents about.

Mike Domitrz:                   Yes. And that’s common. And I think people think, “What did I do wrong as a parent?” Look, it’s not bad. And some parents will be like, “My kid tells me everything.” But that’s one kid. That doesn’t mean all your kids. If you had three or four, that doesn’t mean all of them would. You have one that does.

Craig Pomranz:                  And it doesn’t mean that they won’t come back to you for other things. It just means that for this particular subject or this particular thing, they’re more comfortable stepping outside.

Mike Domitrz:                   Yeah. Yes. So, so true. So what is something that you feel parents, we don’t discuss enough that we need to, that we need to be having the discussion of?

Craig Pomranz:                  I think parents don’t discuss feelings and intimacy and certainly sexuality. They are terrified of discussing that at a young age, and I think that’s unfortunate. I think everything should be on the table and I think that you don’t have to bring anything up, and certainly when a child does bring it up, then they’re probably ready to discuss it. And if they’re not ready to discuss it, they’re bringing it up because there should be some sort of discussion, whatever that might be. Because they’re trying to tell you that they’re learning something or hearing something or seeing something, and you really, that’s where guidance helps, that they shouldn’t be afraid to bring up a topic that’s uncomfortable and that doesn’t mean you have to go into it in great detail. You have to feel that out for each child because every child is different.

Mike Domitrz:                   Yeah, absolutely. And so, so important for people to realize. So I appreciate that. And where can people … well before we go to your website, because we’re going to do that in a minute here, for you, where is a point in your life where something you experienced, a story that you had in your life that you went through, taught you about respect, either self respect or respect for others?

Craig Pomranz:                  It seemed to happen so many times and a lot when I was younger. I was always sort of a very, I don’t want to be arrogant to say I’m an intuitive person, but as a young kid, adults came to me for advice. I mean I had a neighbor who I was madly in love with and she came to me asking me whether she should get divorced from her husband and I was like, “I’m the wrong person because I love you and your husband is a jerk.” But I think that because I was treated with that kind of respect, that people presumed that I had a certain kind of intuitiveness that that lent me out to sort of pursue that more. I mean I loved, I always talk to the older people and my great grandparents or uncles and things like that because I wanted to hear their stories and see what their lives were like.

Craig Pomranz:                  And I think that I learned from all of that, and then that set me apart and made things difficult for me because I didn’t have a lot of friends when I was a little kid until I started working professionally. And even then, I was out of the norm of kids because I was working all the time. So I didn’t have play friends really. I had friends in the business or friends, and then people thought it was weird. So I had to overcome all those different things to try and find out who I was, and the only thing I remember is being able to trust myself that communicating with these people was such a good thing and that people respected me for my advice or just my conversation actually. I think that the fact that these adults or people older than me and people my age wanted to have conversations with me about life made me feel respected.

Mike Domitrz:                   Yeah, I can see that. That’d be very powerful. When you look back, because I think this helps people understand children too. You said, “Look, I didn’t have a lot of friendships amongst my peers.” For you, what do you think was a reason for that? Because that helps parents to understand that that happens and understand why it can be valuable.

Craig Pomranz:                  And yeah, I think one of the issues we have now is there’s so much pressure on children. And when I was a kid, I was a very shy kid and I wasn’t into sports like everyone else in my town was really, and then I started working when I was 11 years old, so I started working professionally in the theater, so that was already odd. So I think people sort of looked at me askance and were like, “This kid’s really weird.” And I was working all the time so I didn’t have, other than when I was at school and then after school I would go to my religious school and was there every day for a week, and you know. I mean, so I was just sort of on my own sort of studying things and trying to learn things.

Craig Pomranz:                  I don’t think I was hated, but I think that I wasn’t as involved as everyone was in group things. When I did the theater stuff, I started getting involved with all these kids from theater who were also somewhat outcast as it were. So we all found that, I mean, I think one of the remarkable things about my experience is I have friends from my theater group to this day. We’ve just maintained this very close, intimate relationships even if we don’t live next door to each other. And I think that, but the pressures on children are so much more when it comes to education and you have to do this and you have to have friends and you have to … I mean, you shouldn’t have to do anything but live your life and learn and grow, and you shouldn’t have to worry about being popular. You should have to worry about how you are in the world and what you like and enjoy and want to do.

Mike Domitrz:                   I love it. And your book is Made by Raffi, children’s book for all of our listeners, it’s Made by Raffi. It’s been published in eight languages, 11 countries. It’s incredible. What do you think has been the success of Made by Raffi?

Craig Pomranz:                  I think the success is that because everyone has felt different at some point in some time, and one of the interesting facts is the fact that this book is in 11 countries and eight different languages tells you that it crosses all cultures and that human nature is human nature. That we all feel different at some point, at some time, and that if we can find a way to be our selves, our whole authentic self, whatever that means to you, you can have a really nice life and you can overcome a lot of the stresses that we all feel all day, every day.

Mike Domitrz:                   Well, I want to thank you, Craig, for joining us. I want to make sure our listeners know where to find you. Now, of course in our show notes we have all the links, but it’s really as simple as craigpomranz.com. And Pomranz, it spells just like it sounds, P-O-M-R-A-N-Z. So P-O-M-R-A-N-Z, craigpomranz.com. Thank you so much Craig, for joining us.

Craig Pomranz:                  Thank you. And thank you for the work you’re doing because I think it’s very important.

Mike Domitrz:                   Well, I appreciate that. And for all of our listeners, you know what’s coming up next. That is the question of the week. Before I answer this week’s question of the week, I’d love to ask you a question. Would you please subscribe to this podcast, The RESPECT Podcast with Mike Domitrz? By subscribing, you can make a huge impact. Now you might be wondering, “Mike, how does my subscribing to your podcast make a huge impact?”

Mike Domitrz:                   Well, here’s how. For every person that subscribes, it raises the rankings of the show in the search engines. So for people who care about respect, like yourself, when they’re doing a search for podcast, they’re more likely to find the show, thus providing an awesome opportunity for us to spread more respect around this world, and all you do is hit subscribe under your podcast. Plus the second benefit is by subscribing, you automatically get every episode right into your phone or whatever device you’re listening to the podcast on. It happens automatically. So subscribing also makes your life easier.

Mike Domitrz:                   Now, let’s get into this week’s question of the week. Oh, and by the way, you can always ask your questions of the week by joining us on Facebook and our discussion group. It’s called The RESPECT Podcast Discussion Group. Go there on Facebook and ask whatever questions you would like me to answer and or address in this segment of the show, and then listen to each episode to find out when your question is included.

Mike Domitrz:                   This week’s question is, “Mike, what was it like growing up in your home and in your family?” This is a personal question obviously, and it’s one I’m very comfortable answering. And I’m grateful for the parents and the sisters that I grew up with. I’m very grateful. And I know not everybody has a situation where they feel gratitude about that, and so I very much appreciate it and understand that I grew up in a home with two parents who were role models for really believing in what you’re trying to achieve and going for it and really working to make that happen. My mom, growing up, was a very successful coach and she coached me. So I got to see her on a daily experience in club coaching literally daily and how she upheld what she believed and her values and her core beliefs, and how she upheld that to her swimmers, she was a swim coach, and to us, and how true that was at home. The alignment was consistent.

Mike Domitrz:                   I got to watch my dad continually be a leader in his industry and to see how he worked hard in what he believed in. And at the same time he was also there cheering us on at cross country or wrestling or whatever sports I was doing. My sisters each were very successful at whatever they chose to focus on. They were all very successful athletes. I mean, incredibly successful athletes. And so to watch that set a standard of excellence, right? And so it put down a foundation of working hard for what you believe in and creating that work ethic. And here’s if you do work hard, here’s what can happen. And by the way, it doesn’t mean that I worked that hard at the same age as they did at the same things.

Mike Domitrz:                   I wasn’t the committed athlete they were. No way. Later in life when I found my passion and my commitment though, there it aligned and it showed, and I had a foundation from growing up that naturally just kicked in at that moment. I’m so grateful for that and I’m so grateful that I was allowed to be me in my home. I was allowed to be goofy and silly and hyper and energetic and supported along that process. If I wanted to do theater, I did theater. If I wanted to do whatever interest I had, I once auditioned for a TV show called, it was a lip sync TV show back in the ’80s to a song, Punk Polka, that a lot of parents would probably have been looking at their kids like, “What are you doing?” And my parents like, “Okay.” It was so incredibly supportive of which I’m very grateful for.

Mike Domitrz:                   Do you know what I would love? I would love to hear your answer to this week’s question of the week. So would you please answer what your answer would have been if you were asked that question today on the show. All you do is go to our Facebook page. We have a special group where we have these discussions called The RESPECT Podcast Discussion Group. So The RESPECT Podcast Discussion Group, and share with us what would your answer have been to this week’s question of the week, and take a moment, post us a new question for future episodes. What question would you like to hear me answer on an upcoming episode? That’s all done on Facebook in our special group, which is The RESPECT Podcast Discussion Group. Can’t wait to see you there.

Mike Domitrz:                   Thank you for joining us in this episode of The RESPECT Podcast, exploring work, love, and life. And this episode like every episode is brought to you by our organization, The Center for Respect, which you can find it, centerforrespect.com. Of course you can find me your host, Mike Domitrz, at mikespeaks.com. Thank you so much for joining us.


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