Category Archives: character

Doing What’s Right

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“Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Recently, I noticed this quote from our 26th President displayed at the entrance to an elementary school Fifth Grade classroom. As I read it, my immediate thought was, “I wish that was a common attitude with today’s politicians.”

Although “Teddy” Roosevelt is honored as one of America’s best presidents, I recognize that even he, most likely, didn’t always live up to the ideal indicated by his “do what’s right” quote. But, at least, “do what’s right” was one of Roosevelt’s stated ideals. And, surely, that ideal was shared by many of his political contemporaries. Likewise, I’m confident that this was an ideal commonly held by American politicians prior to the T.R. era, going back to the founding of the U.S. Even as recently as the turn of the current century, at least some politicians held to this ideal, as indicated by the well-known signature line of Former Congressman J.C. Watts Jr., who said,jc watts

“Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking.There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.”

Today it seems that with one political issue after another it is sadly evidenced that, most often, the “do what’s right” ideal isn’t in play at all. Rather than belabor this by reviewing every applicable issue I can think of (Associated Press phone records scandal, ATF “Fast and Furious” scandal, Forsaking the liberty our sacrifice gained for the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo prisoner exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, IRS political targeting scandal, James Rosen phone and email records scandal, Syria foreign policy fiasco, Ukraine foreign policy fiasco, Veterans Affairs scandal, etc.), let me illustrate my point by using details related to just one of today’s hottest political issues … The investigation of the terrorist raid on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. Continue reading

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Filed under America’s founding ideals, character, community, Current Events, ideals, Judeo-Christian values, politics

A Housewarming Gift In Heaven

Nancy Gary Dick Backyard

MY BIG BROTHER

This past Friday morning, we got the news that my big brother had passed away overnight, near where he lived, in Alabama. When our big sister broke the news to our nearly 95-year-old mother, the words of comfort I offered her included: “Thank you for giving me as good of a big brother as a guy could ask for and thank you for pointing all your kids to Jesus.” My comfort during this time lies in knowing that that’s where my brother is now … at home in Heaven with Jesus. As a result, more than I would ordinarily, I’ve found myself considering what things are like in Heaven.

My Big BrotherChester Richard (Dick) Wiram is my big brother. Of course, there’s a lot I could tell you about him. If you’d like to know some of his biography, I recommend starting with his obituary, that appeared in our hometown newspaper. What I’d really like to tell you about, though, is a bit about the kind of guy he was and how he impacted my life.

BROTHERS?!

When he passed away, Dick was close to 70 years old. I’m nearing 67 so that means Dick got the first three years of his time here on Earth to himself, without the responsibility of being my big brother. If he was still here with us, I expect that he would refer to that time as “the good old days”.

Isn’t that the way it is with brothers? You can say and do things with each other that you couldn’t get away with if it was anyone else. But, you can do so with your brother because it’s usually done in jest and because of the love you share. Dick was great at that. I told my wife, Ruth; it seemed that Dick had done that by taking our Dad’s wry sense of humor and developing it to a whole new level. Continue reading

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Dwight Howard And The Blessing of Life

The latest in our ongoing series on American Heroes and Idols

By: Michael Beckman

Cross-Posted From: Tales from a tribble

Dwight HowardAs a big Rockets basketball fan, I was very excited along with the rest of Houston fans when the Rockets signed center Dwight Howard as a free agent in July of 2013.  The Rockets had just signed the best center in the NBA to go along with another super star of the Rockets, James Harden.  This dynamic duo would surely be fun to watch, and it has been.  The Rockets are now one of the best teams in the NBA with a legitimate chance to fight for an NBA Championship.  But more than just acquiring a great basketball player, our city of Houston has been blessed to have a great man join us.

That may be surprising to some because when Dwight decided to sign with the Rockets [especially over his previous team, the Lakers] there was a lot of negative talk that came out about Dwight.  You could read comments on twitter that Dwight was a loser, he was selfish,  he would be a negative on the team, and he didn’t care enough about winning.   Those descriptions about Dwight could not be further from the truth.  None of them apply to this gentleman.  Dwight Howard is a winner, a team player and a big positive to the team, on and off the court.

There is one main reason that the last description of Dwight Howard, that he didn’t care enough about winning, came about.  That is because before the game, during the game and after the game, you will always see Dwight with a smile on his face.  Many basketball fans have taken that to mean he just doesn’t care.  If only they knew the real reason Dwight always has a smile and a positive attitude, even in defeat.  It has nothing to do with Dwight not caring about the game, as he hurts as much as anyone else on the team when they lose a game.  It has to do with life itself.

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President Washington’s Day

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PRESIDENTS’ DAY

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it was traditionally celebrated on February 22, Washington’s actual day of birth. However, according to History.com, the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and others, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

ALL PRESIDENTS, GREAT AND SMALL?!

I think it was a damaging mistake to change from honoring the best of our presidents, as we did when I was growing up, to celebrating them all, as is done today. No doubt, some will say that my lament here is nothing more than me being sentimental about how things were “back in the day” but I truly see this shift as resulting in a loss for our culture. I see it as being akin to the philosophies of “no winners or losers” and “everyone gets a trophy”. With these, in what is likely to have started as a well-intentioned attempt to protect those with lesser abilities from being mistreated, the result is a homogenous society where all are rewarded equally, regardless of what effort is applied to their varying sets of talent. And, since there is no greater reward associated with greater effort and/or greater ability, the incentive to actually strive for greatness has been dramatically diminished. That seems to me like just the opposite of the standard we should be setting in establishing a holiday in recognition of America’s presidents.

Of course, I recognize that some may view Presidents’ Day as just being meant to honor the office. I’m OK with that but I believe most Americans look at Presidents’ Day in the way History.com described it, “… a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.” With that being the case, I ask: Have they all been great and are they all deserving of being honored as such? In looking at the list of 44 U.S. Presidents, I think it’s pretty obvious that the answers to these questions are no and no. As a matter of fact, there have been two in my lifetime who have so dishonored the office that I would object to their being honored with their own holiday. One of these famously said, “I am not a crook.” He was. The other just as famously said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” He did. Ironically, with both of these, if not for their acts which truly dishonored the office, they might have been remembered as among our best presidents, if not among the greatest.

THE GREATEST OF THE GREAT

Thankfully, many of our 44 presidents have been distinguished. But I think there are just a few who were truly great. Chief among them is President Washington. In addition to the fact that he will always hold a unique position, as Father of Our Country, there are many other aspects of his life that can be pointed to as great. Arguably, one of the greatest things about his presidency was something that he didn’t do. He could have become King George I of the USA or U.S. President for lifetime. But, in keeping with the objectives set forth in the U.S. Constitution, that were ‘in order to form a more perfect union”, Washington willingly relinquished his presidential authority in 1796, at the end of his second term. In an article entitled The Wisdom of George Washington, Hoover.org provides the following comparison to illustrate how very exceptional this act was:

The world’s most generous prize money is attached not to the Nobel Prize but to the Mo Ibrahim Prize, awarded for good governance in Africa, as determined by a very simple test: a democratically elected leader who actually leaves office at the end of his term. The winner receives five million dollars plus two hundred thousand dollars a year for life. The 53 African nations yielded one claimant in 2011, but none for the two years previous. The precedent set by George Washington has not been easy to establish elsewhere, prize money or not.

With this in mind, rather than continuing with a Presidents’ Day that honors all U.S. presidents past and present, I’d like to see us return to honoring George Washington, as the Father of Our Country and as the U.S. President who set the standard for true greatness in that office. Whether we do this on the third Monday in February or on February 22, Washington’s actual day of birth, doesn’t matter to me. What does matter to me is preserving America’s founding ideals. As this relates to the subject at hand, I see it as inappropriate to include those who may have only been great at getting elected but who were inferior leaders, when we set aside a special day in appreciation of the office of U.S. President. Rather, I see it as most fitting to observe a President’s Day … President Washington’s Day, to recognize the one who showed the most honor to the office through greater effort applied to greater ability, as our nation’s leader.

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Filed under character, democracy, Government, greatness, ideals, leadership, Liberty, Making a Difference, Presidents, United States

Sizing People Up

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A few months ago, I heard Pastor Dave Rolph start his Sunday morning teaching on Matthew 7-1:6 with an anecdote about people watching. Comments in his opening remarks included: “People watching. It’s fun. It’s really easy to read people and categorize them. But sometimes you can be really wrong.” To illustrate this, he told the following story:

One Sunday morning, when he was an Assistant Pastor at another church and he was with a group of Pastors who had gathered to count the Offering, he started talking about, Pastor Don, a widower on staff who had a new girlfriend. Other Pastors talked about how beautiful she was but Dave said, “Yeah, you know, but there’s something weird about her. The way she looks at you is kind of strange. You ever notice they always sit on the front row, like they just want to be seen? But the creepiest thing is, you guys, if you notice, when you’re up there praying at the pulpit, she starts to bow her head and then she just stares at you. She’s like obsessed with you the whole time you’re praying and then, right at the end of the prayer, she bows her head like she had her head bowed the whole time. That’s just weird.” Then, a couple of the other Pastors joined in agreement, saying, “Yeah, that’s strange!” Shortly after that, Pastor Don arrived to help with the counting. Of course, the other Pastors changed the subject and as they did that, Don mentioned, “My girlfriend, Leslie, because she’s deaf, …” With that, of course, the gossiping Pastors realized, as Pastor Dave said, “She sits on the front row because she reads lips! She stares at you while you’re praying because she’s reading your lips and she looks kind of funny because she’s just intently reading what it is that you’re trying to say.” Continue reading

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Above Reproach

Christie Press CongerenceThis past Thursday, in addressing a scandal in his administration, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie conducted himself in a way I’d like to see emulated by every government official. Not surprisingly, political pundits are weighing in with their views on various ramifications of this crisis. The impact of this on Christie’s potential 2016 run for U.S. President seems to be chief among these observations. I believe it’s thanks to this mentality, fomented by the press and how this influences government officials (especially the elected ones), that forthright behavior, like this example of Governor Christie’s, has become so rare in our public office holders.

A little over six years ago, in an article entitled Honest Politician , I discussed the sad reality that this term, Honest Politician, is accepted as an oxymoron in America. This is a key reason why, since that time, I’ve chosen to withdraw from my once fairly active role in politics. However, that decision was based on what I saw happening throughout the political spectrum, not just at the national level. In fact, the “straws that broke the camels back” in my case came more from experiences in local politics. And, to a great degree, they involved individuals I’ve supported, who I thought were well aligned with my views. It’s not that I expected perfection from these individuals but I did expect that, when blunders were made, they would own up to them. Sadly, what I saw were some really bone-headed decisions being made and these were accompanied by a complete unwillingness to admit to any errors in judgment. Added to this was the disappointment of seeing those with whom I’d placed my trust being willing to associate with anyone who could offer them some political advantage, no matter how despicable the ally is otherwise. Frankly, I just got to a point where I could no longer stomach having any part in this.

So, maybe American politicians are getting what they deserve with “Honest Politician” being accepted as an oxymoron. But, what about the American public, are we getting what we deserve? I have to say, “I think so.” One of the most recent glaring examples of this was having President Obama repeatedly state, “We will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period.” He, clearly, knew this wasn’t true every time he said it and yet he hasn’t owned up to that. Furthermore, he’s taken no corrective action regarding the circumstances that led him to do something so foolish and harmful to so many. I’ve been encouraged that, in response to this, according to recent CNN/ORC polling, a growing majority of Americans are finding President Obama to not be trustworthy or honest. But, let’s not forget, it hasn’t been that long since we twice-elected an adulterous Presidential Candidate who dodged the culpability of his philandering by questioning the meaning of what the word “is” is. And yet, instead of mocking and rejection, many still regard him as a heroic figure.

If we are getting what we deserve in this regard, I say, “It doesn’t have to remain that way.” When you think about it, we’re actually getting what we are letting ourselves deserve. So, I say, “Let’s change that!” Let’s stop putting up with American politicians dodging the truth by letting them debate what the meaning of the word “is” is. Let’s stop accepting allegory, as an excuse for not being genuine. And, by all means, let’s continue to express skepticism with things that don’t seem credible. But, shouldn’t we, at least, allow the possibility of an American politician saying what they mean and meaning what they say? If we don’t, what is their incentive to do so? Moreover, shouldn’t we be demanding this of our politicians instead of just accepting that, in our nation, “Honest Politician” is an oxymoron? By doing so, I think we end up deserving better and thus, getting better. So, whether or not you endorse any other thing about Chris Christie, I say it’s to our benefit to laud him for his courageous handling of the current scandalous crisis in his administration.

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Play Mean but Play Clean

dick-butkus-coverWhat comes to mind for you when you hear the name Dick Butkus? Immediately, I think along the lines of the caption on this Sports Illustrated cover … “Dick Butkus of the Bears – The most feared man in the game (NFL Football)”. No doubt, many others (especially those of my generation) share that same first thought. And, there’s ample justification for that line of thinking. The 6 ft 3 in, 245 lb Butkus, was known as one of the most feared and intimidating linebackers during his nine years as a player for the Chicago Bears.

Next, you may think of Dick Butkus as a celebrity endorser and actor. That’s my next thought too. And, here too, there’s plenty of good reason for thinking that way. The “most feared man in the game” persona of this Pro Football Hall of Fame member has been very effective in promoting brand names, from his Miller Lite commercials with Bubba Smith  to his “I’m sorry, Dick Butkus” spots for FedEx. And, Butkus has had numerous roles on TV and in the movies. He was even the namesake for Rocky’s English Mastiff, in both the Rocky and Rocky II movies.

So, if you met him today, wouldn’t you expect to meet a somewhat older version of the Dick Butkus you’ve come to know about over the years? That is, an imposing figure who still lives in his hometown, Chicago, whose time is mostly spent enjoying the leisure activities of retirement, along with some dabbling in the worlds of sports and entertainment. That’s what I thought when my Wife, Ruth and I had the pleasure of meeting him recently at a MarriageTeam Tailgate Party & Auction. I will say that the qualities I expected to find in his makeup all seemed to be present and undiminished. However, I also got to start becoming acquainted with some dimensions of the man that were a pleasant surprise. One of these is a campaign he started, called Play Clean™. It’s a program that encourages teens to “train hard, eat well, and play with attitude”, instead of resorting to illegal steroids. His willingness to take this stand against steroids caused USA Today to comment that Butkus may have a greater impact on the game in his 60s (now 70s) than he did playing in his 20s. Continue reading

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