Category Archives: Making a Difference

Keeping Our Eyes Above The Waves

AN EXCEPTIONAL LEADER

Over the past few days, as we’ve watched Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ronald S. Johnson step in to take over security operations in the midst of this past week’s civil unrest in Ferguson, MO, it’s become obvious that he is a truly exceptional person. The immediate good news in this, as reported in a related Washington Post article, is that Johnson’s first day on the job resulted in “Hugs, kisses and a night of peace (replacing) tear gas and unrest.” The more long-term and more challenging part of this is that Captain Johnson is, in fact, exceptional. If all of our nation’s leaders would emulate Johnson’s conduct, thus making him the rule rather than the exception, our country could be vastly improved.

AN EXEMPLARY LEADER

A great way to begin learning how to go about this emulation would be by looking at statements Captain Johnson made in Friday’s (August 14, 2014) press conference and most importantly, by looking at his responses to the questions he received. The comments that I found to be most meaningful in this regard are outlined as follows: Continue reading

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Filed under community, Current Events, faith, leadership, Making a Difference, race

Single Moms – Mapping Their Son’s Masculine Journey

THE MASCULINE HEART

Wild HeartOn a recent vacation, while driving round trip from Southwest Washington to Northwest Wyoming, I finally managed to finish a book a friend had loaned me this past winter. It was The Way of the Wild Heart, by John Eldredge. It’s a follow-up to another of Eldredge’s best-sellers, Wild at Heart.

The subtitle of Wild at Heart is: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul. Its back cover expands on that by saying: “In Wild at Heart, John Eldredge invites men to recover their masculine heart, defined in the image of a passionate God.” In the book, Eldredge lays out three main longings of every male on their journey in life. Each man longs for: A battle to fight, An adventure to live and A beauty to rescue. In The Way of the Wild Heart, Eldredge expands on this theme by noting six major phases of a man’s life: Beloved Son, Cowboy (or Ranger), Warrior, Lover, King and Sage. This book’s main point is that God wants to come and father us through each of these stages. The key underlying theme, though, is the vital role earthly fathers and male mentors are meant to play in accomplishing this.

SHOWING THE WAY Continue reading

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Filed under Family, Fathers, God, Making a Difference, Single-Moms, sons

Keeping America’s Social Fabric Intact

Securing the Legacy of the Greatest Generation – Part Four

DESPERATE NEED

In Part Three of this series, Get Out of the Villages!, I talked about Baby Boomers and others stepping up to make a positive difference with America’s kids today as a desperately needed contribution in Repairing America’s Social Fabric. Certainly, that desperate need exists in other aspects of American culture too. With this article, I want to acknowledge an instance of this job getting done through keeping America’s social fabric intact. It’s the exemplary job of role model and true American hero being done by a fellow-Baby Boomer, the leader of the Lieutenant Dan Band, Gary Sinise. Continue reading

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Filed under America’s founding ideals, Baby Boomers, community, Making a Difference

Get Out of The Villages!

Securing the Legacy of the Greatest Generation – Part Three

Going Out With a Boom

Question: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time. That’s the approach I’m taking in tackling the question I raised at the end of Part Two in this series – i.e. How do we go about meeting present-day challenges through reacquiring Greatest Generation values that, for the most part, are missing today?

A BETTER WAY

The “bite” I want to chew on with this article contains the values associated with how we raise our children. In Part Two of this series, I exemplified the different values that made up that part of our social fabric in the heyday of the Greatest Generation with the following overview:

“Children were raised by their families. When they got up in the morning, both Mom and Dad were there to parent them and care for them. When they went off to school, they went with kids from families in the neighborhood who knew each other. Their transportation to and from school was on foot through neighborhoods where a caring adult was present in most homes. Their teachers and other school staff knew the kids and their families. The same was true with extracurricular activities. At the end of the day, there was no warehousing of kids at a “daycare”. Babysitting was an exceptional activity, typically to afford parents a couple of hours to go out to dinner, etc. and even then, the babysitting was usually done by a relative or neighbor who knew the kids well.”

A BETTER ATTITUDE

Wow! How can we possibly reacquire a set of values like that, values that have become so very different today?! I suggest that, to find the answers related to this, we need to begin by adopting the attitude the Greatest Generation took in facing the overwhelming challenges brought on by WWII. In Part One of this series, I described this as a mindset that, unlike today, meant the average Joe or Jane lived their lives with a true other-oriented sense of community, rather than just being focused on “What’s in it for me? When our nation was threatened by the Axis nations of WWII, that mentality was evidenced through everyone putting their personal aspirations on hold for as long as was necessary to meet the crisis at hand.

That, obviously, was a winning mentality. But, perhaps, you’re thinking, “Of course, subordinating one’s own dreams was necessary to deal with the plight represented by WWII but we’re not coping with anything on a par with that today.” To that, I would say, “Really?!” Just think of the many ways, since the Greatest Generation were in their prime, in which our social fabric has unraveled, bearing tragic results on the level of the topic I focused on in Part Two of this series … School Shootings. Just looking at three of the five areas I outlined in that article, to exemplify what communities were like prior to the unraveling I mention, consider the ongoing deterioration of these things: Continue reading

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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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Filed under character, commitment, Family, Heaven, Love, Making a Difference

Mount Rushmore Worthy

rushmore

In a recent article, entitled President Washington’s Day, I proposed changing from a Presidents Day, which celebrates all U.S. presidents past and present, to a President’s Day … President George Washington’s Day, to recognize Washington as the one who exemplifies true greatness in the office of president. Although I believe that Washington did clearly set the standard for true greatness in that office, it doesn’t mean that he is the only president deserving of being honored for true greatness. With that said, it does beg the question, how does one measure true greatness among the 44 who have held the office of U.S. President?

It struck me that, to answer this question, a good place to start might be to take a look at the criteria used to select the presidents whose statues appear on Mount Rushmore. In doing that, you find that Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who conceived the idea of the Mount Rushmore Memorial, defined his concept by saying:

“The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”

These four criteria … founding, expansion, preservation and unification … aren’t necessarily the best and only way to gauge true greatness among those who had served as U.S. President up to the time of the Mount Rushmore Memorial’s dedication in 1936. However, it would be most difficult to argue with the choices that Borglum made – i.e. Washington for founding, Jefferson for expansion, Theodore Roosevelt for preservation and Lincoln for unification. Of course, both expansion and unification are criteria that could come into play again. But, preservation is the one that seems to have the most ongoing significance. Since I see preservation as being at the heart of Here I Raise My Ebenezer’s aim to serve as a platform for presenting views that support America’s founding ideals, that is the basis I’ll use here, in considering which presidents, who have served since 1936, have shown true greatness that would merit their being added to the Mount Rushmore Memorial.

As I also noted in the article entitled President Washington’s Day, there are two presidents who have served since 1936  who have so dishonored the office that I would object to their being honored in this way. These are Nixon and Clinton. Likewise, I see it as inappropriate to include those who may have been great at getting elected but who were inferior leaders. My list here includes: Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Carter and Obama. That leaves Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43.

reagan2

For me, the clear and obvious choice is President Ronald Reagan. Preservation and restoration of America’s founding ideals were hallmarks of his administration. He took on the leadership of an America that had been diminished by that waste of a war in Vietnam, the shame of Watergate and the socioeconomic malaise that ensued. And, without pointing the finger of blame at any predecessor, he inspired our return to socioeconomic wellbeing by leading us towards an America that he always described as “a shining city on a hill.”

rushmore with reaganOf course, I understand that not everyone will agree with my assessment here. If you, at least, agree that, in honoring those who have served as U.S. President, it’s important for us to only recognize those who exemplify true greatness, whether or not you agree with my criteria for selection or the list of those I’d exclude from consideration or my list of those I’d include for consideration or my ultimate selection of President Reagan, I’d like to hear from you. Likewise, if you are in agreement with my process and my conclusion, I’d welcome hearing your added thoughts on the topic.

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Filed under greatness, ideals, leadership, Making a Difference, Presidents, United States, values

President Washington’s Day

washington04072012

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