Robert Morgan’s historical narrative of the massive land expansion that became the American West is well written and interesting. Since I like history, especially 17th and 18th Century American history, I thought this book was a winner before I opened the cover.
Morgan tells the story of the exploration, early settlement, and acquisition of the West—in that order by the way: note that acquisition generally came after Americans were already there—through the lives of major figures who played key roles. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman, James K. Polk, Winfield Scott, Nicholas Trist, Kit Carson and others stand tall (even the relatively short in stature Carson) in this incredible saga of how vast acres, environmental riches, and beauty became the American West.
Manifest Destiny, that ambition that captured the national consciousness in the 19th Century, made its mark. So did a desire for Pacific harbors, river routes to the sea, furs, gold, and other commercial inclinations.
Morgan doesn’t sidestep or gloss over less attractive parts of the story: slavery, Native American displacement and extermination, greed, and self-aggrandizement. All made an impact and all follow us to this day.
The Louisiana Purchase in 1803, British cession of parts of northern North Dakota and Minnesota in 1818, Spanish cession of Florida and parts of Louisiana in 1819, Texas War for Independence in 1836 and annexation in 1845, British cession of Oregon Territory in 1846, Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ceding millions of acres of territory, including California, ending the Mexican-American War in 1848, Gadsden Purchase in 1853. The fledgling United States acquired every acre from the Mississippi River to the Pacific in 50 years. It’s an astounding record of toughness and tenacity, tragedy, some travesty, and triumph.
I can think of no better wrap than to say this book is “A good read.”
Wannabe Presidents of the United States of America must run a grueling gauntlet of presidential election primaries and debates. Part of the experience is proclaiming, defending, and attempting to minimize damage regarding one's "faith" or religion. Are you Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon? And come on now, are you really?
Voters, or at least the public, want to parse every response. Some of this, I contend, is legitimate: voters are trying to understand the candidate's character, or at least I hope that's the motive. Some of this goes over the top: voters are trying to crucify one candidate on his or her altar in order to advance another favored candidate.
But what should we think about presidential candidates' religion? Here's my take on the subject:
Does any religion guarantee, or preclude, a great presidency?
After 46 seasons as head coach at one university and 409 NCAA Division I football victories, the most on record, you wouldn’t think people would think “What if?” But they do.
Paterno’s last season in fall 2011 was marred by horrible allegations of sexual abuse against boys perpetrated over several years by former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. Paterno was accused of acting legally but minimally (after he’d heard about the allegation from an assistant coach who says he witnessed an incident of Sandusky’s abuse of a 10 year old boy in a PSU football locker room shower). Paterno is accused of not doing enough morally and of being ultimately responsible. So November 9, 2011, Paterno was summarily fired as head football coach.
No matter how you slice this story it is sad, egregiously so. It is heart wrenching for the number of youthful victims of perverted sex. It is sad for their families then and now. It’s sad for a university that, though clearly culpable through the inactions and misdirection of its administrators—or perhaps also for allowing a culture of invincibility to develop around a sport—is still largely peopled by individuals whose interest is in learning and in the other good things that come from a school with this level of quality. There’s more than enough blame and collateral damage to go around.
It’s sad for Joe Paterno and his family. Sure, there are those who say they don’t care, that Paterno deserves all he got and more, and that nothing compares to the hurts of the real victims. Who can disagree at least with the last point?
But if Paterno, based on what we know now, is responsible for leadership. “The buck stops here,” Harry Truman said, than how does this play out? Do we dismiss as meaningless Paterno’s life of consistent integrity and investment in young men? If Paterno were a participant in the abuse, I’d say “Yes.” But given that he was not, that he reported what he’d heard to his superiors, and that he trusted them to do their jobs, I’d say “No.” It’s not justifiable to denigrate Paterno or his accomplishments beyond the right/wrong of his sins of omission in this case.
I’m not saying this because I’m a football fan or a Paterno fan, per se. I’m saying this because I think accountability and certainly retribution should fit the indiscretion or failure. Paterno failed for not getting it, for not going ballistic on Sandusky or PSU administrators, for not calling the police.
But he did not, as far as we know at this time, commit a crime, hurt children, or act dishonorably, even when the PSU Board made Paterno the scapegoat and gutlessly and tactlessly fired him by phone.
I am glad the A.D., a V.P., and the President were all fired. They deserved it because they did not act on information given to them. They may have covered up. Paterno did neither. And I’d say that if the buck stops at the top, some of the Board leadership should also go. They handled the crisis poorly at best.
So for all Paterno’s legitimate football achievements, for all his admirable coaching impact upon a long list of known and little known people, for all that’s amazing and good in his story, his death leaves business unfinished. He departs with questions hovering in the air. He leaves us wondering what he would have said and what he yet could have contributed to the trial that is to come for Jerry Sandusky.
Paterno goes to his reward with us wishing he’d been able to stay around a little longer and help us make sense of a tragedy. It’s not about his legacy, as he would have said, but about finding truth and justice that can begin to make us whole again.
Italian cruise captain Francesco Schettino apparently deviated off course as a favor to his headwaiter. Then he came too close to land and allowed his cruise ship, Costa Concordia, to run aground with 4200 passengers on board.
Bad scene. Some 11 people are dead and, with more missing, the potential for the count to increase still remains.
If this isn’t bad enough, we learn the captain abandoned his ship while passengers, perhaps several hundred, remained in danger on board. The Italian Coast Guard reached him somehow by phone, leaving a recording of the wayward captain arguing plaintively with the Coast Guard official’s order to get back on board, now, and help the passengers. Add to this, scores of passengers’ stories of utter chaos along with a crew that variously tried to help or themselves abandoned ship and you have an amazing failure of leadership.
We don’t yet know the whole truth about what happened on this cruise ship. Nor do we know why the captain acted in such an un-captain-like manner. But it’s obvious to anyone who’s paid attention. This is an example of how not to lead.
The best leaders lead. They assume and maintain responsibility. They act ethically, morally, and conscientiously to the extent of their knowledge and ability--and sometimes beyond. They are stewards who think constantly about the people, resources, and mission entrusted to them.
Captains, so the old sea-going saying has it, go down with the ship. This isn’t an irrational death wish. It’s a leader’s honor.
During the 2008 presidential campaign then Senator Barack Obama’s website “won” the beauty pageant with other candidate’s websites hands-down.
And it wasn’t just “beauty” in the sense of a good style and look. It was a fantastic landing page that brought you immediately into a backstage video one on one with the candidate. Then you heard him announced, got a glimpse of the raving crowd, and “followed” him up the stairs to the podium. You were there. You experienced the excitement. How could you not get enthused and vote for this candidate?
President Obama’s 2008 campaign also set new standards in using the Internet to raise funds and get out the word. In 2012, the current crop of Republican Party presidential candidates is pushing the Internet’s political envelope again.
Clearly, one way to get to know presidential candidates is to visit their websites. Obvious enough.
But you learn more than what the candidate thinks about given issues. You learn something about either their creativity/vision or perhaps the creativity/vision of their webmasters. Of course some of this is a function of available resources. But whatever the source, presidential candidate websites are a lot alike yet can vary dramatically.
Of 7 Republican candidates (counting Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman who’ve now dropped from the race) and President Obama, 5 websites used Landing Pages, 6 offered a Store where campaign items can be purchased, and 3 presented some kind of blog.
--Ron Paul’s site features a large inset box in which a counter works continuously before your eyes tallying gifts to his campaign. In addition, donors’ names and residences are listed as in Rex Rogers, Grand Rapids, MI. Both the dollar total and the names change rapidly. Eye-catching.
--Another Ron Paul distinction: his site includes a fairly lengthy Statement of Faith, like one might find on a preacher’s, author’s, or Christian college president’s website.
--President Obama’s site not only asks for volunteers to host events, the site lists numerous examples of the kinds of events a Vol can sponsor. Good seed-sowing. And, like 2008, the site is classy and well organized.
--Mitt Romney’s site uses a landing page, features more space as opposed to overwhelming text which makes the site more visually appealing, and creatively uses icons.
--Newt Gingrich’s site features his wife in a section called “Callista’s Canvas.” Actually, Newt has a couple of sites marketing both his campaign and also his books and their company called Gingrich Productions.
--One interesting thing about this bunch of Republican presidential wannabes is the number of children the candidates have:
Michele Bachmann, 5 along with 23 foster kids;
Rick Santorum, 7;
Jon Huntsman, 7 including 2 adopted;
Mitt Romney, 5;
Ron Paul, 5;
Newt Gingrich 2;
Rick Perry, 2.
That’s a lot of kids. The Obamas have 2 girls.
Candidate videos telling their personal stories range, at least the ones I identified, from about 1:00 minute to well over 5:00 minutes.
So, when it’s said and done I give the website creativity prize to Ron Paul. Stands to reason, I guess. He is the maverick in this campaign.
Aging usually isn't on people's top ten list of things they want to do, or experience. But as they say, "It's better than the alternative."
Aging comes to us all, great and small. Ancient and wise King Solomon spent a lifetime thinking about what mattered in life. One of his conclusions? "Gray hair is a crown of splendor," (Proverbs 16:31). In other words, he thought advancing age came with some benefits. So do I.