Commencement Address USMMA 2012 Part II of II

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Commencement Address USMMA 2012 Part I of II

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On Turning Points: Video Essay for June 10, 2012

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On Turning Points: Essay for June 10, 2012

Great moments in history are most often noted in retrospect. We often do not see the significance of any one action, however large, in its proper perspective without the benefit of time. In politics a day can be can be can lifetime, a week an eternity. What a week it has been. The question I pose is this: Has the week of June 4th been the Waterloo for President Obama and his chances for reelection in November?

I know it is early and so much more can happen but it appears as though the wheels are coming off the wagon for the President. Here are just a few of the leading indicators of despair for him.

First and foremost, Scott Walker not only survived the recall election in Wisconsin, he thrived. It is a clear repudiation of organized public sector labor union thuggery. It also exposed a rift between the private and public sector union rank and file. It is quite a luxury that the public sector unions view municipal budgets as blank checks for their incessant demands while their brothers in the private sector are dependent upon the continued vibrancy of the private companies for whom they work.

But wait, there’s more. Bill Clinton, the Godfather of the Democrats, praised Mitt Romney for his tenure at Bain Capital. He said he did a great job. Of course he had to amend his statements later on but the horse was out of the barn. The jury shall disregard the remarks, as they say. Besides, he later went on to say that median income was down since his administration, an off-handed reminder that the Bush-era tax cuts should remain in effect lest we crush the 98%. The Obama big-bad-businessman reelection narrative was destroyed.

Next, Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, indicated that the Bush-era tax cuts should stay in place lest the economy fall off a cliff, raising the unemployment rate, curtailing consumer spending and bringing on another recession. There goes the Presidents’ “tax the rich” narrative.

Then the employment figures of May were released. A mere 69,000 people got work, tens of thousands more stopped looking for work, and the previous two months of employment statistics, already poor, were revised downward. That shoots the Forward narrative right in the foot.

Finally, reports surfaced in a new book that David Axelrod, campaign strategist to the President, got into fisticuffs with Attorney General Eric Holder over politicization of the Justice Department. Maybe that actually reinforces the “Team of Rivals” concept for the President’s cabinet.
And there is so much more. Did anyone mention that the Supreme Court decision on the Constitutionality of Obamacare should be out before the end of the month? A repudiation of the mandate would reinforce the Mitt Romney narrative that Obama fiddled with his pet project of dubious value while the economy was ignored.

Add to this some polling from Rasmussen that indicates a record number of Americans favor one-party rule in Washington and you have enough elements of a turning point week in the “Run for the White House” that favors the challenger, Mitt Romney. How unlikely did this seem only 2 months ago while the Republican primaries were in full swing and the candidates were talking trash about each other. Quick, name me five other candidates for the nomination. Bet you it took a few seconds. Now, there are reports that liberals will refrain from grassroots support and donating money. They may even stay away from the polls in November. Imagine that.

The battle lines are drawn very clearly. President Obama is pleasing nobody these days. It is a self-inflicted wound for whom he can only blame himself. People on both sides of the aisle are disappointed. The further from the center one gets, right or left, the more the disappointment grows. To the Right, Obama is too much a Marxist-Leninist and should be removed from office because he is not what he purported to be. To the Left, Obama is too little of a Marxist-Leninist and should be removed from office because he is not what he purported to be. It makes you want to scratch your head but I would be pleased with the outcome following each extreme.

In July 1863, General Meade and the Union Army of the Potomac defeated General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg. Today it is clearly perceived as the turning point of the Civil War. It was not as clear at the time. The war continued for nearly two more years at great loss of American treasure. As Kierkegaard once said, “Life must be lived forwards; but it can only be understood backwards.”
In a real sense, the turning point that may have just occurred is larger than the contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney itself. Evidence is coming in that suggests that so much more is at stake than electoral victory. At stake is world leadership in the 21st century. Are the best days for America behind her or still yet to come? We will find out in November.

Press on.

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Memorial Day Parade Comments, Hopedale, MA: May 28, 2012

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On Memorial Day 2012: Speech at the Hopedale (MA) Parade

When soldiers fight, soldiers die. It is the unfortunate calculus of conflict. Evidence of that most extreme sacrifice is etched in the granite and marble of so many monuments in town squares and cemeteries in America.

Why do soldiers fight? A frequent response is, “to preserve our freedoms.” I think the answer lies within the document that is the foundation of our democracy. I believe
that answer is embodied within the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States.

To form a more perfect union. To secure the blessings of liberty not only for ourselves but for our posterity. We, in this audience today, are the posterity for whom our forefathers fought. The WWII veterans from Milford VFW Post 1544, fought for the posterity of my generation as their fathers fought for theirs. My generation has fought for the posterity of the next. And we send our sons and daughters into service so that they might fight for the posterity of the babies in this audience today and for the generations of Americans yet to be born. It is the way of America.

My son, John, stands beside me today in the uniform of his country, still in training and willing to follow in the footsteps of generations of family before him. I have served; my brother has served; my father has served. John will serve. This unbroken line of succession in service to country is a luxury.

Three of my mothers’ brothers served in WWII. Uncle Ben was a crew chief and ordnance man in the Army Air Corps. He returned from England with his new bride Margaret. I remember his witty sense of humor and Aunt Margaret’s British accent. They eventually settled in California where my cousins remain today.

The story of the other two brothers ended differently. I never got the chance to meet them but I have read their names etched in marble in American cemeteries in faraway lands.

The Wall of the Missing in the American Cemetery in Manila contains the name “Gunners Mate Third Class Anthony J. Lajkowicz, US Navy.” Uncle Tony was Lost at Sea after his cruiser USS Vincennes was ultimately torpedoed and sunk off Guadalcanal in the dark, fiery morning of August 10, 1943. The battles were fierce and the losses heavy. That area was to become known as Ironbottom Sound.

The Wall of the Missing in the American Cemetery in Margraten reads “Staff Sergeant Joseph P. Lajkowicz, US Army Air Corps.” Uncle Joe went Missing in Action after his B-24 Liberator was shot down while on a bombing mission over Poland on December 26, 1944. No one saw a parachute. No one found a body.

They left no spouse; they left no children. No aunt to pass on the stories; no cousins for me to play with in the backyard; no great grandchildren for my mother to bounce on her knee. We are left with etchings on a wall.

Recent events found my family at a happy occasion reunion. We got a chance to take a photo portrait that covered four generations starting with my mother. I will cherish that portrait forever but I can almost see the silhouettes of my missing uncles and the children that never came. This is the continuing cost of their sacrifice long ago.

President Herbert Hoover addressed the Republican Convention in June 1944. It was just a few short weeks after the allied invasion of Normandy that would eventually spell the end of war in Europe. He said, “Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die.” The second part of the quotation is not as often heard. He went on to say, “And it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow and the triumphs that are the aftermath of war.”

Building a more perfect union always takes courage. For civilians it sometimes involves great risk to their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. In the case of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines placed in harm’s way, it too often asks a far greater cost. And when their life is taken too soon, ours is forever affected, as well.
Today we honor the memory of those who gave their lives for no other reason than their nation called. The nation asked them to do their best to preserve the Union, to make a more perfect Union. To paraphrase a well known expression: All who served gave some. And some who served gave all.”

And so do us, survivors of the aftermath of war.

May they rest in eternal peace.

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On Christening and Commissioning: Essay for May 19, 2012

Spring is that time of year for transitions and my experience this weekend is turning out to be a very reflective one.

First stop is Newport, Rhode Island, for the commissioning ceremony for the son of a dear Navy shipmate of mine. Our children grew up together and we have watched yet another major life transition unfold before our eyes as he graduated from his Officer course and proceeded to his duty station in San Diego as a physician. The scene was a bit reminiscent of the movie, “Officer and a Gentleman” except this course was designed for the specialized corps of officers, in this case, the Medical Corps. They were Golf Company of Officer Development Course Class 12060. Ho-Hah!

We attended the festivities in uniform, probably feeling a bit more dapper than we actually looked when compared to the fresh, young faces of the 64 men and women who took their orders to begin or continue a naval career. It was a true passing of the torch. My shipmate, Donald, retired as a Navy Captain a number of years ago. Together, we could no longer complete the obstacle course without counting upon the Medical Corps to revive us.

This most important function, the defense of our country, has been transferred to yet another generation of Americans who willingly raised their collective hands to affirm the oath they made to uphold a commitment not to a personage, such as a king, but to a concept drafted by men who had experienced the yoke of servitude to potentates. They swore an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.” They also swore that they took this oath “freely without mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”

If you do the math and add up all the members of our Armed Forces, active duty and reserve and National Guard, you will find that they represent less than 1% of Americans. I submit to you that the rest of America is the 99%. The Occupy movement is measuring the wrong thing. The Occupiers are measuring wealth as an indicator of achievement and success that they submit is not available to the majority. Wrong. If they wish to measure true achievement and success, selfless service, they should visit Naval Station Newport, not Wall Street. They are looking in the wrong places because they know no better. They do not understand now, nor will they ever understand, that service to our fellow man is how we achieve on this earth.

Our character is not measured by the amount of wealth we earn as much as it is by the amount of respect we earn from people whom we admire and are worthy of admiration.

The words of Chief Petty Officer Edgar Ruiz, the enlisted man most responsible for shaping a class of newly minted Ensigns, were quite memorable. “When I wake up in the morning I ask a simple question, ‘What can I do for the Navy today?’”

This group of young medical officers may not pick up arms against the enemies we fight but they will be the ones that reattach the pieces. They will be the ones that are charged to heal the scars of war: many obvious to the naked eye and many more darkly hid deep within the souls of the warrior. The Book of John instructs us: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Next stop this weekend is Long Island, NY, where I will attend the christening of my grand niece, Kayla. She is just a baby and relies upon others for every protection: first from her Mother and Father; from family and friends; and then strangers. Some of those strangers who shall protect her have just passed through Golf Company, ODC Class 12060.

More than a century ago, Leo Tolstoy wrote,”Where love is, there God is.”

Taken together, our Armed Forces, including these Navy doctors, find themselves in a most perfect position to do God’s work here on earth. That makes them the 1 percent. There is no hourly wage for that.

Press on.

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