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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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On Political Armageddon: Video Essay for January 14, 2012

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On Equal Opportunities and Equal Outcomes: Essay for November 5, 2011

If you ask me, the Occupy movement has gone from preachin’ to meddlin’. This once cozy rabble of young adults, backed by forces both seen and unseen, has long past the annoying stage and is fast becoming anarchic. What once looked like campouts with pup tents and s’mores is rapidly becoming shanty towns with Molotov cocktails and mob violence.

I have frequently commented upon some of the common roots between the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement. Recent events have even more clearly defined the divergent paths that these loosely confederated organizations have taken to achieve political awareness and drive change. The Tea Party clearly emerges as the more rational and more mature of these movements while the Occupy movement emerges as the more dangerous.

I came across a descriptive chart on the internet this week that illustrates both the common roots and the distinctly different paths that these movements have taken. They were born from common concern that “We Have a Problem.” Government collusion with special interests created outrage. Government should not be picking winners and losers in our economy or place bets with our money. The bailouts of major industrial segments of our economy were wrong. Hallelujah, we took to the streets! But here is where the paths diverged.

The Tea party is looking to fix the system; the Occupiers want to break it apart. They disagree over the role of money in politics. Occupiers want to get money from politics; Tea Partiers want to get money out of politics. The Tea party wants to keep what they earn while the occupiers think people deserve everyone else’s money. Occupiers are arrested for violent behavior while Tea Partiers are accused of violent rhetoric. Perhaps the phrase that caught my eye the most was this one: Occupiers wish to replace the Constitution while Tea partiers wish to restore it.

The beauty of our Constitution lies in its protection of equal opportunity. It is silent on assuring equal outcomes. It is precisely why generation after generation of immigrants has come to America. We are the Land of Opportunity. To be sure, over our history we may have fallen short of consistently protecting that opportunity but we know that every governmental system that has attempted to assure equal outcomes has failed. There is an underlying obligation to take one’s unbridled opportunity and turn it into a favorable outcome through endeavor and industry.

This incessant whine of gimme-gimme is beginning to sound like fingernails on a chalkboard. And much of this is coming from no less than the President himself. In an effort to spread Federal largesse to as many people as possible from all walks of life, the President has effectively offered to forgive student loans. Students would never be obliged to pay more than 10% of their income nor pay for a term longer than 20 years as long as they worked for non-profits or the government. That being the case, the government would pick up the remainder of the tab and indenture an entire generation to the government. Can special interest pandering get any more obvious than this?

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Federal government picked up my undergraduate expenses, too. In exchange, I became a Cold War naval officer and served for 8 years in order to fulfill my obligation.

I am proud to be associated with the Tea Party and people who share their values. Even my oldest daughter, one who is not easily confused with a Tea Party member, looks at the occupiers and says: “Why don’t they stop whining and just get a job?” She should know. She is of their age and perhaps has similar inclinations towards a more liberal view of social justice. What she cannot abide is the transfer of wealth and entitlement mentality of those who refuse to work. My daughter is employed by a non-profit and works a second job to make ends meet. She pays her bills, services her student loan (yes, she has one of those, too) and is planning her career. Like many, she is making do with what she has. Despite the gloomy economy that stalled her shortly after her graduation in 2007, she has a plan and executes it as circumstances dictate.

No doubt, these are tough times but they are not the toughest of times. Nor is it unusual for a crop of graduates to find themselves faced with formidable challenges. If this were 1942, prospects would be quite different for these children. Occupy Wall Street? How about occupying Berlin? Or Tokyo?

So we come back to that word again: obligation. It is an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound; a duty or commitment. How about it, you Occupiers? How about you pack up your tents and tidy up the area so we can have some green grass to enjoy come spring. It is time you began to expend your energies on making this a better country through engagement in the electoral process rather than through anarchy. The whole world is watching.

Press on.

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