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Month: April, 2012

Public service vs. politician

A lot has happened over the last few days, months, and years that has really shaken my faith in any level of governing bodies and the ilk that creates them. From our hometowns to state houses to Washington D.C., we all have stories of shaken trust to utter disbelief in our career politicians’ behavior.

Can career politicians ever be consistent, reliable, and productive public servants? I really don’t think so. True public servants are temporary. They have enough time to learn, lead, and serve…but too little time to entrench, align, and be bought by those who guarantee perpetual election to higher and higher office. When getting elected is your business career and “promotions” are the next elected office, there grows one helluva sense of entitlement. Think about it. Nixon. Clinton. DeLay. Wiener. Too numerous GOP and Dem perverts to name. As for those in Nashville and here in Knoxville, especially those recently in the news, well…you’re making my big point.

Disdain for a sense of entitlement typically surges straight for the nation’s poor, those on the public tax dole, or anyone getting anything that he or she did not “earn”. I think it’s time to do the same with those who seem to feel entitled to all of the taxpayer cash, taxpayer funded trips, and taxpayer votes imaginable.

Absolute power does corrupt absolutely…and we need to recognize that. Electing anyone, let alone re-electing them, based on blather, catch-phrases, and talking points is just stupid. We elected a country Mayor not too long ago, which was better than the Don Corleone of local politics. No real vision nor any clear mission makes him quite the place-holder for anyone short of Mafia credentials, but with some degree of leadership someday. We elected another Mayor recently too, but she cannot answer a simple question about the most critical location of the first family destination of it’s kind for downtown and just scurries away from this taxpayer and fellow Leadership Knoxville alumni. Perpetually running for office, for the next appointment, for the next “promotion”…these really do change people. It’s like a disease that erodes independent, creative, and greater-good thinking. The kind of thinking most people use everyday. Hence, the disproportionate abuse of power, money, and influence that hits the fan about everyday on cable news and in those things we used to call newspapers.

Life is complicated. Politics is ruthless and even more complicated. People who make politics their life-long career have an incurable disease, in my opinion. No cure. Just a long life of mediocrity, fighting for pet projects, and fighting even harder for donors and just enough votes. It’s really sad.

Think about our world’s greatest leaders. Most were educated or raised to do great things and really lead. Most were soldiers of some rank who learned about real priorities. Some were in other professions that taught clear lessons of right vs. wrong. Only a few were in the lifelong pursuit of elected upgrades. Perpetual politicians differ from everyday folks and true public servants by over thinking the electorate impact of every decision, sans the private, carnal moments that avoid the brain altogether.

We just need effective, temporary leaders to make us proud and move on. Leaders who serve well, protect, and build upon a solid foundation for the next servant-leader in 4-8 years. Oh, and real check-and-balances to avoid secret grand juries and the indictments they almost guarantee.

Servant leaders should be just that. No lifelong careers. Just a limited time that voters and taxpayer can judge results and outcomes per elected leader. Is that too much to ask?

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Who can we really trust anymore?

You can’t be breathing and be void of “issues”. From how each of us were raised to how we each continue to grow up, or not, our respective issues pop up everyday.

Trust has always been a touchy subject with me. Who can you really trust anymore? In personal relationships, many talk a good game, but very few deliver. Even marriage vows to God seem more than flexible. In business, it’s been proven that “what have you done for me lately” beats loyalty and trust over the long-term ROI. In politics and government, trust seems to be invested most in the few people and groups who make sure career politicians get reelected, move up the ranks, like promotions in business, and do the bidding of the same few.

From unreal violations of trust on a global scale, as in the Secret Service mess that keeps unfolding to our consecutive City and County administrations, remarkable shortcomings and failure of trust has had quite a run this year. A top City official of 2 administrations, well-known for his colorful shoplifting past, denies knowledge of poorly spent tax-dollars with our local tourism organization. This 501c3 non-profit Board paid over 10% of a $4 million budget (staff of 28) to their CEO. The IRS should be pretty interested in that “non-profit”, for sure. Our County Mayor recently denied any knowledge of his good buddy’s indictment for fraud, after he hired him to be the county’s new Finance Director. Now, that same Mayor is being sued for divorce for inappropriate conduct outside of marriage. We may never know what that means. Seems to be a tradition, since the previous County Mayor had similar issues, divorced, and recently married the one he violated various trusts with years ago. What is it about the parallels of high office, concentration of power, and failing trust on a frequent basis? Moreover, what does this behavior at the top encourage in the daily behavior and performance of the organization that he or she oversees? Leading by example cuts both ways.

From the John Edwards trial going on right now to the Vatican of decades past to our own City-County building this year, what will it take to welcome genuinely trustworthy people to temporarily serve, protect, and improve the public-trust of powerful institutions and all each means to various stakeholder, families, and those job-creators who benefit our local economy everyday?

Character matters

More than a tad bit of irony this week in American sports. On the heels of a big-time football coach being fired for just too much to go into, we had the first and second year “students” of the NCAA Champs of basketball grab their NBA draft brass-ring. The former is a liar and cheated his employer and the latter 5 Wildcat starters just faked being college students to cash-in as the system allows. Hey, we know about fakes, cheaters, and liars around here. Just google the last few University of Tennessee Presidents and most recent coaching departures. There’s a pretty depressing character-deficit in sports…with one glaring exception.

Pat Summitt is that one exception, since John Wooden is not with us. Even better, Pat has more wins than ANY NCAA coach ever! Even the God of UCLA did not win over 38 years like Pat did. She is unique, driven, passionate…and leaving us too soon.

I really thought that she would be the little old lady of sports as I become a big, old man. Although Pat and my Dad, Allen, never met, I can see that same look in each of their faces. That horrible thief of a disease is a sneaky S.O.B. All that we are left with are memories and that’s okay, I guess.

Pat Summitt embodies success, class, leadership, and, most of all, character that she transferred quite well to hundreds or thousands of young people. That’s her legacy. One that may never be repeated, just like far more trivial NCAA records.

I have watched and enjoyed the Lady Vols, thanks to Pat, since I was too young to remember. She started coaching @ UT when I was 5 years old. Just a few years ago, I met her for the first time @ our first Leadership Knoxville 2009 session @ Neyland Stadium…then again @ our Legacy Parks Foundation luncheon a year or two ago…what a positive force for a greater-good she was and is still.

I never quite thought that our families could have such a consuming disease in-common. Who does? It is what it is, as a friend of mine likes to say. I just wish it wasn’t quite as it is for Pat, her son, my Dad, and millions of others out there who are slowly saying “goodbye”.

Missing links…to the White House?

Gin seemed more than a bit stunned by our little guys introduction to the Oscar-nominated, world-class humorists that I grew up watching and enjoying many years ago. Thanks to AMC and our DVR, we now have our first stash of Three Stooges. Mo, Larry, and Curly humor still works, assuming you have a Y-chromosome, for silly guys like us. Gin…not so much. I also identify this humor with modern politics, which is funny on another level, but darn sad too.

Our 7-year old could make this comparison now, if he weren’t so innocent right now. As for me, yes, Mitt is Mo, Rick is Larry, and Newt is Curly…and to be fair, our Prez is Mo, VP Joe is Curly, and Dem political hack, Hilary Rosen, is Larry. Can you imagine the 2-finger eye-punch the Prez gave her after she observed that raising 5 kids is not work? Old Hilary just slipped up and spoke like a man, albeit a Stooge of another era. How dare she?

Our political parties are parallel comedies and tragedies that turn off most of us 99%’ers more than it entertains us. Thus, a few really elect a chosen few on a local and state level, where most promises are made and never fulfilled…with the single exception of perpetual fundraising & campaigning. Re-election is a far greater goal than making a greater-good impact for 2, 4, or 6 years in elected office.

This White House run is a classic battle of the boobs, man-boobs, and a couple of uber-smart guys. The winner will probably be the one who wins over the most women. There’s just more of them. They will care. They will pick the one that will keep the economic recovery going…or…has the most CEO expertise to bring when the recovery stalls or economy tanks again later this year. We shall see.

As a son of a Mom who worked two full-time jobs (@school and @home), I’m fine with all engaged, working women picking our next President. That just leaves us guys more time to focus on the real Stooges and other primal urges to avoid reality. It’s a good life, guys.

Daughters and Dad

Regardless of gender, kids are just special. I honestly believe that nurturing, educating, and disciplining our kids, or kids others have neglected, is our greatest adult challenge and opportunity for a better small to greater world. The greatest! Not everyone chooses or is able to have kids, but kids in need are almost everywhere around us and certainly are in the majority outside of America.

As for us, we have 4 very different kids in almost 2 different generations. 2 Millennial young ladies and two Gen? little dudes. Our little dudes’ stories are barely unfolding now. Our almost 20- & 18-year old girls are another story. From this Dad’s perspective, they each have an amazing story already. Being a bit sensitive to their privacy, I will keep this a bit vague. Suffice it to say, each have been blessed with a loving family, a mix of family characters, a sense of humor, all they really need, a lot of wants too, and each has travelled the world like I never have. Not spoiled. Pretty grounded and appreciative. Both will go far and it’s too exciting to watch each step as it happens. They each know that the world is so much bigger than any one home and hometown. Every kid needs that knowledge and perspective that he or she can get out and make a difference, which will make for a really purpose-driven life.

At the other end of life, I’m witnessing another Dad and daughter mix that I will never completely understand. It’s complicated, sweet, and confusing. It makes me think about myself in my 80’s, if I get there, and what my girls will think of this Dad and his life well-spent. Thus, with four decades left, I’m a little obsessed about cheap thrills like making people laugh everyday to doing the same in one or more villages of the Caribbean and Central America someday. Plenty left to accomplish.

If you’re a Dad, keep the faith, good priorities, and let the vanity go. We should just accept the fat and ugly as we grow old and show our kids and others what really living is. If you are not a Dad, go find that one kid or one group that helps lift kids up from whatever. It’s just what real men should do.

By the way, to BH, KH, RH, and MH, your old Dad really loves you.

“Is that all there is?”….again…

It’s a lyric from an old song, but it is a key question that I ask myself over and over, especially when death rears its ugly head again. Lots of death to think about this week. From the famous to friends, there’s no avoiding the questions about death and what’s next after this stop on Earth.

Easter morn brought us the news of the death of Mike Wallace, a man of tremendous curiosity, courage, and the high watermark for all real journalists and news correspondents. Thomas Kincade, the self proclaimed “painter of light” died too, after decades of building the McDonalds org of the art world. We also learned about the death of a friend’s mom, who fought cancer, beat it, then succumbed to it Easter morning. Very sad, indeed. And then, just a few minutes ago, I saw the posts of friends who lost their long-time pup, Jake. Dogs are different. They certainly aren’t people. In a few ways, dogs are much better. We lost Bud after 14 years of unconditional love, so we know how it feels. Loss is loss, if any love is involved.

What is our individual and collective purpose while we are here? When are we effectively done? Where do we go from here? Being with our aging parents again this weekend brought all of those questions up again, even before all of the reports of death. Sharing just a few minutes alone with Dad, on a bench overlooking the TN river and answering the same question 6 times about the Henley Street bridge reconstruction…as well as looking towards his childhood S.Knox neighborhood…all reminders of how my end must come with more control, more final purpose, and confident hope that more work is left to be done in that odd environment of “milk and honey”. I sure hope God provides my mom’s “chocolate pie and cornbread” to go with it. That WOULD be Heaven.

He is risen! Really? Hello, Grammer Police….yeah…

Okay, I’m odd. I think of things too inappropriate and I voluntarily say them most of the time. Or just type them on my Crackberry or iPad. It’s who I am, warts and all.

This four decades plus of reading, hearing, and being preached to “He is risen!” and it still seems odd. I get it. I gots my college edumacation, but the little grammar gremlin in me pokes and prods me every Easter.

Jesus was born. He died. And he arose and saved a world of sinners who believe in Him. All the rest? Anybody’s guess, I guess. I had a wife once that told me that all Jews were going to hell. She was and still is a real sweetheart. Wonder why it didn’t work out? I wish that I had all the answers, knew exactly what God was thinking, and where every soul stood in this cosmic game that we call life. That kind of knowledge must be empowering, especially with your 3rd husband. I wouldn’t know, but I bet it is.

I’m looking forward to joining our family at church tomorrow. My sabbatical takes a one-hour break. In and out. No harm done. Rejoice! A little Jesus, a little home-cooked lunch, naps, the Masters, a mandatory family dinner with weird conversation, and back to watch the Masters and early bedtime…in other words, a fairly good Sunday. Not great. Just good.

Suffice it to say, I’m really looking forward to every Easter on that particular island, sunrise service on the sand and all, as we head down the second half of our life. That is what I call salvation. Indeed.

Good Friday? What’s so good about it?

Much to my Mom’s and my wife’s dismay, I always come back with a contrarian question when the topic of “good Friday” pops up. Sure, Christ died for some of us. We are forgiven. We get an eternal life. Okay. I get it, after 4+ decades of church and living.

It’s just hard for this marketer to think of a more horrible brand than “good Friday” when crucifying Jesus was involved. How about “Ultimate Sacrifice Friday”, “Sacri-Friday”, or “Cruci-Friday” ….now, those make sense. Just saying.

As for this Easter weekend, all is good. Our boys are out of school…so much for separation of church & state…and it’s great. We have had an early breakfast, ridden bikes around downtown, shopped for candy, and caught up with several friends along the way. Naps happening now and a movie and sleepover are ahead. This is living.

Then, there’s dying. I’m not planning on that anytime soon. However, if it happens today or tomorrow, I’m good. I have lived and loved. I’m spoiled. Our kids are all brilliant, even @ ages of 20, 18, 8, and 6 respectively. Gin and I are blessed and we know it. God knows it. And Jesus must know it too.

Happy Easter, y’all.

“Majors aren’t set up for nice guys.” ~ Johnny Miller

I’m a bit of a golf geek. Until a few years ago, I played all seasons, since I was about 5 years old. I grew up with Jack, Arnie, and Gary late in their PGA careers and Johnny, Fuzzy, and Tom Watson taking the torch and having fun doing it. That’s how it began.

Today, I watch Hunter, Lee, and my new favorite, Bubba, take on the Masters @ Augusta. Youth is inspiring. Changing of the guard of anything is just healthy. It’s happening now in this unique pro sport.

Change is very good. It keeps you thinking. Keeps you on your toes. Keeps you young…but not like young kids. Just roll with it.

Golf is a darn good metaphor for life. Sometimes your swing works perfectly to plan. Most of the time, other variables impact your swing and score, which demands that you adjust and adapt to current conditions. Life is not a perfectly manicured Augusta National for one week a year. Life IS an imperfect, sunny to stormy, 24/7/365 journey with loved ones, friends, strangers, and idiots that demands our adaptation on a daily basis.

This Holy Week’s Maundy Thursday was more of a Master’s 1st round Thursday to me, which is another holy day for golf fans. It was a beautiful day, chock full of outdoor fun, biking, dog walks, naps, tasty food, and golf. Not a bad start to a long Easter weekend. I may just join the family for early Easter service…but we will be home for lunch with the Masters. After all, as Johnny Miller said today about this iconic major tourney, “Majors aren’t set up for nice guys.”. He’s right. Sometimes it just feels good to be benignly bad.

#TrayvonMartin

Few things spark more concern from minorities and eye-rolling apathy from majorities quite like discussions, media blasts, and public rallies highlighting race issues in our modern America.

Racial divides will always exist in any society of and level of personal choice. It just comes with the freedom package that brave souls fought for years ago. Those in political change positions only compound the divide by only focusing their real attention on a very different minority: campaign contributors and voters. Real minorities get great speeches, slaps on the back, and virtual thumbs-up everyday, but very little changes in economic and social opportunities.

If there’s one place that racial divides should be closed, it’s the modern church. Let alone the pretty direct teachings of Christ, it just seems like the only, politics-free, safe haven of equality in America. But, church congregation demographics tend to mirror that of the surrounding neighborhood. It’s easy. It’s convenient. It’s “safe”. Downtown churches are a bit different, since no church I know of has a congregation of homeless folks and urban-dwelling hipsters & empty-nesters & few families (that’s us). Our downtown church is large, beautiful, and supported by 99%+ lilly white congregation. It’s just the way it is.

Tonight, there’s evidently a gathering in our downtown park that was inspired by the Trayvon Martin murder. More speeches. More media. More dreams. At least as it pertains to my hometown, life is so much easier for everyone when they “know their place” and keep contrary thoughts to themselves, especially when differing from the chosen-few who like to control things. Tonight’s gathering, discussion, rally, etc. is another opportunity for more than just another feel-good moment…like the sad #OccupyKnoxville effort was during the similar futility of #OccupyWallStreet . Any positive, local outcomes from the Florida tragedy will only come from serious, determined, and faithful neighbors who create better opportunities for politically neglected neighborhoods. Politicians seem to come and go with little to no impact on the racial divide. Only smart neighbors, groups, and people of faith, any faith, can make a real difference after this gathering tonight. We shall see.

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