2000 Mallory Lane, Suite 130-229, Franklin, Tennessee 37067
2000 Mallory Lane, Suite 130-229, Franklin, Tennessee 37067
Colin Powell was considered by many to be the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 until withdrawing after his wife, Alma, publicly voiced her fear on 60 Minutes that he would be assassinated on the basis of his race.
Hillary Clinton, in a major campaign faux pas, brought the subject back to the forefront when, on May 23, 2008, in response to the question of why she had not bowed out of the Democratic primary race despite Barack Obama’s clear status as the presumptive nominee said, “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”
Barack Obama has not steered clear of the idea that race will be used against him. Just a few days ago in a speech in Jacksonville, Florida, he said:
It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?
I hope that Obama is wrong. And I think he is, though maybe I’m being naive.
Here’s what I hope and pray is true of America at this moment in our history; I hope and pray we are color blind enough to …
■ vote for or against a man – or woman – no matter what his or her race;
■ affirm or criticize a candidate no matter what his or her race; and
■ when a person so follows his or her conscience in voting, affirming or criticizing, we not accuse them of racism.
If Obama wants to woo the hearts of swing voters in the face of real or perceived prejudice, he could take a page from Ronald Reagan’s game plan to turn a negative into a positive. When asked (again and again) if it was legitimate to make age an election issue, in a debate with Walter Mondale, he used his non-abrasive brand of humor to neutralize the power of the question to divide:
I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.
My first year to vote in a presidential election was 1976 – Carter v. Ford. I was a freshman in college and stayed up most of the night – at least until coverage ended, which was probably two o’clock or so – back when there were three main channels and a couple fuzzy ones that required constant fiddling with the rabbit ears or that UHF loop in the middle.
Ever since FDR “saved” the economy – either through his welfare and public works programs if you like his fiscal model or by entering World War II if you believe the country was going to turn around on the basis of a business cycle anyway – despite his inept handling of the Depression – the size and role of the federal government in the business life of America has continued to grow.
Truman was too busy fighting wars and dealing with new international realities with our Soviet allies to leave a huge mark on America Inc., but conservative president, DDE, built the interstate highway system with a heavy dose of liberal spending, a symbolic and tangible symbol of a more federally driven America economy.
JFK we hardly knew you. We’ll never know his spending agenda based on his short tenure, though his activism in other areas might lead us to believe he would have been big government in all ways.
Inspired by political activists like author John Steinbeck – and in a well-documented strategy to secure minority votes, LBJ attempted to build a ‘Great Society’ – a phrase he borrowed from Steinbeck – to further expand the government’s role and responsibility as the provider and protector of the people’s welfare.
Let’s break from this historical free for all for just a second. Everyone, including politicians of all stripes, is concerned with the welfare of “the people” and individual persons. Whether one cares is not what is being debated, though in the political world it is posited by big government proponents that if you don’t want government to take responsibility for people’s welfare you don’t care about people’s welfare. The fiscal conservative or political libertarian will argue that he or she cares just as much about the welfare of individuals, he or she just does not think government does a very good job of supplying it. They want an old school model that limits the role of government to good laws and national defense – and leaves individual welfare up to individual effort, which will be much more productive and efficacious in a free enterprise system the thinking goes.
But what happens when that doesn’t work, big government proponents ask? Some free enterprise advocates agree with having clearly defined and limited temporary aid measures in place – others argue for the “family and friends” need to save you program. But based on what we’ve seen so far in our historical foray, there really haven’t been too may free enterprisers in control, no matter what we might assume from party affiliation.
RMN actually toyed with price controls, which would made him a hero among Marxist ideologues and an enigma to his independent, puritanical forebears, but ultimately, he poured his attention on foreign policy and then shifted his focus to another set of problems that were a little more personal in nature.
JC. We hardly knew you. Stagnation and malaise were the order of the day. The result of bad business or too much government intervention? Carter wasn’t sure there was a possible solution from the government or private sector and suspected we might be headed for leaner days. He spoke about those suspicions a little too forthrightly and the electorate lost as much confidence in JC as in the country’s future.
That ushered in the reign of RWR, who was sure it was the latter, too much government intervention, that was the problem. No one in the media and not even his vice president believed in his “voodoo” economics, but he get elected. He cut capital gains taxes, eliminated and simplified regulations to doing business, and cut income taxes for the middle and upper middle classes. (He would have done the same for the lower and wealthiest classes but it is impossible to cut anything from nothing.) It can be argued that he restored America’s business star, setting the stage for the largest capital growth campaign in history and the rise of Bill Gates. What he didn’t do, however, was cut government spending. And it wasn’t just because he built up the military. Liberals and columnists – I would have said Liberal columnists but why be redundant? – bemoaned all the benefits he cut from the poor. Not true. He did occasionally cut government program increases but never spending.
GHB (W’s dad). We hardly knew you, either. I do recall H was kinder and gentler than Reagan – at least he said he was – and raised taxes to prove it despite the protests of lip readers to the contrary.
WJC got his butt kicked on socialized medicine early in his first term. His solution? Keep Hillary away from Congressional hearings and enjoy Reagan’s promised ‘peace dividend.’ Then he started experiencing the joy of balancing the budget and reducing the federal deficit so much he went out and tweaked some welfare policies so that they became workfare policies. For the first time in 60 years people were involuntarily cut from welfare rolls. Bill might be the last and the only fiscal conservative of the past 100 years. Deep down, I suspect that still bothers him.
GWB. Or just W. A man of principle, faith, and profligate spending habits. He and the man who followed him, BHO, are architects and builders of an expanded role for government through TARP(s) that might have made FDR’s head spin. Even the German socialists are confused. When they throw money at economic problems it is at least to save unnecessary jobs. In America’s iteration of corporate welfare, it is to eliminate jobs and save companies.
The latest Obama move has been to appoint a ‘Special Master for Compensation’ to oversee executive and employee pay at companies that accepted government bailout money. Any wonder so many are fighting like crazy to give this ‘free’ money back? Any wonder Hugo Chavez, left-wing socialist president of Venezuela, claims he is more right wing than Obama?
So is the size and scope of the federal government cyclical – a pendulum that is simply on a high note of growth? Or is it a runaway train navigating hair-pin turns as adroitly as possible?
If these economic days are tough on your personal welfare and you see a bright shining light ahead, it might mean there is hope at the end of the tunnel for you. Or it might mean you better jump off the track in a hurry if you don’t want to get hit!
My wife Amy’s grandmother, Ora Zimmerman Knies, died in her sleep on June 11, 2010. She was 109 years old.
Three days later we gathered at Memaw’s funeral mass held at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Hermitage, Tennessee. She was survived by her three “boys,” 11 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren, and 19 great great grandchildren. She just missed holding a fifth generation of babies, with one of the great great’s due to have a child in a few weeks when she passed away.
Beyond savoring the memories and bonds of love and family, anyone who attended her funeral couldn’t help but reflect on all that Memaw had seen in her 109 active and colorful years of life. She was born January 13, 1901 – the year the first radio receiver picked up a transmission. Had she entered the world just two weeks earlier she would have been alive during three of the centuries of the Christian Era calendar.
Ora was born in the Territory of Oklahoma – it would not be admitted to statehood for another six years – and traveled cross country by horse-drawn carriage as a young girl when her family moved to Winchester, Tennessee.
The array of inventions and developments she witnessed in her lifetime is mind boggling – from the Wright Brothers engine powered airplane to commercial air travel and rockets and man landing on the moon; from the newspaper to the radio and on to the television, which itself morphed from black and white to technicolor with hundreds of stations; from the first Model-T rolling off the assembly line in Detroit in 1908 to the interstate highway system of the Eisenhower era; from penicillin and bubble gum in 1928 to the atomic bomb during World War II.
She witnessed the two world wars with Germany – the first by radio only and the second by radio and television. The day after her death, Governor Phil Bredesen of Tennessee landed in Germany to meet with Volkswaagen officials to discuss manufacturing opportunities in his state.
The United States of America has had 44 presidents in its history. Memaw lived during the presidency of 20 of them, from McKinley to Obama, and including her favorite, JFK.
Ora lived alone in her own house until 103, when she entered an assisted living facility. Her flower and vegetable gardens are still legendary. She drove her car for the last time on her 100th birthday. She did not hand the keys to her sons readily or happily and it took her a few years to forgive them – even though, according to the daughters-in-law, Memaw was pretty certain her boys had never really done anything wrong in life. She finally had to quit bowling in the Madison Bowling League when she was past the age of 100 due to hip problems.
Memaw’s last visit to our home was Christmas 2008 and she had a marvelous time, particularly looking through family photo albums. Amy had made memory books for Bo and Zach on their football seasons and after studying them several times, Ora proclaimed she was now a football fan. In fact, she wished she had learned to play.
Her one complaint about her assisted living residence was the food. She loved to have a home cooked meal and she participated in the preparation for Christmas Dinner by making her much requested peanut butter fudge. She sat by me at dinner and told me numerous times that we would be friends forever.
We all know that how we live our lives is what matters most. But most of us still have a fondness for the ongoing numbering of our days as well. If longetivity didn’t matter we wouldn’t work so hard to live longer.
For Memaw, quality and quantity were inseparable. She was one of those believers who received in abundance both of the blessings expressed in Psalm 91:16: “I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation” (NLT).
So Ora Zimmerman Knies, may I be so blessed, and yes, let’s be friends forever.
In case I didn’t remember that tomorrow is my birthday, Facebook came up with an app that makes sure I and a host of well-wishers – along with a few trash talkers – are very aware that I am about to have another number added to my age. Last year was the big five-oh so this one shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Right? But then again, it is a full year later, so maybe this and each subsequent birthday is a much greater accomplishment and deserving of more fanfare.
I started thinking about writing this blog on getting older last week and came up with a really clever title and approach to the topic, but since I didn’t write anything down I can’t remember what I had in mind. So while I’m thinking about it now, here are a few random thoughts on the aging process that just might reflect what is coming your way a good ways down the road, what you’re currently experiencing as a fellow 50-something or what things you remember (but might have forgotten) that are now in your rear view mirror.
1. Oatmeal and prescription meds are big topics of discussion. And I’m not talking idle chatter. I’m talking the fodder of deep and enthralling conversations.
2. I now routinely call each of my children by one of their sibling’s name. Despite rolled eyes or vacant stare, I don’t think they mind that much and maybe find it mildly amusing. At least until I refer to one of the boys by one of the girl’s names or vice versa.
3. Retirement is on my mind. It was a couple years ago, too. But back then I was thinking I might do it some day. After watching my accounts and home equity go the wrong direction, I now think more about not retiring some day.
4. Stretchy fabrics are underrated. Particularly fabric swatches that circle the waist.
5. The kids think Amy and I talk too loud. I think they’re crazy. I can barely hear a word Amy is saying.
6. They – whoever ‘they’ are – are right; ‘old’ is a relative term. Even if a few things hurt that I didn’t know existed in my 30’s, I really don’t feel old at almost-51. More to the point, in my copious research for this piece, I discovered ‘old’ refers to people who are five or more years advanced in age than I am. Not only that, ‘old’ is on a sliding scale and will continue to be five years out from where I am in future years.
7. Fiber is mysterious and confusing. When I think of fiber, I think of something substantial and solid. Now they (there ‘they’ are again) sell fiber – with extra roughage thrown in for good measure – in little gel caps. I don’t know what this has to do with anything but I could go on about fiber all day!
8. Many parents of young children look like children themselves. This observation isn’t actually new. It came to me 10 years ago when I took my oldest child to college and my youngest child to kindergarten. The same week.
9. The world really does need the wisdom that comes from age and experience. This wisdom is treasure to be cherished and honored. I don’t know how I ever thought that youth and energy were what made big things happen.
10. A lot of my friends in my age range are looking older these days. (This observation is only intended for certain trash talkers – and you know who you are.)
Aging. It’s no laughing matter. It’s something we all must face. And on the positive side, it certainly beats the alternative unless, of course, you are one of the drafters of Obama’s health care plan. So I’m going to get very serious now.
But first I think I’ll take an afternoon nap!