Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

The 35 little random truths I’ve encountered along the way

It’s hard for me to believe but in less than six months, I hit the big “5-0”.  Wow!  So, here are a few of the gems I’ve had to learn the hard way. The 35 little random truths I’ve encountered along life’s highway:

 

1. In any of my relationships, there have been highs and there have been lows and just one single high in each is greater than all the lows put together.

2. The worst truth is better than the very best lie.

3. In my Jaycee career, our local chapter in Rock Hill was recognized at the National Convention as the #1 Jaycee Chapter in the Number #1 Jaycee State (South Carolina) in America for two consecutive years in a row. That didn’t suck.

4. You cannot be successful standing on the sidelines watching the game of life played without you.

5. I’m not afraid of dying. I would be more afraid of never having fully lived. I have.

6. The most spectacular sight in the world is to see the sun rise on the horizon at South Beach (Miami). If you are a late riser, you can still see a spectacular sight at 2 pm out by the pool.

7. I was sixteen years old before I found out that Robert E. Lee was not the third member of the Holy Trinity.

8. The greatest reward for a person’s toil is not what they gain but what they become by doing it.

9. There was a couple of girls in high school whose kisses could make the world stop spinning. Congratulations to the men that married them.

10. Why is it easy to say “I do” and so damned difficult to say “I’m sorry”?

11. Dogs love you unconditionally. Cats are another story.

12. We could have saved a great deal of national anguish if Lee and Grant would have just stepped out the back of the tent and settled things. Give Ulysses a fifth or two and then just beat the crap out of him.

13. Dixie isn’t a black or white thing. It’s a state of mind. And if you don’t get it, you’re not from Dixie.

14. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. But try explaining that to the dead guy’s family.

15. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. However, you can sure as hell make him wish he had.

16 Love what you do, do what you love, and deliver more than you promise – and my apologies to Gene Martin for stealing that line I’ve used for 20 years.

17 Anybody who does not think I’m patient did not sit with me in the stands at Williams Bryce for two years when the Cocks went 1 and 21 over two seasons.

18 We weren’t born racists.

19 The innocence of a child is God’s gift to humanity.

20 Speaking of God, I’m convinced he made me a Gamecock fan to keep me humble.

Go cocks!

Go cocks!

21 If there is a hell, and I believe there is, I would share it with 82,000 obnoxious fans dressed in purple and orange watching their team play for a national championship over and over for eternity. And did I mention that damn song? Go cocks!

22. Democrats believe government can solve any problem. Republicans believe people solve problems.

23. Those northern folks who always made fun of my accent are going to be real shocked when they get to heaven, and “She say’s ya’ll come on in.”

24. I’ve been a winner and I have been a loser. Trust me. Winning is a whole lot better. Coming in second sucks.

25. Some of us reach maturity faster than others. Some have maturity forced on them. And then there’s the rest of us that have to be whomped on top of the head.

26. If you are around long enough, bad things will happen to you. How you respond to those bad things reveal your character.

27. And when those bad things happen, remember – God never allows anything to happen that he (or she) does not expect you to be able to handle.

28. Life is a brief candle. Burn as brightly as possible and be thoroughly used up when you die.

29. Live life such that your friends and family say when you pass, “The Good Lord gave him the talents and abilities to change the face of the world – and he did.”

30. There was a elderly lady named Mrs. Trumbell who used to teach bible classes in second and third grade at Finley Road Elementary School in Rock Hill before the courts said we couldn’t have prayer in schools. She gave us all little red Bibles and recounted all the Old Testament stories that kept us in awe and made our imaginations race. God bless you Mrs.Trumbell.

31. Between Jeannie or Samantha – I’ll take Jeannie. That is if I can’t have both. And oh yeah, Mary Anne.

32. I cried when Dale won the Daytona 500. I wept again when he died there. And I still get tears in my eyes when I think about Junior going to the front six months later. Try and convince me God isn’t a NASCAR fan.

33. I’d love to have five minutes with Osama Bin Laden. I think God would forgive me.

34. I have always loved my mama, respected my daddy, and I sure miss my grandmamma Russell’s biscuits.

35. and I still believe the only limitations we have are those we place upon ourselves.

There endeth the lesson.

 

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April 6, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I am a Republican

The time was 1992 and in the town of Vienna, Virginia, the newspapers ran a photo of a group of people held at bay by armed guards.  That may not sound that unusual, but these were not rioters or protestors.  They were Christmas carolers.  You see, the town of Vienna had outlawed the singing of religious songs on public property.  So, the men, women, and children had to sing “Silent Night” behind barricades.  It sounds much like Eastern Europe under communist rule instead it is the country built on freedom of religion.

 

The country where a plaque honoring the confederate dead hanging in the Texas State Capital is looked upon as insensitive and a sign of racial prejudice but a photo of a nude woman, arms outstretched, symbolizing the body of Christ is depicted as art and subsidized by tax money.

 

Our country, where the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have developed a 90-minute video depicting the mutilation of cattle to show at the entrance of Burger King, but many of the same protesters support the right to “Choice” and support partial birth abortion – a procedure that is performed in the second and third trimesters and entails inducing a breech delivery with forceps, delivering the legs, arms, and torso only, puncturing a suction curette into the skull, suctioning the contents of the skull as to collapse it, and completing the delivery.  A partial breech delivery is not considered a “birth” at common law, where it is the passage of the head that is essential.

 

America, where students are forbidden to pray at a commencement address or a football game but a state supported school, Penn State University, allows a student run event known as Sex Faire to take place where sexual games including “orgasm bingo” are conducted and the festival features anatomically correct gingerbread cookies.

 

While I am a committed Republican, the roots of my political resolve are founded in the Democratic Party.  I was only four years old, but I can still remember quite vividly, when my mother made me sit still long enough to witness the caissons making their way down the road, carrying the body of America’s slain President.  I can still see the picture of John F. Kennedy that hung in my great grandmother’s den.  My great grandmother Feemster’s maiden name was Rosie Agnes Lee and a cousin of Robert E. Lee of Virginia.

 

My great great grandfather John Jacob Adkins was a soldier in the War of Northern Aggression, also known as the Civil War.  John was not fighting for state’s rights or to defend the institution of slavery.  John and his sons, and daughters, worked the fields themselves.  They had no slaves.  John, like the majority of southerners were defending their homeland from invasion from the North.  Much like his father’s father had fought for the same principles in the Revolutionary War.

 

Both sets of my grandparents were ardent Democrats who believed that Franklin Roosevelt had saved the country.  They had weathered the great depression.  My grandfather Feemster hoping a train and taking odd jobs where he could find them and my Grandfather Russell working the fields as a farmer when we wasn’t putting his time in at the local mill.  They were products of an impoverished south, laid waste after the War Between the States.  They did not have the benefit of a college education, but instead were students of hard work and adversity.  But their faith in God, promise of future, pride in their heritage, and commitment to the ideals of the Democratic Party were never shaken.

 

John Kennedy, seemed to symbolize the essence of the presidency, as he  found his place in my grandmother Russell’s home, adorning a window box with small pictures of close relatives and a small silver figurine of the late president.kennedy0001

 

I was ecstatic in high school when a little known southern governor proclaimed his candidacy for the high office of President.  I thought it was “cool” and actually volunteered to put bumper stickers on cars, distribute posters, and hand out fliers during his successful campaign for President.

 

Given this rich history with the Democratic Party, why did I turn to the Republican Party?  There was no “Road to Damascus”, no instant conversation.  Rather it was a culmination of education in school, service in civic clubs, and exposure to political figures that figured in my resolve.  An individual can follow blindly into a political philosophy because that’s the way his or her family always voted….or they can closely examine their own philosophical beliefs and compare them to our present day political party’s platform.

 

What do I believe?

 

I believe that faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life, that we exist to glorify God and use our talents for his…or her greater glory.

 

I believe this country was founded on freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, and that while Government should not dictate what religion we observe,  the fact is this country was founded on religious principles.

 

I believe in individual accountability – that each of us are responsible for our own actions. 

  

I believe that discrimination in any form is wrong.

 

I believe that nearly all of our problems are created by people, and that only people, not government, can solve these problems.

 

I believe in limited government, a strong military, tax reform, and encouraging faith-based organizations and volunteerism in our civic clubs who work tirelessly for those who need a helping hand.

 

I believe in the inalienable right of every American to bear arms.

 

I agree with the Republican platform that states that today’s tax code is dysfunctional.  It penalizes hard work, marriage, thrift, and success – the very factors that are the foundations for a lasting prosperity.  Our Federal taxes are the highest they have ever been for a peacetime America and taxes at all levels of government absorb 36% of the national net product.

 

I support President Bush’s tax cut, which will stimulate our slowing economy, double the child tax credit to $1,000, and eliminate the marriage penalty.  We need to encourage entrepeneurship and growth by capping the top marginal rate, ending the death tax, and making permanent the research and development credit.  We should encourage capital investment and savings which is at a dangerously low savings level for young couples.

 

As the president of a chamber of commerce, I can attest that small business create most of the new jobs in this country and generate more than half the gross domestic product. According to the Small Business Administration, 25.5 million small businesses in America employ more than half of the country’s private work force, create three out of every four new jobs, and generate a majority of American innovations.  Providing health insurance is a major challenge for these small business owners.  Almost 60% of uninsured workers are either employed by small business or are self-employed.  I agree with the 2000 Republican National platform that calls for the 100% deductibility of health insurance premiums and letting small businesses band together, across state lines, to purchase plans through chamber of commerce or association plans.

 

Republicans recognize that the role of government in the new economy is to foster an environment where innovation can flourish. I applaud the Republican Congress, who last year pushed through the Internet Tax Freedom Act that put a moratorium on new Internet taxes to ensure electronic commerce would not be smothered in its infancy.

 

reagan0001When looking at education, to borrow a classic query from Ronald Reagan, “Are we better off than we were eight years ago.”  The sad answer is no.  At a time when our country enjoys remarkable economic growth and a world of opportunity, test scores suffer, American colleges and Universities are offering remedial courses and U.S. businesses are unable to find qualified and trainable workers.

 

I support the Republican plan to raise academic standards through increased local control and accountability.  We need to expand parental choice and encourage competition by providing parents with information on their child’s school, increasing the number of charter schools, and expanding education savings accounts for use from kindergarten through college.  We need to help states ensure safety by forcefully prosecuting youths who carry or use guns and the adults who provide them.

 

But we must recognize that it is not the teachers who are to blame for many of our challenges to the educational system.  Teacher pay and benefits are central to attracting and retaining qualified educators.  We are losing the battle of attracting young educators when they can obtain better wages by choosing another, more lucrative field.  Financial incentives such as lowering the points on a new home, a dream for many young couple, could attract young people to a career in teaching.  A single point could mean a four to five percent wage increase for a young person.  We need to establish longevity pay to keep some older teachers on the rolls just a little longer, providing our children with the education they need and deserve.

 

Since 1992, Social Security’s unfunded liability has increased from $7.4 trillion to $8.8 trillion.  Its trustee’s project by the year 2015, there will not be enough cash coming from payroll taxes to pay currently promised Social Security Benefits.  In the eight years of the Clinton-Gore administration, there was a lot of talk but no reform of the system.  I believe that Social Security must be reformed and I support the Republican Plan to allow personal savings accounts to be the cornerstone of that restructuring.  Today’s workers should be free to direct a portion of their payroll taxes to personal investments, netting higher return rates, for their retirement future.

 

Choice is the key and any new options for retirement security should be voluntary, so workers can choose to remain in the present system or opt for a new system, which could yield higher returns.

 

I support President Bush’s efforts to repeal the Death Tax. Hard working Americans should not live in fear that the fruits of their labor will fall into the hands of the government rather than that of their children.  It is a double tax, which is imposed when you earn the money, and again when you die.  Supporters of the tax say it only punishes the rich.  But in essence, many of the rich avoid the tax through a gaggle of Attorneys and CPA’s through estate planning and financial loopholes.  In actuality, it is the families of long held family farms or the inherited small business that cannot come up with the funds to pay the tax.

 

I believe that a strong and well-trained American Military force is the wold’s best guarantee of peace.  While we remain the preeminent super power in the world and no one can question the commitment of our fighting men and women, recruiting lags, and our well-trained personnel have left in record numbers.  Our dedicated military that continue to serve on our behalf are compensated with pay, which is 13% less than their civilian counterpart.  Thousands of military families are forced to rely on food stamps and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said that 2/3 of the nation’s military housing is sub-standard.  We must restore the health and vitality of the American Military, increasing wage and benefits, and ensuring they have the training and equipment to carry out their mission.

  

Why am I a Republican?  I have watched as election after election the Democratic Party pitted race against race, social class against social class, and old against young.  If the Republican Party is elected….race relations will be set back to the Jim Crow era.  If the Republican is elected, they will cut Social Security benefits and make it difficult for seniors to receive their Medicare support.  If Republicans are elected, they will give a big tax decrease to the rich but increase taxes on the poor and middle class.

 

This most recent presidential election was most evident of this and perhaps the most striking instance was an ad run nationally by the NAACP which inferred that George W. Bush was in part responsible for the James Lee Byrd hate crime in Texas and at the very least…light on the enforcement of harsh penalties for such action.  The commercial was at best misleading and at worst reckless and inflammatory.

 

President Bush and the Republican congress are well on their way to passing the much-needed tax cut.  They will repeal the ergonomics legislation, which is having a dire on our manufacturing and small business community.  I applaud the President’s support of the military and his commitment to our armed forces and his call to set up a commission to study and make recommendations on Social Security reform. 

 

We must overhaul the tax code, simplify it, and repeal taxes such as the death tax, and the marriage penalty. 

 

And the Lord spoke through Joshua saying, “I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and the olive groves which you did not plant.”  We have inherited much…and much is required in turn.

 

The soil of this country is wet with the sweat of the indentured servant, who toiled in his labor to pay off the debt incurred from a trip to the New World and a land of opportunity.  A soil soaked with the tears which ran down the cheeks of the black slave, a child pulled from the arms of her mother, a husband separated from his wife.  A soil stained with the blood of the American soldier, fighting against foreign foe, sometimes neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother.  The soil is nurtured with the blood and bones of those slaughtered native Americans, whose land was stripped from them.

 

Ours in not always a pleasant history.  Great injustices have been done to the Black American, the Native Indian, the southern family following the Civil War, Japanese Americans who were interned in prison camps during World War II, and females who were treated as second class citizens during much of country’s history.  But we should not strive to cover up our history, allowing revisionist to rewrite our past, but to remember and learn from the injustice.

 

Perhaps an individual who had the greatest impact on my personal philosophical and political belief was Ronald Wilson Reagan.  While President of the U.S. Junior Chamber, I had lunch with perhaps America’s most optimistic supporter.  I can still recall, his address to our Jaycee Delegates at a National Convention when he said, “Many people look back fondly on our past and talk about how good things used to be.  But I believe America is a country of tomorrow and I believe our best days are before her.”

 

I too believe America is a country of tomorrow, where opportunity abounds for those with the initiative to seize it.  Where there are no hyphenated Americans, only Americans.  Where we no longer pit class against class or race against race.  Where we are all acknowledged as one race…the human race.

 

A country where entrepenuership and hard work is rewarded.  The less fortunate are assisted and the elderly are shown the respect and afforded the benefits they deserve.  Where every child is given the best education available.

 

I believe in one nation……under God…..Indivisible….with liberty and justice for all.    

March 24, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Reminder from Arlington

arlington00011      Last September, our Chamber delegation met with Senators Dole and Burr and Congresswoman Myrick and Congressman Watt in D.C.  We spoke about a variety of issues from road improvements, and energy to what we perceived then was just a sluggish economy.  Within days of our trip, news of bank failings, lost jobs, and the credit crisis filled the evening news.  We arrived back home feeling a sense of accomplishment.  Little did we know the news which would overshadow that trip – a market collapse requiring a “rescue” by the federal government.

     While in D.C. we did have an opportunity for a little sight seeing.  The most awe inspiring was a trip to Arlington National Cemetery.  Perhaps there is nothing more stirring than to look at the row after row of white markers designating our national heroes, many who served our country well.  Most, giving their very lives to protect the freedoms, liberty, and rights we hold so dear.

     Some may not know that Arlington, our nation’s most precious shrine, is the home of Robert E. Lee.  I must confess that I am an unabashed Son of the South.  I was probably sixteen before someone finally convinced me that Lee was not really a member of the Holy Trinity.  However, we are kin!  My great grandmother’s father is Lee’s fifth cousin.

     I know…people from the north wonder how we southerners can go on and on about our cousins three times removed.  So how is it that America’s most cherished shrine honors a man who led the army that fought for southern independence from the Union?

     With the passage of time, Americans came to appreciate Lee’s role in reuniting the nation after the Civil War.  The Confederate general’s example inspired men and women of his day to lay down grievances and get on with the job of rebuilding a new and better America.  Lee used his influence to move away from the bitterness of the war to reunion and peace.  “Madam,” Lee admonished a Southern visitor in his last years, “Don’t bring up your sons to detest the United States Government.  Recollect that we form one country now.  Abandon all these local animosities and make your sons American.”

     The situation we find ourselves in today with the challenges to our free market, health and welfare, our very jobs are a result of greed and partisanship.

     Government spends – it does not solve.  Only people can solve the problems that were created by people in the first place.  It will require putting aside labels, and bickering, and politics, and partisanship and putting service above self and people above party.

     We are reminded of the souls that stand silent sentry on the hills of Arlington. Those who paid the ultimate price for God and country – for you and me – and the generations who will inherit this great exercise in democracy.

     Each generation is tested.  No great opportunity comes without risk, no great reward without hard work and determination.  And working together, we will rebuild this economy better than it was before.  Because we are all Americans and like the generation before us we will accept nothing less than our very best.

March 12, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , | Leave a comment