God and Calhoun at Yale

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You can tell skilled debaters from amateurs by this simple test: skilled debaters can argue either side of the argument with equal success. It’s why public defenders are often better attorneys than public prosecutors. In most situations, public prosecutors can choose which case to take to court. Given this option, it’s not surprising to see them avoid cases they don’t agree with. Public defenders have no similar choice. They must make a case for the defendant whether they believe that defendant is guilty or not. Unlike private defense attorneys, who may choose not to represent any particular party, public defenders have no right to pick and choose their cases.

It’s easy to see why people sometimes think less of the legal profession. The ability to argue either side of any issue with the same fervor can indicate a certain level of amorality that can make a preacher’s skin crawl. After all, in the court of law, judgment is fungible – the power of a lawyer’s rhetoric can sway it. On the other hand, from the point of view of the pulpit, Continue Reading “God and Calhoun at Yale”

Speed versus Accuracy? It All Depends on the Game

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Quantum physics is weird. Despite studying it for four intense years under the tutelage of some of the most elite professors in the field, I didn’t really get it until I read The Cosmic Code shortly after I earned my degree. Written by Heinz Pagels, a physicist and frequent contributor to The New York Times on topics like cosmology and other fun science subjects, the book explained the complex concepts of physics to the lowly layman. Now, my curriculum vitae might have suggested I wasn’t a lowly layman. While this may have been true for most areas of astrophysics, when it came to quantum physics I was as lowly as lowly could get.

In Pagels’ words, I was a “determinist.” A determinist is a classical physicist who sees the Continue Reading “Speed versus Accuracy? It All Depends on the Game”

7th Heaven? I’m Not Saying It’s Aliens, But…

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Americans seem to have been infatuated with the concept of extraterrestrial life ever since Italian Astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli placed his eye on the lens of that new (and very powerful) refractor telescope in the Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera. The Brera Observatory (so named because it was located in the Brera district of Milan, Italy) to this day sits on the very urban corner of Via Brera and Via Flori Ocsuri. The Jesuit astronomer Ruđer Josip Bošković (or “Ruggiero Giuseppe Boscovich,” depending on which ethnic group you believe controlled Dubrovnik in the Republic of Ragusa at the time of his birth) built the observatory in 1764. Within a decade, Pope Clements XIV issued his July 21, 1773 papal bull formally suppressing the Jesuits. Among other things, this papal bull passed the ownership of the observatory to municipal, rather than religious, authorities.

His early work having brought fame both to him and his country, the Kingdom of Italy bought Schiaparelli an 8.6 inch Merz Equatorial Refracting Telescope from famed German optician Georg Merz. In 1874 the telescope was installed on the roof of the Brera Observatory and Schiaparelli used it initially to study double stars. With the opposition of Mars set to happen on September 5, 1877, Schiaparelli turned his sight to the Red Planet. (An “opposition” is an astronomical event that occurs when the Earth is exactly between the Sun and the planet.) It was during this period of observations, beginning on September 12, 1877, that Schiaparelli drew his now famous map of Mars. Here lies, as they say, the rest of the story.Continue Reading “7th Heaven? I’m Not Saying It’s Aliens, But…”

Leadership Lessons of George Washington

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What can one say about George Washington that hasn’t already been said? Sometimes people think we paint the Father of Our Country in larger than life colors. In fact, George Washington was larger than life, and that’s a truth that needs to be continually emphasized. Not only was he tall in stature and well-built compared to his peers, but his stoic disposition commanded respect. It is that disposition, and the wisdom of his character, that makes our first president such a model citizen – one that we should neither be afraid to pattern ourselves after nor be afraid to expect our fellow citizens to pattern themselves after. If this expectation sounds a bit “larger than life,” then you understand the true impact of George Washington upon our nation. [Editor’s Note: Some of the quotes contained herein feature misspellings, improper grammar, and usage conventions different from what we experience today. We present them in their original form to lend flavor to their authenticity.]

George Washington was born February 22, 1732 on his parents Pope’s Creek Estate (near what is today Colonial Beach, Virginia). Well, I cannot tell a lie. He was actually born on February 11, 1731. At the time England was using the Julian calendar and Annuciation (a.k.a. “Lady Day”) Style where the new year began on March 25th. England finally joined the rest of Christendom in 1752 and began using the Gregorian calendar (with January 1st now designated as the start of the new year). Thus, the old “February 11, 1731” now becomes “February 22, 1732” and that’s the day we once designated as a holiday to celebrate George Washington’s birthday.

“Washington’s Birthday” became a national holiday in 1879 through an Act of Congress. In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act shifted it to the third Monday of February, meaning Continue Reading “Leadership Lessons of George Washington”

Leadership Lessons of Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the first president to die in office, but he was the first president to be assassinated. While credited as being the president who unified a divided country and cementing the notion of a single United States of America rather than a group of states united on the American continent, he came into office as one of the most controversial and divisive presidents. Yet, today, we revere him for his character, his wholesomeness, and his willingness to make personal sacrifices to get the job done.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky and, unlike William Henry Harrison, was a true frontiersman, having grown up in Kentucky and Indiana before moving to Illinois. During the era when we celebrated Lincoln’s birthday as a separate holiday, we’d hear stories of his life. Whether apocryphal or true, it didn’t matter, for they burned into our minds and hearts an ideal we were inspired to make as our own life’s work to continually strive for. The totality of Lincoln’s life offers many lessons. Here are just three:Continue Reading “Leadership Lessons of Abraham Lincoln”

Leadership Lessons of William Henry Harrison

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Our nation’s Founding Fathers were well studied men. When called upon to forge a new nation, they looked upon the lessons of the Classical Age for their source. But it wasn’t merely a litany of Greek and Roman heroes they sought. They dug deeper. They wanted to learn not only what succeeded, but what failed. They learned this about great nations, great government, and great men. Greek literature teaches us that every heroic character contains both good traits and bad traits. We learn the good traits to know what to mimic. We learn the bad traits to know what to avoid. So it is with the leadership lessons we learn from our presidents. Not all those lessons teach us what to do. Some teach us what not to do.

William Henry Harrison was born on February 9, 1773 on his family’s plantation in Charles City County, Virginia. The ninth president of the United States, he was the last one born as a British subject (his father signed the Declaration of Independence), but the first one to have his picture taken while in office. He’s also the only president whose grandson would later become president (Benjamin Harrison served as the 23rd president from 1889 to 1893). He’s perhaps best known as the president who gave the longest inaugural address (taking almost 2 hours to read its 8,445 words) and served the shortest time in office (31 days). At 68 years of age, Harrison was the oldest president to be inaugurated until Ronald Reagan topped him by a year in 1980 (who was then surpassed by Donald Trump who was age 70 when he was sworn in).Continue Reading “Leadership Lessons of William Henry Harrison”

Leadership Lessons of Ronald Reagan

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February once offered two holidays: Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12th and George Washington’s birthday on February 22nd. In 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, moving “Washington’s Birthday” from February 22nd to the third Monday in February. Gone was “Lincoln’s Birthday” and the holiday soon became the generic “Presidents’ Day” we celebrate today (though the federal government still officially calls it “Washington’s Birthday”). It is in the spirit of “Presidents’ Day” that we mark February as “Presidents’ Month.” We will do so by devoting each weekly Commentary to the leadership lessons learned from the four presidents born in February.

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois. After a workmanlike acting career, Reagan served as governor of California before becoming our nation’s fortieth president. He remains one of the most popular and successful of our chief executives and is often referenced by Republicans and Democrats alike. (On a historical note, it wasn’t always that way, and those old enough to remain recall how the establishment’s reaction to Reagan’s inauguration was just as dour as what we see happening with President Trump today.)

Much has been written about Reagan’s leadership style and how it fueled consistent accomplishment. Some characterizations of Reagan unintentionally revealed the secret of Continue Reading “Leadership Lessons of Ronald Reagan”

The Secret Power of Multitasking No One Ever Talks About

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“If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” I first heard this famous adage from Benjamin Franklin in my early twenties. I had just joined the Data Processing Management Association and the new president asked me to volunteer for a position. She was a smart, motivated, and very successful woman. So it goes without saying she was more than prepared for my inevitable (and lame) response. “I’m kinda busy,” I sheepishly replied. That’s when she said it.

“You know what they say, Chris, ‘If you want something done, give it to a busy person.’” She didn’t know it (or did she?), but, Continue Reading “The Secret Power of Multitasking No One Ever Talks About”

Why Trump Won’t Lead The Reagan Revolution

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In the spirit of this week’s Presidential Inauguration, I’m going to do something I rarely do: I going to share with you a personal correspondence. Early last year, just as the Republican primary was starting to get interesting, a classmate of mine who writes for the National Review went full speed into the “Never Trump” camp. In March, I penned this letter to her:

Maggie:

Too bad most of the comments on your “Good-Bye Reagan Revolution!” article are ad hominem attacks on you; thus, have no validity. I’ll speak to you on a more personal level since we grew up together in the midst of the Reagan Revolution. First some background, in case you forgot (and I have no reason to believe you remember). In 1979/1980 I was (and Continue Reading “Why Trump Won’t Lead The Reagan Revolution”

Cuomo’s “Free” Tuition Plan Reveals His Techno-Ignorance

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And away we go… Even before Donald Trump’s Inauguration, the 2020 presidential race has begun.

During last year’s presidential primary sweepstakes, the ever plucky Bernie Sanders (can you call a septuagenarian “plucky?) infamously declared he would abolish all college tuition. Plenty practical folks brushed this Marxist rhetoric aside, but those were the adults in the room. The kids ate it up. (And I wouldn’t doubt the idea appealed to a few of their parents, especially after seeing the burden of the obnoxious levels of debt modern college attendance can require.) Still, no one considered this a serious policy. For any number of reasons, common Continue Reading “Cuomo’s “Free” Tuition Plan Reveals His Techno-Ignorance”