The True Legacy of Ben Franklin’s Last Will and Testament

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The following represents a chapter excerpt from the forthcoming book From Cradle to Retirement – The Child IRA – How to start a newborn on the road to a comfortable retirement while still in a cozy cradle (Pandamensional Solutions, Inc., September 2017). If you know of millennials (or baby boomers) who are parents (or grandparents), especially if they own their business or are part of a closely-held/family business, you may want to encourage to pre-order the book through Kickstarter project: “Child IRA Book – Is Your Child’s Future Worth $1,000 a Year.” Professional might want to take a look at and back this project, too, because it offers several low-cost opportunities to brand their business in this large and growing market.

Ben Franklin may have been teased into starting twin 200-year trusts in Boston and Philadelphia, but he nonetheless realized a great idea when he saw one. He even recognized the potential obstacles that might present themselves to those tasked with executing his grand plan. More important, we now recognize that, all other things aside, Franklin should be applauded for his eternal optimism in the nation he helped found.

The history of his legacy trusts – The Franklin Trust of Philadelphia and the Franklin Foundation of Boston – instructs us on both the power of compound interest and the dangers of relying on public officials to manage money for the long-term. We might even Continue Reading “The True Legacy of Ben Franklin’s Last Will and Testament”

Cuomo Albany Über Alles

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The ambitious lawyer took no time to achieve his goal. In less than a decade, he had moved from being a partner in his New York City firm to a major real estate investor in the Albany area before finally relocating his family to a county located on New York’s farthest boundary. There, within a short span of three years, he had used his New York City and Albany connections to place his own ally in the position of county sheriff and get himself elected to the assembly. There, he steered the powerful New York-Albany axis towards his own political ends. Those constituents he left in the hinterland? Once he went to the assembly in Albany, no one cared about them. He didn’t. His wealthy backers in New York City didn’t. And the powers that be in Albany didn’t.

Sound familiar? After reading the above, you may be thinking of the poor underserved Continue Reading “Cuomo Albany Über Alles”

Snow Day, March 15, 2017

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There’s something totally relaxing about sitting in the comfort of your warm home while Mother Nature unleashes her winter fury all around you. Why does it relax me so? It’s not because I’m taking the day off from work. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can work anywhere, anytime, 24/7 (as long as the electricity is working, but that concern was so last week for most people and so two weeks ago for me, but more on that later…). It’s not just because I can rest easy, knowing my family is safe with me (or safe wherever they are).

That’s all true, but there’s something else that relaxes me. It’s knowing that I’m sharing a common experience with everyone else in our broader community. There’s something to be said about this collective involvement. When a snow storm beyond a certain magnitude strikes, everyone stops. Well, they stop once they’re finished raiding the local grocery store for such essentials as milk, bread, and (fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-non-nutritional-snack). Once prepared, we all head home and wait.

Admit it, are you like me? Do you agonize in anticipation waiting for that first flurry? Do you Continue Reading “Snow Day, March 15, 2017”

It was 50 Years Ago Tonight I Decided to Become an Astronomer

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Ever since I can remember I loved science. All sorts of science. My mother was a substitute teacher. Before I went to kindergarten she would bring home books from her third grade class and teach me to read. My favorite book was the science text book. I particular enjoyed reading about dinosaurs. When you like dinosaurs, you tend to like fossils and rocks. When you like fossils and rocks, you tend to like volcanoes and earthquakes. When you like volcanoes and earthquakes, you tend to like hurricanes and tornadoes. When you like hurricanes and tornadoes you tend to like weather and atmospheric phenomenon. When you like weather and atmospheric phenomenon, you tend to like planets and stars.

Yep, I liked science. But of all the flavors of science, I liked astronomy the best. Growing up in Buffalo, I just happened to be in luck. In 1966, SUNY launched a pioneer program in what could only be described as one of the first distance learning experiments in the country. Called University of the Air, the pilot program contained only two courses with credite and was available only to the Buffalo and Albany campuses. The courses would be aired on the local PBS station. Now here’s the twist: one of those courses was an Continue Reading “It was 50 Years Ago Tonight I Decided to Become an Astronomer”

Why I Can No Longer Stand the Buffalo Bills

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After living above the Pizzeria on South Park Avenue in Blasdell, my grandparents moved to Lake Avenue in Orchard Park. It wasn’t more than three miles away, but they decided to go to a new parish, one closer to their new home. Our Lady of Sacred Heart sits on Abbott Road just north of the intersection with Lake Avenue, about a mile away from what would soon become Rich Stadium, home of Western New York’s National Football league team the Buffalo Bills.

At the time the Bills still played their games in downtown Buffalo on a field lovingly referred to as “The Rockpile,” (it was officially known as War Memorial Stadium). However, the team Continue Reading “Why I Can No Longer Stand the Buffalo Bills”

A Christmas Postcard

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classic-christmas-postcardThere’s something about this season that evokes bygone memories. These aren’t sepia toned memories – I’m not that old – they’re more like a mix of warm vibrant colors filmed with a soft lens. In other words, they bring forth feelings both nostalgic and pleasant. Think of a classic Christmas postcard, its snow covered landscape offering the perfect contrast to the brilliant but somehow muted colors surrounding a heartfelt home filled with love and the joy of expectation. This paints the picture of the memories I’m writing about.

Except my memories aren’t make believe. They are very real, although the distant years sometimes make me wonder if the soft lens distorts more than the crisp definitions we’ve become all too accustomed to in the digitized world in which we live. No matter. The price of a slight distortion here and there is well worth the comfort of the inner smile they bring.

Of course these memories, as they do for everyone and almost by definition, come from Continue Reading “A Christmas Postcard”

Wisconsin Wins This One

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If you’re so inclined to take a stroll through Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo and you happen to find yourself by Mirror Lake, look around at the tombstones. If you’re lucky (it ought to be easy to find, it’s the only one IMG_8669with the huge flagpole), you’ll find one that reads:

Sara M. Hinson
Dedicated Teacher
Who with Others
Gave Us Flag Day
1841 – 1926

On February 25, 1841, George Hinson’s wife gave birth to a baby girl. The parents named her Sara. Sara Hinson would go through the Buffalo School System before being sent to finishing school. Upon completion of her education, she began teaching at Buffalo PS 13 before being moved to School #4. In 1864, as the Civil War was ending, Hinson was 23 and she transferred to School #31, where she taught the fourth grade for thirty years before spending the next twenty as principal.

Hinson is credited with being one of the first to advocate the celebration of Flag Day. Although Continue Reading “Wisconsin Wins This One”

A Civil War Memorial

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America’s Civil War left nearly a million casualties and a national wound that would take generations to heal. Heal it did and the process began almost immediately. IMG_8721_Memorial_Day_Museum_300While a small hamlet in Greater Western New York was busy forgetting its recent past, another of our villages became the first to keep from forgetting. If we travel east of Town Line on Route 20, we pass through the heart of our region. Just past Geneva and before we reach Seneca Falls, we come to the not-so-small Village of Waterloo in Seneca County. Waterloo’s a big village, reaching into three towns – Waterloo, Seneca and Fayette.

When the Union veterans began returning to Waterloo, a forty-five year old druggist took note. He noted how the residents greeted all those who returned with honors and celebrations. What bothered him, though, were the ones that didn’t return. Who would honor their memories? Perhaps he was compelled by his own personal experience. He Continue Reading “A Civil War Memorial”

I’ll Have One for the Road and Two for the Sea

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And let me the canakin clink, clink,
And let me the canakin clink.
A soldier’s a man;
A life’s but a span;
Why, then, let a soldier drink.
– Othello

The reason James Fenimore Cooper strode into Hustler’s Tavern has disappeared into the hazy mists of history. By 1821, his life had been less than pristine. Kicked out of
IMG_3230_violin_cocktail_300
Yale after three years as a trouble-maker (he blew up a classmate’s door), the son of a (probably embarrassed) Congressman who founded the City of Cooperstown did what any other lost teenager trying to find himself did in the early eighteenth century – he joined the Merchant Marine.1

Perhaps he remembered his earlier, albeit brief, stay in the Niagara Frontier just before the War of 1812.2 Serving mostly overseas, he saw some of his best crewmates taken from their ships and forced to serve aboard British warships against Napoleonic France. Like the rest of America, he detested Continue Reading “I’ll Have One for the Road and Two for the Sea”

A Model of Christian Spirit

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Ever since John Winthrop’s famous “city upon a hill” sermon aboard the Arbella in 1630, it’s been tough to separate religion from the spirit of America’s founding. Indeed, IMG_2733_Spiritual_Out-of_Focus_300some say the evangelical movement of the mid-eighteenth century known as The First Great Awakening played a key role in America’s strive for independence.1 And don’t think the whole “separation of Church and State” thing in the Constitution came about because the Founding Fathers felt the First Great Awakening was a tad too much. I’ll remind you the whole purpose of the First Great Awakening was to rebel against the Church of England and to recognize broader religious freedom. This is the very philosophy embodied by our constitution.

Our focus in this chapter, though, isn’t the First Great Awakening, but the Second Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening began in 1790 and lasted for about 50 years. It featured traveling preachers leading revival camps where “hundreds and sometimes thousands of people would gather for miles around in wilderness encampment for four days to a week.”2 One such preacher was Charles Finney, who, from September 1830, through June 1831, led various revival campaigns3 in Rochester, Buffalo and “the intermediate towns between there.”4 And what facilitated this travel? Why, none other Continue Reading “A Model of Christian Spirit”