To lead effectively, a leader must have the trust of those who follow. Without trust, relationships will have no foundation, and efforts to achieve goals will be in vain. Trust is difficult to earn, yet is easily lost.

Washington has lost the trust of the people to whom they are beholden. Recent polls reflect this loss of trust, with a 75% disapproval rating of Congress. Three in every four Americans feel that their elected officials are not serving their interests. How did we get to such a state?

I believe that there is a disconnect between those in office, and the will of the people. In spite of the advances we have made in communication and technology, many members of Congress still seem to be out  of touch with the average American and their needs.

Another factor causing this breakdown in trust is a lack of transparency. So many meetings and a great part of the decision making process go on behind closed doors, outside of the view of the American people. Why the subterfuge? Why aren’t all debates held openly, if they have nothing to hide?

Most importantly, there is a lack of personal integrity and honor. Many elected officials have lost their sense of personal accountability. Rather than take responsibility for their failings, they attempt to shift blame onto others. This part of the “political game” needs to be removed like the cancer it is. Politics is not a game. It should not be treated as such. The arrogance being portrayed in Washington must be reined in. Representatives should worry less about promoting their own agendas, and advancing their careers, and worry more about serving the needs of the people.

Integrity is something missing in Washington today. In recent times, we have seen elected officials bend and twist the spirit of the law to achieve their desired end state. Though they acknowledge the dubious manner in which they proceed, they attempt to justify their positions by claiming that past Congresses have done the same thing, and feel that somehow this makes it acceptable. It does not.

Sadly, the spirit of common decency has all but fled the halls of Congress. What was once a league of distinguished gentleman has become tarnished with the shifting of blame and accusations against the character of fellow representatives. Bipartisan debate and good spirited cooperation are no longer the first means of resolving a difference of opinion.

If a leader is to build trust, he must hold himself to the highest of standards. The leader must lead by example, and oftentimes put aside his personal welfare for the goals of the people whom he leads. At times, the will of the people may not be his own. The leader must recognize his role as a servant to the people, and be prepared to represent the will of the people.

A leader needs to be honest and open with his constituency, in good times and bad. When a leader attempts to deceive the people, trust is undermined, and is nigh onto impossible to regain. If there is a cost to be paid to achieve some good, a leader should make those costs plain, and seek the counsel of his constituency. Regular contact and communication with the people of the district is vital, and must be maintained.

When trust is established, morale is enhanced, and motivation soon follows. History has shown that even in the darkest of times, a well motivated force, with high morale, can overcome great obstacles, and achieve victory. America can achieve the greatness we once had, but to begin, trust must be restored.

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Oh, the power of a blog! As much of a history buff I consider myself, a friend has reached out and taught me something new. The Fourth Stanza of the Star Spangled Banner.

God in the National Anthem

Francis Scott Key wrote four stanzas to our National Anthem, though we traditionally only sing the First Stanza. The Star Spangled Banner has always stirred my soul, and has brought me to near tears on more than one occasion. If you feel the same, you’ll truly appreciate the Fourth Stanza.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n – rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,
And this be our motto–“In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

“In God is our trust.” This ties in beautifully with my earlier blog post regarding the Pledge of Allegiance.

In closing, I leave you with a piece of scripture another friend shared with me to bring this theme all together:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. — Joshua 1:9

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United State of America, and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The American Flag

The Pledge of Allegiance. A pledge that dates back to 1892, albeit in a different wording. The original text by Francis Bellamy was designed to be used for any country, and did not include the words, “United States of America” or “Under God.”

It was in 1923 that the words “my flag” were replaced with “…the Flag of the United States of America” by the first National Flag Conference in Washington, D.C.

The words “under God” were added in 1954 by then President Eisenhower, who stated at the time, “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”

I think as a nation we would do well to look at the words of President Eisenhower today.

In the last 56 years, we seem to have forgotten the message he shared with us. Rather than reaffirming our religious faith, our nation seems hell bent on pushing religion farther and farther away. Schools that recite the Pledge in class are becoming fewer and fewer, and some groups want to remove the words “Under God” from the pledge.

There is a movement to remove “In God we Trust” from our currency. The movement was nearly successful, but failed for the time being. The fight was not without some gain on the part of those that would see us turn away from God, however. Instead of being on the face of the coin, the words “In God We Trust” are now engraved on the edges of some coins.

Some theories hold that the inscription was moved to the edge as a compromise. For those  that believe we should not have “In God We Trust” on our currency, the edge placement was a way of hiding the inscription, and is intended to mollify those of us that do want the inscription. God has literally been moved from the focal point of our sight. If you want to see the inscription, you have to look for it.
In 2007, there was a controversial printing error in which an unknown number of new dollar coins went into circulation without their edge inscriptions, including “In God We Trust,” according to an MSNBC news story. Some believe it was intentional, while the US Mint claims it was a mistake. I’m not proposing a conspiracy, but it’s worth mentioning that there are as many as 50,000 of these coins in circulation, lacking the inscription.
There is also a school of thought that the opponents of the inscription agreed to the edge placement because that is the first part of the coin to wear away as it is used in the marketplace. I think this is a perfect illustration of the erosion of our faith-based culture in America today.
This battle has long been a battle of small victories for the opposition. For every inch we give them, they will take a mile. Our betrayal of our servitude to a higher power will be our downfall. The opposition will win by one small battle at a time, until we are ultimately defeated.
You see, when we give ground on our principles, it becomes a slippery slope. When we agree to a compromise of principals, we are setting ourselves up to forsake those principles altogether. Just as our nation compromised on the placement of God in our currency, our adherence to our faith is in danger of being wore away.
President Eisenhower had the right idea. We need to continuously strengthen our spiritual weapons, for they will indeed be our last line of defense. We need to put God first. If we continue to ignore our moral compass, we are destined to follow the empires of the past, become divided, and fall.


It seems that folks are a little obsessed with “Making History” when it comes to political decisions these days. But I ask you, is it more important to make history, or to prepare for the future?

During the Presidential Elections of 2008, I endured wave after wave of news reports and public sentiment that voting for Obama and electing the first black President would make history. The Democratic Party held him up to be the candidate that would bring hope and change, and would be the consummate sign that America had changed.

Now, I have steadfastly acknowledged that Obama’s campaign was one of the greatest election campaigns ever run. The campaign used every available media source, grassroots effort, and marketing strategy known to man, and they were highly effective in getting the message out.

A large number of voters voted for Obama to make history, by electing America’s first black President. Another large segment of voters voted for Obama because they were just so sick of the past administration that they wanted something, ANYTHING, but what we had. OK, fine. So be it. They made their voices heard, and President Obama won the election. History was made.

Now we have a healthcare bill signed into law using a process that makes the manufacturing of sausage look like a Renaissance Masterpiece. But hey, we made history! Again!

A significant portion of the country didn’t want it because they didn’t understand what it contained. Evidently, no one else did either, since today the government realized it missed some of the targeted protections for children. I also noticed several changes to the bill when I went back to the online Library of Congress file. As it goes to the Senate for reconciliation, more changes are expected.

We now have Healthcare Reform that cannot sustain itself, will stress Medicaid to the breaking point, and adds to our already ridiculously large deficit. How’s that for making history?

In any event, they did it, and are currently enjoying their victory. Will it be a victory for the nation, however? Eventually, someone is going to come to collect the debts America owes. What will happen at that point? Will we be bought out, go bankrupt, and join the ranks of failed governments in the history books? God, I hope not.

Will healthcare reform be the ruin of America?

Greek Ruins

We need a government that can work together. We need leaders that can focus on the issues, and rise above petty name calling. We need BOTH PARTIES to grow up, and act like the distinguished leaders we thought we were electing. We need respectable leadership that will dignify the offices they represent. We need Congressman and Senators who truly represent the will of their constituents, not party or personal goals.

The Obama campaign promised change. This administration is no better than the last, it’s just a different party, with a different agenda. Partisanship continues to run rampant, and new ways are found to circumvent the protections set up by the Constitution. These circumventions are waved off by key figures, who justify their actions by saying, “Well, the other party did it when they had power!”

That’s not making history, it’s repeating the mistakes of the past.

We don’t need to continue making history, we need to avoid becoming history.

The Healthcare issue isn’t even at the top of most Americans’ priorities list. Americans are primarily concerned with the economy, and even more importantly, unemployment. Let’s encourage our leadership to wipe the slate clean, put some band-aids on their sore egos, and focus on these two issues.

I think everyone will be a lot more willing to discuss healthcare reform once we get Americans working and get a plan in place to balance the budget. It will take more than one party, and it will require that the average American get off the couch and get involved to elect leaders that can bring it about. I’m in. Are you?

A few months back, someone slipped a pill in my drink, while I wasn’t looking.

No, nothing as scandalous as a ruffie, nor even as trippy as ecstasy. Instead, someone slipped me the Red Pill, and I began to wake up and see what was going in our government.

In case you’re not familiar with the pill I am referring to, allow me to share a quote from The Matrix:

You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

Obamacare, wake up!

OK, so nobody really physically slipped me a pill. Nevertheless, I have been driven of late to stay abreast of political goings-on, and obsessed with researching and understanding the inexplicable push by Democrats to force through a Healthcare Bill that is rife with controversy, encompasses one-sixth of the U.S. economy, and provides healthcare to…well, I haven’t figured that out yet.

The reason I use the Matrix metaphor is because the majority of my fellow citizens seem to still be asleep. The deeper I look into this bill, the more disgusted and sickened I become. I try to shake those near me awake, to no avail. They either don’t see the problem, or refuse to. They have become so desensitized to government corruption that they don’t realize how severe our plight has become.

Equally disconcerting is when people are aware of what the current administration is doing, they shrug it off, or try to justify it by pointing out the indiscretions and wrong-doings of past administrations (namely, President Bush). I seem to remember learning a  lesson as a child, a lesson like: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

By this logic, I guess the next administration can just come in and do whatever it pleases. Then again, why wait for the next administration? Obama has two years left. Will we give him a blank check to continue unraveling our country?

I saw a similar defeated attitude in Iraq. When patrolling the villages around Fallujah, as elections were drawing near, I had the opportunity to ask the Iraqis of Al-Anbar how they felt about the upcoming elections. The prevailing theme was, “They’re all liars, and what we think won’t make a difference, anyway.”

There were some exceptions, where people were excited about the elections, but they were in the minority. I did what I could to encourage the people of Iraq to stay motivated. After all, this is what my fellow Marines and I had fought for. The right for Iraqis to have free elections, and liberate themselves. Had it been for nothing?

The lesson I took away from my time in Iraq in 2008 was a painful one. You can’t help those that won’t help themselves. If you believe you are beaten before you even begin, you will surely be defeated.

Now, here I am back home, 18 months later, seeing some disturbing similarities. People believe that the government will do whatever it wants, and that all politicians are liars. A people so discouraged in their leadership that they are convinced that resistance is futile. (Yes, I spent too much time watching Sci-Fi movies in my younger days.)

President Obama, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Senator Harry Reid and their party have managed to bull through H.R. 3962 – Affordable Health Care for America Act. The Act was passed and signed into law today by President Obama in spite of the objections of the American people. Numerous polls indicated that this was not healthcare reform that the American people want.

There are plenty of sources to cite that claim this is because of misinformation propagated by the Republican Party. The GOP has been accused of fear mongering and spreading lies about the bill. Allow me to toss my chips in with the GOP on this one. I have spent hours reading the bill, and have found nothing in it that convinces me otherwise.

On the contrary, I have found it much easier to debunk the supposed benefits the Democrats claim are being provided. It’s been said that we need some true Bi-Partisan effort to achieve heath care reform, yet the only thing Bi-Partisan about this bill has been the opposition to it. Not one single Republican voted for this bill, but several Democrats voted AGAINST it.

President Obama has made claims that the Republicans are fighting the bill just to be stubborn, labeling them “The Party of No.” In fact, in an attempt to make an appearance of bipartisanship, the Democrats tacked on some Republican amendments to the bill. They refused, however, to address the problems that Republicans had with what was already in the bill. When the Republicans held their ground on the issues, and refused to vote for a flawed bill, they were again accused of being “The Party of No”.

I’m so sorry, Mr. President, that the Republican Party wasn’t as easy to buy off as some of your Democratic colleagues in Nebraska, Louisiana, and Northern Michigan (Yes, YOU, Mr. Stupak!). The Republican Party was on the right side, this time. The side of the people.

In conclusion, I ask that my fellow Americans do one of two things: Either wake up and get involved, or have the decency to plug me back into the Matrix. I’m getting too old to fight these battles alone.

Besides, I can’t pull off the leather trench coat look like Keanu Reeves, and I would damn sure look ridiculous in leather pants.

The clock is ticking. The 72 hour countdown to the vote on the healthcare bill has begun, with zero hour being 2pm EST on Sunday.

Democrats are rounding up as much support for the bill as they can, with President Obama attempting to convince Democratic Congressional Representatives that their political future lies in the passing of the bill.

The Washington Post has released a great chart that shows how Congress voted on the original bill in November, and where they stand now. Being a Michigan resident, I’m focusing on Michigan.

The chart shows all fifteen Representatives from the State of Michigan. The first column indicates where the Rep stands as of today. The second column shows how they voted on November 7th.

The votes are split by party. All seven Republicans are against the bill, and seven of the eight Democrats are for the bill.

There is one Democrat from Michigan who remains undecided on the issue. That would be Bart Stupak of District 1, from the Upper Peninsula. Stupak is a staunch Pro-Life advocate, and has stated that he will not vote for the bill unless his amendment to prohibit federal funding of abortion is included in the bill. The Stupak Amendment is not being viewed favorably by many Pro-Choice Democrats, and could be the weak link in this bill’s potential passage.

One thing that strikes me as odd is that no candidate, with the exception of Stupak, has changed their stance on this bill since it has been redrafted. The original Senate Bill is 2409 pages. The new Amendment, dated March 18, 2010, is an additional 153 pages. There are other documents as well to be considered, including the Reconciliation Act prepared by the Congressional Committe on the Budget, another 445 pages.

Nothing in any of this caused anyone to change their minds??? Well, if they haven’t read it, I guess it wouldn’t.

Fear not, however. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has graciously arranged for the public to have 72 hours to digest this 3000+ page nightmare.

Oh, and if you thought all this reform was strictly about Healthcare, think again.

There are several sections relating to education reform as well. To be honest, the Amendment is so convoluted and filled with “strike subparagraph x of section xxx and insert blah blah blah”  that my head is currently throbbing just trying to read it.

On initial review, I gleaned that the Amendment is pumping more money into grants for students, schools, and teachers. There are several revisions to the Pell Grant. The Amendment also includes changes to the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Now I’m not saying Education Reform is a bad thing, and it certainly could use some reform, but does it need to be dealt with in a healthcare bill???

In the Marine Corps, we have an expression that I will attempt to clean up for those of a more “genteel” nature. It involves cramming 10 pounds of “waste product” into a 2 pound sack. The analogy seems fitting for this bill as well.

Healthcare reform is needed. But not just any reform. We need clear, concise, well thought out reform. Most importantly, it needs to be reform that we can AFFORD as a nation. The current bill is a runaway train of Progressive ideology, and it needs to be stopped.

Call your Representatives today, and urge them to vote no this weekend. Pray that this will even come up for a vote.

Call your Congressman!Across the nation today, people are blowing the phones off the hook, reaching out to their Congressional Representatives and urging them to vote “NO” on the proposed Healthcare Bill. Fortunately for me, here in West Michigan, I already know where my Congressman stands.

Democrats are launching a major push to pull in the votes they need to push this thing through. According to an article in the Telegraph, President Obama has even gone so far as to threaten to withdraw support for Democrats who don’t vote yes on the bill. A one-night presidential appearance can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds for a campaign. By threatening to not do tis for Democratic candidates who oppose him, Obama has drawn a line in the sand, essentially saying, “You’re either with me, or against me.”

This may seem a bit heavy-handed to some, but it’s been a trademark of this issue since it started over a year ago. No one can agree on all the aspects of this convoluted and all-encompassing bill. Many government representatives have suggested starting the process over, removing the controversial pieces, and trying to pass reform in smaller bites, more palatable to the American people. President Obama refuses to budge, however. He wants it all, and he wants it now.

That’s the part that frustrates me the most. This is no longer an issue of what is good for the United States. It’s all about who is going to win. This issue has consumed this administration, to the detriment of other issues facing our nation. Compromise isn’t even in the picture anymore. The administration is so obsessed with the idea of being the “Champions of Healthcare Reform” that they are deaf to the pleas of the American people to slow down and do this right. It’s become one big contest of egos in Washington.

The craziest thing of all is that NO ONE, from either political party, actually likes this bill “as written”. Everyone knows it’s garbage, can’t pay for itself, and is full of special interest payoffs. Where the parties truly differ is that the leading Democrats are desperate to pass SOMETHING, and the Republicans (along with some Democratic hold-outs) would rather take the time to work reform through in steps. I’m again reminded of the lesson I try to teach my kids: “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

Instead, Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid continue to push this bill, essentially saying to the House opposition, “Just vote yes, and we’ll fix it later.”

Our only hope is to contact our Congressional leaders to remind them that they represent the will of the people, and that we do not want this bill. West Michigan is fortunate to have a leader like Congressman Pete Hoekstra in Washington right now, working to rally support against the bill. Pete Hoekstra  has made plain his thoughts on the bill, and his continued determination to see this bill defeated. Hoekstra is conveying the message to fight against this bill every way he can, to include social media venues like Facebook and Twitter.

Congressman Bart Stupak (D) from the Upper Peninsula could really use your calls of support right now. Stupak has jumped in front of this freight train, along with a few of his Democrat colleagues in Congress. Stupak is against the bill because he believes that the bill will open the door to federal funding of abortion. A staunch Pro-Life advocate, Stupak finds the bill unconscionable, and is holding strong despite the threats being lobbed at him by the White House. Stay strong Bart!

Michigan has a total of 15 Congressional Representatives in Washington (8 Democrats and 7 Republicans). I know these two men are against the bill, but it doesn’t hurt to call and let them know we appreciate it! I urge you to call the other members of Congress and tell them how you feel about the bill, too.

For a list of Congressional Representatives and how to contact them, visit the Contacting Congress website.