Never Give In. . . .

On August 22, 2011, I posted “Calvin Coolidge.”  The post repeated Coolidge’s oft-quoted words which ended “. . . .Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Winston Churchill brought these inspirational words to a new semantic level in 1941.  During the dark days of World War II, Churchill was invited to give the commencement address at the Harrow School. Known for wit, wisdom and tenacity – he addressed the young graduates.  But he spoke to the nation.  Churchill’s brief comments concluded with an admonition to all – “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

It’s easy to give up.  Back down.  Throw in the towel.  But with the words of Churchill and Coolidge, how can we look in the mirror and say “I can’t“?   William Manchester’s trilogy The Last Lion chronicles the life of Churchill. It is my favorite biography.   I would recommend it to you. It might take a while to read (it’s over 3,000 pages) but don’t give up.  Press on.  Keep reading.  Never never give in . . . . .

So this guy. . . .

As a follow up to the prior post regarding attitudes on religious tolerance, you may enjoy the following. . . . . .

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!”

He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”  He said, “Yes.”

I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” And I said, “Me, too!

Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too!

What denomination?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too!

“Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.”  I said, “Me, too!!

“Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”  I said, “Me, too!!

“Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!!!

Are you Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”

I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him off the bridge.

The Lottery – of Birth

I’m lucky.  You who read this post are probably lucky.  You were born into a relatively stable environment. To decent parents. You have an education.  Job.  Family.   Friends.  A religious tradition.  You can travel. And if you get sick, there are doctors to take care of you. The twinkling spark that suddenly became YOU arrived just in the right place.  At the right time.  It was a lottery.  Of birth. 

What if that spark had come to life a hundred years ago. A thousand. For many in those times, they just endured.  Day by day.  Struggling with the things we take for granted today.  Yet even now there are those who are born into a life of abysmal poverty, suffocating hunger and crippling disease.  Raised in countries ravaged by violence, hatred and injustice.  Where every single day may be an arduous, painful and frightening saga.   Do you ever think — that could’ve been me.   

While I go to church on Sunday, I scratch my head over those faith traditions which deny salvation to those not exactly like them.  Can a little boy help if he is born in Totonicapan, Guatemala?  Or to a Hindu family in Rajahmundry, India?  Can we help that we are born Jewish?  Lutheran?  Buddhist?  And if the little girl in Zimbabwe never hears the message of [pick your faith tradition] what does that mean for her eternity?  Her hope of salvation? Is it a closed door?   I wonder how Gabriel might answer that question (see post of 8/25/16).       


Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?   — Henry David Thoreau 

The Cleveland Clinic is known as one of the great medical institutions in America and probably the world.  Two years ago, the Cleveland Clinic produced a powerful YouTube video on empathy.  I watched it for the first time in early March.  And I’ve watched it several times since.  

As I walk from the train station to my office, I’m sure I pass a thousand people.  Probably more.  Each one walks in his/her own world.  With their own thoughts.  Dealing with their own issues.   Health.  Fears.  Demons.  It is important to realize that each one of us has a story.  Each one of us lives with the cards that are dealt in the lottery of birth.  And the life that is thus given.    

Do me a favor – and devote 4-1/2 minutes to this video.   It’s hard to watch this video and not feel a sense of empathy for the human condition.  A sense of – that could be me.   You may want to watch it again. . . .   


Patrol Boys

(An old favorite from 11/20/14)

When I was in 6th and 7th grade, I was a “patrol boy.” After careful instruction, I was given a white Sam Brown belt (a 3″ white belt with an angled strap from one hip to the opposite shoulder). And I was given power. I was the capo di tutti capi (or one of them) for Lincoln School in Mt. Prospect. Donna was a patrol girl back in Rye, NY.

I stood at the street corner. When kids wanted to cross the street, I would thrust my arms out to the sides (“don’t go“). When traffic slowed, I would step into the street and shove my arm into the air – stop! And cars would slow and stop. It’s a patrol boy. Kids would cross. I would step back and motion the drivers with an “as you were” wave. Yeah.  6th grade.

Today, you see crossing guards who are older than dirt. Some look old enough to be my grandfather (or grandmother). Now that’s old. Not as nimble as a patrol boy. They wear iridescent vests, reflective hats, and they carry a monster “STOP” sign. A few look like they’re geared up for a SWAT team. I remember seeing one old guy wearing a helmet.

I always wondered why the patrol boy era came to an end. Probably lawyers.  And helicopter parents who worry about giving their (or someone else’s) child authority. Autonomy. Power. Risk. I frankly think it would be great if we could resume the patrol boy (and girl) era. Think about the sense of responsibility. Confidence. Growing up. Yeah – I know it’s a different time. But it’s still the old protecting versus insulating children (see my offering of 11/21/13). We want to give children wings. And roots.

I’m Goin’ to Trial

When I was in the Felony Trial Division at 26th and California, every day was “Let’s Make a Deal.” Each courtroom had about 400 felony cases on call – with perhaps 20 coming up each day for status or trial. There was no way we could handle trials on all these cases so we played let’s make a deal. A killing that took place in a bar fight might be reduced from murder to voluntary manslaughter if the guy plead guilty. But go to trial for murder? You’re looking at 14 on the bottom (and in a few cases after 1976 – the death penalty). Let’s make a deal.   Most everyone did.  

Isaac R. was charged with armed robbery. He walked into a rental car agency at Wabash and Lake in Chicago swinging a sawed-off shotgun along his right leg.   A car hiker – sitting in a chair leaning against the wall – saw Isaac walking towards the glass-walled office. And he called the police. Isaac entered, raised the gun and the 7 women who were behind the counter all raised their hands.

Police arrived on the scene almost immediately and could see the goings-on through the glass walls. Guns drawn. Aimed. A Channel 7 news truck was driving by, saw the activity, stopped and began filming. When Isaac walked out, he was immediately arrested — on air — and taken into custody.

When his case came up, we assumed Isaac would plead guilty (can we please make a deal?) but he wanted a jury trial. And he wanted to represent himself — pro se.  A lawyer was assigned to sit with him and help.  My partner Al and I put on 6 of the 7 women as witnesses.  Two were nuns from a local order and two were teachers with second jobs.  Al and I wanted to put the Channel 7 video on but the judge asked –  smiling – “why?”  So we didn’t.  The jury was out for an hour and 20 minutes.  The reason it took so long was — the jury had lunch.  And Isaac (who had 3 other felony indictments pending) went away for a long, long time.   I hope he’s still there. . . . . 


My father used to go bowling when I was a kid.  And sometimes take me along.  He’d want me to watch and learn – but I’d go play the pinball machines over by the exit.  Ready to make a fast getaway.    My dad’s team members all wore the same color short-sleeved shirt (gray) with the team name and their names stitched in pink.  “Pete” “Dave” “Carl” “Al” and so on.  I still have my father’s bowling shirt in the closet.  Or attic.  Somewhere.  

Does anyone “bowl” anymore?  And if so, for what purpose?   You throw a big heavy ball — trying to knock down “pins.”  You spend time in the alley.  And then you’re in the gutter.   You do well and you get a “strike.”  But that’s what unions do — which is always bad.  Three strikes and you have a “turkey.”  Next best is a “spare.”  Like a spare tire.  Which you want to avoid around your midsection.  And if you do poorly, and don’t knock any pins down, people avoid looking at you (like this dude is really bad. . . . .).

I haven’t bowled in years.  I may never again.  The last attempt was a neighborhood gathering 35 years ago (“Let’s all go bowling“).  Donna said “oh let’s go” so I smiled, drove to the bowling alley, rented the shoes (have you ever smelled the shoes they rent at bowling alleys?) and then didn’t bowl.  I drank some Dos Equis beer and looked at the pinball machines.  But I had the shoes on.  And a Hawaiian shirt.  I guess I looked like a bowler.  But my feet haven’t been the same since.  I can’t understand.  You try to aim a big, heavy black ball.  And then roll it.  Trying to hit some far off target.  Makes no sense whatsoever.  I’m gonna go golfing. . . . .

A Gentleman in Moscow

I just finished a book that is on my top ten list of all time. Maybe top five. The book is A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles.  As I read, I felt (I am not borrowing this “feeling” from any review) like I was listening to a symphony.  Or reading one.  The book is beautiful.  

I won’t belabor the story.  Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is placed in detention – for life – in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel in 1922.  He is spared from a bullet in the head only because of a pre-revolutionary poem he wrote in 1913.  But — if he steps outside the hotel – he will be killed.  The story revolves around the Count’s 40 years in the Metropol and in his tiny, cramped servant’s quarters.  Sound boring?  It ain’t.

In reading this book, I was reminded of Julian Assange (WikiLeaks founder) who has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012.  If he steps outside, he will not be shot — but he will certainly be arrested, detained and placed in a prison cell.  While Count Rostov had no internet connection, we have just learned that Assange’s internet connection has been cut since he violated his written agreement to not meddle in the affairs of other nations.  Mr. Assange has vocally supported the Russian government’s denial of their attempted murder (with a military-grade nerve agent) of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Count Rostov was the epitome of congeniality, cooperation and dignity given his circumstances.  Maybe someone should send Julian a copy of Amor Towles classic work.