“The more things change…..”

“I thereby learned the invaluable lesson that in the practical activities of life no man can render the highest service unless he can act in combination with his fellows, which means a certain amount of give-and-take between him and them.” (Theodore Roosevelt)
His colleagues in the New York State Assembly chose 23 year-old Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, to be their minority leader in January, 1893.
“I rose like a rocket,” Roosevelt said, then admitted, “I proceeded to lose my perspective…I came an awful cropper, and had to pick myself up after learning by bitter experience the lesson that I was not all-important.”
“My head was swelled,” he said.
Roosevelt behaved like a spoiled child, deriding everybody and everything, disrupting the business of the Assembly in a crusade to have his way.
The quote in the first paragraph, above, deserves repetition:
“I thereby learned the invaluable lesson that in the practical activities of life no man can render the highest service unless he can act in combination with his fellows, which means a certain amount of give-and-take between him and them.”
Would that our present-day legislators could reach the same conclusion Teddy Roosevelt arrived at 121 years ago.
Sorry, I’m reading “The Bully Pulpit, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, on my Kindle. The only cite I can provide at the moment: 5% of the e-book on Kindle, at 1663 of 27687.

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Return of the Black Leather Jacket

It disappeared from the overhead baggage compartment between Raleigh and Chicago.

The missing black leather jacket was a Christmas present from Karen, so disclosing it was missing carried the very real possibility of creating a bit of marital discord. She has long since given up on lost wedding rings, but losing the jacket?

Checking with the airline staff at O’Hare did not have the desired result, that being: “Oh yes! Here it is! It was turned in just a few minutes ago by a man who said he was so sorry to have snatched the jacket thinking it was his.”

Five days later, following a round of golf, my much smarter than I am cell phone told me I had a call that turned out to be from the lost and found office at the Raleigh/Durham airport (RDU). I returned the call, eagerly worked through a thick Spanish accent, drove to the correct building at the airport (which turned out to be the airport police building), and retrieved my jacket from a beaming receptionist. Good thing they discovered my crumpled old business card in the jacket pocket.

Sure. It shows up in 75-degree North Carolina, not in 40-degree Chicago April wind, my blood having thinned considerably from 22 years in Wake Forest and daily doses of blood thinner to ward off the unwelcome effects of atrial fibrillation.

Have to wonder where my jacket went and how it got back to Raleigh. The nice lady that called me had left for the day, the receptionist had no answers, and RDU is not on my regular route. Among the never to be answered questions: who found it, where did it go while it was missing, and why did it take 5 days to come back?

We’re both happy it now hangs in the front closet, ready for the next round of chilly weather. Probably December.

Name Dropping

Warren E. Burger, 15th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, from 1969 to 1986 – that’s the name I’m dropping.

I’m going to refer to him as the “Chief” for rest of this article to give my fingers and your eyes a rest.
First time I ever saw the Chief was at the graduation of the first class of the Court Executive Development Program at the Institute for Court Management (ICM) in 1970. When he handed me my certificate I had no clue that we would cross paths a couple of dozen times over the next twenty-five years. He was handing out certificates at a ceremony held in one of the Supreme Court conference rooms in Washington because he was the driving force behind the creation of ICM and very active in the work to modernize court management.

A year or two later, working as the State Court Administrator in Michigan, I was asked to serve on a national committee that was addressing the issues of computerization of the country’s criminal justice system, most importantly the issues of privacy, including how the various components of the system (police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, courts, probation offices, etc.) could share information without sharing too much information.
As a part of that project (called Project SEARCH), quarterly meetings were held all over the country to review the work to prepare model guidelines and procedures for the state courts.

The second time I saw the Chief he was having breakfast very early in the hotel where Project SEARCH members were staying in Houston. I was dressed in tennis gear, as was my custom those days, to get in an early tennis match with some like-minded colleagues but to have a bite to eat before trying to hit a tennis ball. (Another name drop: one of the members of that tennis group was Judge Joe Wapner of the Los Angeles Superior Court, the first judge on the TV program “The People’s Court,” but not an early breakfast guy.)

The Chief sat by himself, and when I wished him a good morning he called to me: “Good morning Einar. Get something to eat and join me.”

A serious understatement: I was flabbergasted. But I recovered, filled my plate at the breakfast bar, and sat down across from the Chief.

“I heard your presentation yesterday afternoon,” he said. “Very interesting what you’re doing in Michigan.”

I thanked him and told him I didn’t know he was involved in Project SEARCH. He said he was not involved directly, but was regularly in touch with the project’s consultants and executive committee and liked to find out first hand how the project was coming along.

I apologized for my attire and asked how he could remember and pronounce my Scandinavian name so easily.
“I know some of your tennis group. I also know a few Einar’s from my days in Minnesota,” he said. “Lots of Swedes and Norwegians.”

We chatted a while, the only patrons in the hotel restaurant, and I excused myself to head for the tennis court.

Over the next several years I was privileged to join him for early breakfast several more times at SEARCH meetings and the Conference of Chief Justices and State Court Administrators. And he was an honorary member at Washington Golf & Country Club in Arlington, VA, and I got to see him at the Men’s Grill there on occasion.

Fast forward a few years and I’m with Karen, my wife of a few months, at another ICM graduation ceremony at the Supreme Court presided over once again by Chief Justice Burger. When the formalities ended the graduates and guests were invited to a reception that had been set up outside the conference room.

As my wife the lawyer and I were filling our plates with cheese, crackers, and melon balls, a voice behind me said: “Einar! Good to see you!”

I turned to greet the Chief and introduce my wife. We exchanged a few pleasantries and he deftly excused himself to greet the others.

“You know the Chief Justice?” Karen said, looking at me as if I should have mentioned something about it before. Way before.

I of course couldn’t resist and said: “We’re like this,” making the well-known gesture by holding up my snuggled together first two fingers. “Tight as can be,” I said.

The poke to my arm didn’t take very long to heal.

And I didn’t spill any food.

Fathers Of Mine

After a Sunday breakfast in 1967,
older son asked how old was I
when my father left my mother.
Five.
Well I’m seven.
And I had to agree because I knew he was seven.
So no father lived with you when you were seven.
That’s right.
So you don’t know how to be a father
for someone who is seven.
Don’t worry,
I have studied how to be a father.

He was too young to understand the lessons
I had from the fathers of mine;
movie stars, priests, a neighbor, and an employer.
Jimmy Stewart, Robert Young, William Holden,
Father David, J.D. Whiteside, and Sol Wachovsky,
among others, and they were
my fathers more than Einar Axel.

More lessons came from mother’s other children,
younger than I,
and from textbooks with long titles;
too much for a seven year-old
for Sunday breakfast.

Einar Axel was gone from our home,
me at five years,
and from then on appeared,
drove up and honked his horn out front,
and off just he and I would go
to a movie or a museum or a White Sox game,
four or five times a year,
because from Chicago’s north to south and back
took hours.

And then he was gone forever,
me at thirteen years.
Mother said you’ve lost your father.
And his oldest child knew him only
at movies and museums and a White Sox game,
but knew not his counsel
for life’s decisions,
and was to always be uncertain of his love.