Happy Independence Day!

As if in recognition of the bright meaning of independence, the sun has actually appeared in the skies of central Ohio on this Fourth of July.  After weeks of drab skies and rain, it is like a giant fireworks display.  Its warming presence will help all of us celebrate Independence Day with a positive spirit.

IMG_5967At some point during this day of parades, cookouts, sparklers, and ice cream cones, we should all pause for a moment and soberly recall that liberty and freedom have not been gained and secured without enormous cost.  Yesterday on my walk home from the office I stopped by the veterans memorial plaza in front of the Ohio Statehouse to read some of the letters that remind us starkly of the sacrifices so many have made on our behalf.

If you go to a Fourth of July parade today, be sure to give the veterans passing by a heartfelt salute and a standing ovation. After 239 years, we still need those dedicated men and women on the front lines, protecting our country and our freedom from those who wish to do us harm.  We owe them, and their families, more than we can properly express.

 

The View From Our Backyard

 We didn’t see all of the Red, White & Boom fireworks extravaganza in downtown Columbus, but we saw and heard enough to scare the dickens out of Kasey — and we didn’t have to leave our backyard.  And then we were treated to stray fireworks exhibitions in our neighborhood, too.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Final Thoughts On Same-Sex Marriage, And America

The Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling has America talking.  It’s one of those events that can’t help but cause people of all persuasions and perspectives to stop and reflect — not so much on the relative merit of the Supreme Court’s opinion as a matter of constitutional jurisprudence, but rather on the fascinating, shifting, never-set-in-stone course of public opinion in our country.

In many recent conversations with friends, people have shaken their heads in wonderment at the speed with which people in the country have accepted the concept of same-sex relationships and, ultimately, same-sex marriage.  It’s hard to think of any other issue, during my lifetime, where prevailing public opinion seems to have shifted more rapidly.  Millennials have had a lot to do with this change.  At a recent dinner party, one of our friends was relating a conversation she had with her Millennial son about sexual orientation, and he said:  “Mom, to us it’s like being left-handed.”  I thought that was a really interesting — and encouraging — perspective.

On another level, the issue of same-sex marriage shows that, in America, if you wait long enough and pay attention, you’ll notice that things often come full circle.

Those of us who lived through the ’60s and ’70s remember that the avant garde, liberal position in those days was that marriage was passe.  Some people advocated free love and “open relationships” and argued that true commitment couldn’t really be based on a mere piece of paper, others derided marriage as a quaint throwback to the outdated notions of prior generations that could only stifle personal expression, still others pointed to the increasing divorce statistics and argued that the realities of the modern world meant that old-fashioned marriage simply could not work in the fast-paced modern world.  Of course, those arguments didn’t stop most of us from getting married, anyway.

During the ’60s and ’70s who would have predicted that, decades later, the issue of the right to engage in a legal marriage, in all of its get a license from a public agency, say your vows in front of the world, traditional glory, would be at the very forefront of the social change agenda?

In The Nick Of Timing

Every job has its own rhythms, peaks and valleys.  In the retail industry, the holiday season is the crunch time.  Lifeguards are swamped between Memorial Day and Labor Day, accountants get killed in the weeks leading up to April 15, and ski instructors are snowed under when January and February roll around.

In the law business, too, different practices have different busy and slack periods.  The fine folks in the transactional and tax areas get crushed at the end of the year, as clients rush to complete deals or restructurings before their accounting period closes.  For litigators, there seems to be no set peaks and valleys during the practice year.  It’s more of a crap shoot. Sometimes the new year starts with a rush, sometimes the spring is when all of the work forces seem to come together, and sometimes judges will schedule things between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve in hopes of strongly encouraging parties to voluntarily resolve their disputes.

Whatever your job, when you are really busting it you look forward to the next three-day weekend as if it were your own personal road to salvation.  And if the Fourth of July is the holiday that might break up that period where you are buried, you hope like hell that this isn’t one of those years when Independence Day falls on a freaking Wednesday.  Because while there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a day off in the middle of the work week, we know that a sterile, non-working Wednesday just doesn’t play the same sweet personal music as the full, complete, party-Thursday-night/sleep-in-on-Friday three-day weekend.

I’m happy to report that this year the Fourth of July falls on a Saturday, which means that we’ve got one of those official three-day weekends just around the corner.  It’s darned good timing in my book.

The Value Of Marriage

I’ve long supported same-sex marriage because I think marriage is a great institution.  It has made my life immeasurably better — so why shouldn’t every couple have the opportunity to enjoy its timeless benefits?  I simply don’t understand the objection to couples who want to legally declare and formalize their fidelity to each other.

I was therefore struck by the fact that Justice Kennedy’s majority decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, where the Court held that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to legally marry their partner, extols the value of marriage.  In fact, the opinion concludes with a ringing endorsement of the core, intrinsic value of marriage:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

I am thrilled for my same-sex friends, and happy for every couple that will now have the ability to explore and revel in the wonders of a happy marriage.

Hanging With The DAR

 I’m staying at a downtown Washington, D.C. hotel and the D.A.R. — the Daughters of the American Revolution — is in the house, big time.  The group has flooded the Nation’s Capital for an annual conference.  According to a pleasant woman in the elevator, 3,500 of the D.A.R. members are here.  Yesterday all of them seemingly were genteelly and graciously  packed, cheek to jowl, into the atrium lobby of my hotel.

Two observations about the D.A.R.  First, this is a group that really, really likes the American flag.  From the little decorations on the lobby desk that featured Old Glory and the D.A.R. flag, to the red, white, and blue themes of many outfits, to the little jeweled and spangled pins sported by some members, flag references were everywhere.

Second, the D.A.R. must be one of the top national consumers of ribbons and medals.  The ribbons — which surprisingly seem to come in red, white and blue — are worn just below the shoulder on one side, and the medals are pinned on the other.  The medals are actual metal, too.  

According to my fellow elevator riders, at least some of the medals show how many relatives and ancestors were D.A.R. members.  That is pretty awesome, because some of the very well-coiffed ladies had phalanxes of medals tugging at their blouses that made them look like Soviet era generals atop Lenin’s tomb for the May Day parade.  One woman had to walk around with one hand daintily but firmly pressed against her collar bone to keep her astonishingly vast and undoubtedly heavy medals board from ripping her blouse to shreds.  Every one of her female ancestors must have been a D.A.R. member — maybe back to the Revolution itself.

Becoming An Investor

When I was in junior high school, I took a class called General Business where the teacher taught us about the marvels of capitalism and the wonders of the stock market.  After I took that class, I had one goal:  I wanted to own some stock in a company.

I saved my pay from high school jobs and talked to Uncle Tony, who was a stockbroker.  He identified three stocks that were cheap enough that I could buy a decent number of shares, and I picked one called Vikoa, for a company that sold a product related to cable TV.  I figured cable TV, which we had at our house, was likely to grow and prosper.

It was a great day when my fancy Vikoa stock certificate, made out to my Mom in my name because I was under age, arrived at the house.  Vikoa’s stock was listed on one of the smaller exchanges, so every morning at breakfast I could check the listings in the Columbus Citizen-Journal to see how my investment was doing.  For a time, Vikoa seemed to thrive and its stock went up — so much so that I decided that I should make another investment, this time in a new restaurant chain called Pizza Hut that had opened near our house and made pretty good thin crust pizza.

The Pizza Hut investment turned out well and earned a profit, but not so much for Vikoa.  Its stock plummeted — in those pre-internet days, I never found out why — and ultimately it vanished entirely from the exchange listings.  I later got another stock certificate, for some fractional interest in a different company that apparently had bought whatever was left of Vikoa, then that company also went under.  My investment had failed.

I made money on one investment and lost my shirt on the other, but I was young and didn’t mind.  My investing days were over until I started working after college and law school and considered how to plan for retirement — and then the teachings from General Business class and the specter of Vikoa resurfaced.  I decided that rather than take a chance on a single company again, I’d just invest in mutual funds, where the fund manager picks the investments and keeps track of their performance.  That’s been my practice ever since.  The Vikoa lesson was one I didn’t need to learn twice.