The last few weeks could go down in history as the beginning of the end of the Western world’s dominance of international banking. Finance ministers in developing economies, like Brazil, China, India and Russia, have repeatedly expressed their frustration that the existing international banking system favors Europe and the United States at their expense. Now the situation in Cyprus has brought the lingering resentment to a boil….
Read More in the Deseret News.
Originally published by the Deseret News, Feb. 28, 2013
It has been one week since I called for the resignation of Attorney General John Swallow on these pages. Over this past week, several Utahns have asked me, “Why are Republican legislators silent on the Swallow scandal?” This concern has arisen so often that I believe it is worth addressing in this column.
Under the constitution of the state of Utah, “the Governor and other State and Judicial officers shall be liable to impeachment for high crimes, misdemeanors or malfeasance in office.” Impeachment is constitutionally vested in the legislative branch. The House of Representatives initiates impeachment proceedings, and it has the authority to issue subpoenas and examine evidence.
If the House deems that the evidence is sufficient for impeachment, it drafts articles of impeachment, which are recommended to the entire House for adoption. If the articles of impeachment are approved by two-thirds of the House, the officer is impeached and the matter is referred to the Senate for trial. The Senate serves as the judge and jury in the impeachment process. Each senator is required to swear an oath to do justice according to the law and evidence. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote that one or more articles of impeachment have been proven to convict the officer.
The integrity of an impeachment process requires legislators to be and remain impartial before and during the proceedings. As the Swallow scandal unfolds, legislators have been counseled to be silent by John Fellows, the Legislature’s general legal counsel. Except for a handful of individuals trying to make political hay out of the situation, legislators have taken their constitutional responsibility very seriously. Utah has never initiated impeachment proceedings. This is truly uncharted territory, and I am proud of the restraint that legislators have shown over the last several weeks.
To imply by their silence that legislators somehow condone the conduct of Swallow is just plain wrong. In fact, there is substantial evidence to the contrary. In this legislative session, several bills are progressing to tighten up our ethics laws. Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, is running legislation that closes the legal loophole Swallow exploited to engage in outside consulting work while being paid a full-time salary to be the chief deputy attorney general. Weiler’s bill will codify what the majority of Utahns already believed to be the law of the land.
Another bill introduced this week by Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, creates an independent executive branch ethics commission. Under existing law, any complaint against a statewide official is referred to the attorney general for investigation. That is clearly a problem when the attorney general is the target of such a complaint. Valentine’s legislation extends the independent ethics commission structure, which is currently in place for the legislature and local governments, to the executive branch. The independent executive branch ethics commission will have the power to fully investigate complaints, including the ability to issue subpoenas to gather evidence. The investigations can occur in private until they are completed. If the complaint has merit the entire investigation will be made public. If the complaint has no merit then the case is closed and the investigation is sealed. This is common sense legislation that will help restore trust in the attorney general’s office.
I am grateful for the good men and women who serve us in the state Legislature. Utah is the best managed state in the nation precisely because the majority of our legislators are thoughtful, careful and prudent. They are good people and I trust that they will help the state navigate through these difficult times.
Originally published by the Deseret News, Feb 21, 2013
In the history of the state of Utah, we have seen our fair share of political scandals, from falsified war résumés to embezzlement of campaign funds to prostitution solicitations in downtown Salt Lake City. While every scandal damages the fragile trust between the public and our elected officials, there are some scandals that cause lasting damage to our public institutions themselves.
The scandal swirling around Attorney General John Swallow is only getting worse. We know by his own admission that while serving as chief deputy attorney general, Swallow lined up embattled businessman Jeremy Johnson with a lobbyist to try to influence a federal investigation. Swallow received more than $20,000 in consulting fees from the individual Johnson paid to help stop the federal investigation. (Swallow denies there is a connection between the two events, but in a recorded conversation with Johnson said, “Let’s assume that you paid me to put the deal together … What’s wrong with that?”)
Swallow also received inappropriate, and perhaps illegal, gifts from Johnson when he used Johnson’s Lake Powell houseboat for a family vacation. Finally, Swallow tried to hide both the consulting fees and the houseboat use from the people of Utah by not disclosing them on his campaign filings and by trying to ensure there were no paper trails to follow.
I believe these circumstances alone demonstrate that Swallow, at best, lacks the personal judgment to continue to serve as Utah’s chief law enforcement officer.
Last week, former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff revealed to the Deseret News that he met with the FBI about Swallow in October 2012. He also revealed that the FBI is actively investigating whether Swallow, during his time as Shurtleff’s chief fundraiser and during his own campaign for attorney general, offered favorable treatment from the AG’s office in exchange for campaign contributions.
The Salt Lake Tribune confirmed that the FBI is indeed investigating Swallow for a potential pay-for-protection scheme after speaking with two businessmen in the online sales industry who met with the FBI personally on the subject. This is the most troubling development by far — one that threatens to cause lasting damage to the state of Utah.
Our system of government depends upon the fair and impartial application of the law. We hold our courts, our judges, our prosecutors, and our other law enforcement officers in high regard precisely because of their willingness to stand on the wall and protect our way of life. Our law enforcement officers must be above reproach, for even the slightest hint of favoritism unravels the social compact that keeps us safe.
I cannot imagine a more damaging blow to that social compact than to have the chief law enforcement officer of the state of Utah under investigation for corruption. Should Swallow continue in office, even if no federal charges are ever brought against him, every decision made by the attorney general’s office during his tenure will be under a cloud of suspicion.
I have heard multiple times over the last several weeks that we should not rush to judgment with respect to Swallow. I fully endorse the constitutionally guaranteed rights to due process under the law, and Swallow deserves the presumption of innocence should federal criminal charges be brought against him.
But I strongly disagree with the premise that public officials have a right to the public’s trust. They do not. Our public institutions are far more important than the political career of one individual. It is time for John Swallow to resign as attorney general. If he refuses to do so, he should be removed from office.
Originally published by the Deseret News, Feb 7, 2013
The state of Illinois is in deep trouble financially. Last week, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services once again downgraded Illinois’ credit rating. It is now the worst in the country. This latest downgrade came shortly after Gov. Pat Quinn and state lawmakers failed to fix the Illinois pension system, which is $96.8 billion in the red. Illinois public employee unions fiercely opposed the pension reform efforts, and they once again carried the day in Springfield.
Now that they have successfully squashed pension reform efforts at the Legislature, the Unions are working on a new strategy — get the federal government to bail out the Illinois pension system. Gov. Quinn floated this idea in September of 2012, and was blasted for it. But now rank-and-file Union members are picking up the bailout banner. In a letter printed last week in the Peoria Journal Star, Gene Beltz, an elementary school principal, argued for a federal bailout citing the recent auto industry bailouts. He wrote, “Why couldn’t the same concern and assistance be shown for a state in financial distress and for the welfare of thousands of Illinois teachers and other employees? Teachers did not create this problem.”
While it would be difficult to blame individual teachers for the pension mess in Illinois, much of the blame certainly falls on the unions representing them.
In the 1970s, public employee unions successfully backed an amendment to the Illinois Constitution that guarantees that pension benefits “shall not be diminished or impaired.” Unions then went to work lobbying for additional pension benefits, whether the state had the resources to pay for them or not. At the same time, the unions did not let up on their constant demands for higher wages and better health care benefits. Fully funding the pension has not been a priority for the unions.
A case in point is the recent Chicago Teachers Union strike last September. At a time when Chicago public schools faced a $1 billion budget deficit and were unable to afford pension contributions, Chicago school teachers took to the streets for nine days demanding higher wages. The strike was timed to create the greatest amount of leverage possible with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and by extension President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Ultimately, the Chicago Teachers Union won 17 percent wage increases over four years for their members. Those wage increases will translate to higher pension payments for these teachers upon retirement, further exacerbating the pension funding problems.
The unions have always believed that taxpayers would have to pay the pension bill whether they wanted to or not. But taxpayers in Illinois are fed up. Illinois citizens are still fuming about the 67 percent tax hikes that Gov. Quinn and the Legislature passed in 2011. They are in no mood to pony up more money to pay the pension tab. So the union strategy is to find taxpayers in other states to foot the bill.
Congress must not let this happen. Illinois must solve its own pension problems. They are perfectly capable of doing so. They should suspend cost of living adjustments, cut service credits, increase years of service and migrate to a retirement structure with predictable costs. Illinois’ pension system is no worse off than Rhode Island’s system was. But Rhode Island, with the leadership of Treasurer Gina Raimondo, took initiative to solve its own problems. Illinois should follow suit.
But what of the constitutional pension guarantee? That guarantee is only as good as Illinois’ willingness and ability to pay for such a guarantee. In no way, shape or form does that establish a claim on someone else to pay the bills.
Originally published by the Deseret News, Jan 31, 2013
Thursday evening, Jan. 24, I walked into the Plaza San Jose of the Porta Hotel in Antigua, Guatemala for the opening festivities of the second annual Antigua Forum. I was invited to the event six months ago, and was delighted to attend. Hosted by Guatemala’s Francisco Marroquin University (UFM), the Antigua Forum is an annual conference billed as a “place of learning for reformers.” The forum brought together 40 scholars, entrepreneurs, activists, think-tank leaders, authors, politicians, business executives and even a Nobel Prize winning economist. My fellow participants came from England, Pakistan, Malaysia, South Africa, India, Slovakia, Australia, China, Canada, Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Chile, Honduras, San Salvador, Sweden and the United States. The common denominator was our shared belief that individual rights to freedom and property are the surest foundation for a prosperous society.
The Antigua Forum is the brainchild Giancarlo Ibarguen, President of UFM. Giancarlo is well known among reformers for his fearless defense of free markets. In the mid-1990s Giancarlo successfully led the efforts to introduce competition to the Guatemala telecom industry, and has worked hard to replicate his success elsewhere in Latin America. Giancarlo and his UFM colleague Wayne Leighton recognized a need for free-market reformers to collaborate and learn from each other. The Forum would be the opportunity for reformers to do just that.
Each individual came to the event with a specific reform project in mind, and everyone who wanted help pitched his or her project to the entire group. We then broke into smaller groups in a large courtyard and spent the bulk of two days analyzing, exploring and refining the projects. We challenged each other, pushed each other, and debated our positions vigorously. Most importantly we built detailed, actionable plans to make the projects realities.
Our project work was leavened by breaks, meals, and events that helped us to make personal connections. I was deeply touched by the sincerity and humility of my colleagues. We shared our successes. We shared our failures. We spoke about families, and society, and God. We discussed the universal questions of life. I crave more time with my new friends. I hope to continue our association for many years to come.
I returned home from the Antigua Forum with two overwhelming feelings. First, I feel renewed hope for the future. Despite all the bad news we hear, great things are happening all over the world. Whether it is a movement for school choice in India, or a new private sector bankruptcy process in Honduras, or economic liberty zones in San Salvador, free-market innovators are making persuasive cases for reform and are having success. And where such reforms take root, the people begin to prosper. Second, I feel more motivated than ever do my part here at home.
Most policy decisions we wrestle with in this country are mired in the vagaries of politics. A perpetual fog of war seems to shroud our political institutions. Hyperbole and invective often drive our public discourse. And achievements are measured, if only briefly, by election results. In so many ways it feels like we are rudderless, drifting where the currents take us.
If we are to right our ship in the United States we must get back to the foundational principles upon which all of our institutions were originally built. We must remember, as it is so elegantly stated in UFM’s philosophy statement, that “freedom and property must always be respected, not only because they are innate to the human being, but also because of their utilitarian value to society.” There is no “conflict between individual rights and social interest.”
Originally published by the Deseret News, Jan 24, 2013
Like many people in this state, I have closely followed the media coverage of the allegations surrounding newly elected Utah Attorney General John Swallow. I have been deeply disturbed by what has been uncovered. Here is what we know so far.
John Swallow was selected by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to serve as chief deputy attorney general in 2009. Swallow and Shurtleff raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from companies with dubious consumer protection records and multiple Utah Department of Commerce complaints. One such donor was Jeremy Johnson from St. George-based iWorks.
In 2010, Johnson contacted Swallow and asked him for help fending off a yet-to-be-filed Federal Trade Commission lawsuit against iWorks. Swallow agreed to help Johnson find a lobbyist to try to resolve the situation and suggested a $600,000 lobbying retainer. Swallow then coached Johnson via email on how to characterize his business in preparation for potential meetings with U.S. Sen. Harry Reid. Johnson paid $250,000 to Richard Rawle, a close associate of Swallow, to lobby on iWorks’ behalf. Rawle then used a portion of those funds to pay Swallow, through Swallow’s firm P-Solutions. According to Swallow, the payment he received from Rawle was for an unrelated political consulting contract in Nevada.
In December of 2010, the FTC sued Johnson and iWorks, resulting in criminal charges filed in 2011. In January 2012, Swallow announced his intention to run for attorney general. Two months later, the same day Swallow filed his financial disclosures in the attorney general’s race, he transferred his ownership in P-Solutions to his wife. Swallow did not disclose his interests in P-Solutions in his campaign filings, nor did he disclose his wife’s interests.
During his campaign, Swallow continued to solicit campaign contributions from businesses in hot water with Utah’s Department of Commerce. In the spring of 2012, Swallow had a conversation with an owner of a telemarketing company with issues in front of the Utah Department of Commerce. Swallow assured the owner that once he became attorney general he would move oversight for the Department of Commerce from under the governor’s authority to the AG’s office. The owner of the telemarketing company recorded that conversation and City Weekly reported the incident on May 31, 2012.
In the spring of 2012, Johnson began demanding that Swallow repay the $250,000 he paid to lobby against the FTC suit. Johnson and Swallow met at an Orem donut shop in April of 2012 where they discussed the repayment of the lobbying payment and the political implications if the public became aware of the arrangement. Johnson recorded the conversation. During the conversation, Swallow said: “Let’s assume that you paid me to put the deal together … What’s wrong with that?”
The Salt Lake Tribune broke this story on Jan. 11, 2012. Since then, Swallow has stated publicly that he has broken no laws. Shurtleff, who has had multiple dealings with Johnson, including trips on Johnson’s private jet and rides in Johnson’s Lamborghini, has stated publicly that Swallow has not broken the laws as Shurtleff “chose to enforce them in [his] administration.” I anticipate that more information about Swallow’s behavior will come forward over the days and weeks to come.
It is not my call to determine if Swallow broke the law. I will leave that to the federal prosecutors and the legal system to determine. But I do know this: just because something might be technically legal does not make it ethical. I think Utah’s top law enforcement official should be held to the highest of ethical standards. What do you think?
Originally published by the Deseret News, Jan 17, 2013
With all of the bad news that comes out of Washington, it is easy to overlook the things that are going well right here at home. Utah continues to innovate, creatively addressing the seemingly intractable political issues of our time. This month marks a specific policy milestone that has been largely overlooked.
After nearly three years of work, Utah’s Department of Health launched a new managed Medicaid program. This program will save taxpayers $2.5 billion over the next seven years while ensuring the same or better health outcomes for Medicaid recipients. It is a singular achievement, and is an example of how government is supposed to work.
Over the last decade, state Medicaid costs grew at three times the rate of the rest of the state budget. In 2010, Medicaid’s cost growth crowded out public education spending directly for the first time. By 2020, Medicaid cost growth was expected to consume up to 46 percent of Utah’s general fund, up from around 20 percent in 2010. It became painfully clear to everyone involved with the Medicaid program that we had to figure out how to reform Medicaid or it would sink us.
In April of 2010, a few friends and I formed an informal Medicaid reform working-group comprised of key leaders from the Legislature, the Utah Department of Health, Gov. Gary Herbert’s office and the medical provider community. Every Wednesday we would meet at the State Capitol and dive into the details of the Medicaid program. By July we had identified the factors contributing to exploding Medicaid costs. By September we had developed a framework for reform that would address those factors. By December we had pressure tested, revised and validated our reform ideas with the broader Medicaid community (advocates, hospitals, doctors, etc.). By the time we introduced the Medicaid reform legislation (SB 180) in February of 2011, we had met with every member of the Legislature, both Republican and Democrat, to address any concerns they might have about the reforms. On March 9, 2011, the Utah Legislature passed SB 180 unanimously, and Herbert signed the bill in a small bill signing ceremony 12 days later.
Once the Medicaid reform legislation was codified in statute, the Department of Health began implementing the reforms. David Patton, the executive director of Utah’s Department of Health, Michael Hales, Utah’s Medicaid Director, and their capable staff worked closely with the Medicaid provider and advocacy communities to flesh out the details of the new Medicaid program. At the same time, they expertly negotiated with the federal Department of Health and Human Services for the necessary approvals to implement our reforms.
Developing the new Medicaid provider contract fell to Emma Chacon and her staff who worked impossible hours under intense pressure to issue contracts that were consistent with the reform legislation. It was a herculean effort by the Utah Department of Health that the vast majority of Utahns may never hear about. Our Medicaid reforms went live this month, and runaway Medicaid spending in the years to come will not crush Utah.
The issues we face as states and as a nation are not partisan issues. They are not Democrat vs. Republican issues. They are not executive branch vs. legislative branch issues. They are reality issues. We are served best when our political leaders recognize these facts, move past partisanship, and work together to build lasting reforms. Our experience in Utah shows it can be done.
Originally published by the Deseret News, Jan 10, 2013
Now that our leaders in Washington have assured us they have navigated the fiscal cliff, conveniently underplaying the fact that taxes will increase on 77 percent of Americans in the process, the debate has shifted to the debt ceiling. We are once again at the congressionally determined borrowing limit, having racked up an additional $1.2 trillion in debt over the last year.
Republicans are calling for spending cuts as a condition to raise the debt ceiling; the president says he wants an unconditional increase. Given the inertia of the federal budget and the president’s exceptional ability to call a bluff, I predict the president will get his way.
But the president also has an ace up his sleeve. Apparently, he can just instruct the Treasury Department to start minting trillion dollar platinum coins. While Congress granted the Federal Reserve control over the vast majority of our money supply, an obscure federal law allows the Treasury Department to issue commemorative platinum coins in any denomination. Policy wonks around the country are drumming up support for just such a “solution” to the debt crisis.
The fact that the trillion-dollar platinum coin idea is even being floated as an option should be deeply disturbing to all of us. Our system of government has endured the last 200-plus years precisely because of the constitutional separation and balancing of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. Unfortunately, over the last several decades Congress has chosen to delegate much of its law-making authority to the executive branch by passing complex, often conflicting, legislation and then asking agency bureaucrats to work out the details. Congress no longer writes the laws. The bureaucrats do. Last year federal bureaucrats issued nearly 80,000 pages of new laws on their own. Congress has made itself irrelevant when it comes to making laws.
Congress’ last check on the executive branch has been the “power of the purse”. But even that power is fading. President Obama has not proposed a viable federal budget in nearly four years (in fact, the Senate voted unanimously to reject the president’s 2012 budget). But instead of exercising its constitutional prerogative to hold the purse strings, Congress has allowed the president to take control of the finances and dramatically increase federal spending (we are now borrowing $100 billion each month). And the President has dared Congress to stop him.
Meekly and always under extreme duress, Congress passes “continuing resolutions” to legitimize the president’s actions. To add insult to injury, the president has skillfully labeled those who oppose him as “hostage takers”.
I am troubled by the trillion-dollar platinum coin proposal not because I think it will be used (imaging trying to get a bank to cash the coin into smaller denominations; it would require all of the paper currency in the entire United States to do so). I am troubled because the very idea undermines the last vestige congressional power. It says to the American people that the president, not Congress, holds the purse strings. It says Congress does not matter.
There are no easy solutions to the problems we face as a country. The brutal reality of our financial situation is not real to most of us now, but will be some day soon. In times like these, we should focus on defending and repairing the balance of political powers as they are so wisely established in our Constitution. We should applaud those leaders in Congress who are intent on gripping the purse strings. Especially when they are maligned for doing so.
Originally published by the Deseret News, Jan 6, 2013
Each of us has a handpicked pantheon of heroes and role models in our lives. For 20 years, Sen. Mike Crapo has been one of them for me.
I grew up in Idaho Falls and lived close to Mike (as everyone there calls him). During my teens and 20s, Mike was a particularly bright star in Idaho politics. He was elected to the Idaho Senate in 1984 and within four years was chosen as the Senate president by his peers. In 1992, the year I graduated from high school and enrolled at BYU, Mike successfully ran for Congress.
I met Mike Crapo for the first time five years later when I was serving as an intern for U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett. A few weeks into my internship, I found myself in the House office building close to Congressman Crapo’s office. I decided to drop in, if only to catch a glimpse of the congressman. A few moments after walking in, I was sitting one on one with Congressman Crapo in his personal office. I was stunned.
During my time on Capitol Hill, I learned that interns are not very important people. With the exception of Sen. Bennett, who was always gracious and interested in me (and is a good friend to this day), I found that interns were to be seen but not heard.
One experience stands out in my memory. I remember standing in a reception line for interns to shake the hands of several famous members of Congress. I was excited to meet one senator in particular, but when I approached him, he was engaged in a jovial conversation with one of his colleagues. I stood there for a moment, not knowing what to do.
He suddenly turned to me, shook my hand briefly, muttered a “how are you” and turned back to his conversation without a second look and without waiting for reply. I knew in that moment that I was small potatoes indeed.
But sitting with Congressman Crapo in his office changed all that for me. Mike was interested in me personally. He asked me about my plans, about school, about my family. He listened intently, spending at least 20 minutes with me.
When one of his staffers informed him that he was late for a vote, Congressman Crapo asked me to accompany him to the House floor. We walked outside of the House offices and towards the Capitol. I felt like a million bucks walking up the Capitol steps with Congressman Crapo. When we parted at the door of the House floor, Mike Crapo wished me well. And I believed him.
I was personally devastated to hear the news that Senator Crapo chose to drink and drive the weekend before Christmas. I am so grateful for the vigilant police officer who pulled him over and removed the deadly danger he was imposing on the people of Virginia. The news could have been far, far more tragic, but it was tragic for me nonetheless.
I have felt a flood of emotions about Sen. Crapo over the last couple of weeks. Sorrow. Betrayal. Anger. Compassion. And even forgiveness. I do not know why Mike chose to do what he did, nor do I understand how other decisions led him to this point. But I do choose to remember that no one person is all good or all bad, and that it is not for us to judge what is in his heart.
As Mike Crapo accepts responsibility for his behavior (which he is), I hope we all remember that one black mark does not negate a lifetime of service. I also hope he knows that this former intern is grateful for the kindness he once showed me.
Originally published by the Deseret News, Dec 20, 2012
The tragedy at Shady Hook Elementary has shaken all of us. We are mourning for the little ones who were murdered. We are mourning for the courageous women who ran into danger and sacrificed their bodies and lives to shield the children they loved. We are mourning with the parents, grandparents, siblings and families of those slain, comprehending to a small degree the terror and despair they must be suffering. The grieving process is just beginning.
Tragedies happen all of the time — every family I know has lost loved ones. But for some reason, this tragedy seems crueler than almost any other. In addition to the horror and unimaginable loss (of innocence, of potential, of peace), it seems all the more devastating coming this close to Christmas. How can these families possibly feel joy again? How will they go on?
These questions are in essence the questions I once asked myself as a little boy on a Christmas night 30 years ago. I was eight years old that Christmas morning in 1982, playing with the gifts I had received when I heard my mother’s screams. I ran towards the commotion and found my mother and sisters administering CPR to my baby brother Stephen. He was six months old and the joy of our family. Stephen drowned in the bathtub in just a few inches of water. His death seemed to stop time. That Christmas night, I sat by myself in our playroom, staring at my new toys. I remember thinking “what a waste.” Looking back, my childhood ended that day.
Despite their overwhelming grief, my parents refused to allow our tragedy to tear our family apart. Instead, our suffering united us and bound us together. My parents taught us the true meaning of Christmas, and in our despair, we turned our hearts heavenward. Looking back, while we could not see the Lord’s hand in Stephen’s death, we were not left comfortless.
The first anniversary of Stephen’s death was very difficult. On that Christmas day, we chose to spend the day searching for the Christmas spirit. We turned Christmas day into a day of service — visiting the sick and the lonely, delivering homemade bread or rice-crispy treats to dear friends and loved ones. Santa Claus visited our home the day after Christmas. A new tradition was born, and for the last 28 years, we have celebrated Christmas this way.
It took a long, long time for joy to return to our home, but gradually, imperceptibly, it came. I learned at an early age that while the sun sets, the sun also rises. Sorrow and pain have their season, but hope comes with the morning. My mother never fully recovered from the sadness of that day, but she never gave up hope. She passed away in February of this year. We miss her but smile to think that she will get to celebrate this Christmas with her baby boy.
Last Friday, I came home to children stunned and stoic about the shootings. I held my own kindergartener close to me. He looked up at me and said with a soft voice “somebody came into a kindergarten class and killed all the kids.” His voice wavered as he spoke, and a look of sadness, fear and puzzlement was etched in his face. I did not know what to say. So I reminded him of why we celebrate Christmas. May God bless the broken hearted this Christmas season.