Independence Day

February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

December 30, 2017

What Did Mary Really Know?

Every year during the Christmas Season, there are articles published that are critical of the song, Mary Did You Know. As expected, in early December, Fr. Robert McTeigue, SJ, published an article with the title, “The Problem With ‘Mary Did You Know.’” In the article, Fr. McTeigue criticized the following lyrics: “Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.”

Fr. McTeigue’s complaint was that the lyrics imply that Mary was a sinner who needed to be delivered from her sins. This is contrary to Catholic doctrine which states that Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin from the moment of her immaculate conception, which allowed her to be a pure vessel in which the Son of God could be conceived and born without ever having come into contact with sin.

Another article that was published before Christmas stated that the song implies that Mary was not fully aware that she was the mother of God. The article went on to say that anyone who is familiar with the Bible knows that Mary possessed knowledge that she was the Mother of God, not only because of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement (Luke 1:26-56), but also because of her “song of praise” — known as “The Magnificat” — which indicated that she was aware of her role in the salvation of mankind. Here are the first two sentences of the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for he who is mighty, has done great things for me and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)

Whenever I read anything about the life of Mary, I think about a book that I read in the early 1980s, while I was in law school. The title of the book was, The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary. The content for the book was taken from the recorded visions of the well-known 19th-century Catholic mystic, Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774 – 1824).

July 1, 2017

Godless and Childless Leaders

You may have heard of Charlie Gard, the 10-month-old baby who was born with severe brain damage and an inability to move or breathe on his own. He has been on life support at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London since he was born. Earlier this year, Charlie’s doctors concluded that he was terminally ill and that nothing more could be done for him.

After doing extensive research, Charlie’s parents found a doctor in the United States who thought he could help Charlie with a certain type of medication. The medication has never been tried on anyone with Charlie’s exact condition; however, the medication was successful on another individual who had a condition that was similar to Charlie’s.

In order to raise funds so that Charlie could be transferred to the United States for treatment, Charlie’s mother set up a GoFundMe page on the internet. To date, she has been able to raise more than $1.7 million for the experimental treatment.

Even though Charlie’s parents have the desire and financial ability to transfer him to the United States for treatment, the administrators at Great Ormond Street Hospital took it upon themselves to stop the parents. In April, the hospital filed a court case with the family division of the High Court of Justice in London. The question that the hospital presented to the court was, “Is it legal, and in Charlie’s best interest, for the hospital to remove him from life support — even against his parent’s wishes?” After a hearing on the matter, the judge ruled in favor of the hospital and against Charlie’s parents, stating that it was “in Charlie’s best interests” to allow the hospital to withdraw treatment, which would result in Charlie’s death.

Charlie’s parents appealed the judge’s decision to the Court of Appeals of England and Wales. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the judge. Charlie’s parents then appealed the case to the United Kingdom Supreme Court. That court subsequently upheld the judge’s decision.

July 6, 2013

The American Way

American WayLast week, I reread two documents: the U.S. Constitution, which was written more than 200 years ago, and The Communist Manifesto, which was written more than 150 years ago.  James Madison and the other authors of the Constitution were primarily concerned with guaranteeing the freedom and liberty of all Americans by placing severe limitations on the power of the federal government.  Karl Marx, the author of The Communist Manifesto, mapped out what would become a blueprint for dictators whose primary aim was to achieve power by exercising complete control over the lives of their citizens.

The Communist Manifesto was written in 1848, and in addition to inspiring communist dictators in the USSR, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and Venezuela, it also influenced the beliefs of Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Nazi Germany, and Franco in Spain.  It continues to provide inspiration to thousands of individuals worldwide, including the religious leaders who seek to take control of and rule over the citizens of various countries in the Middle East.

While the U.S. Constitution was designed to be an operations manual for limited government, The Communist Manifesto was designed to create conflict between the working class (the proletariat) and the wealthy and privileged class (the bourgeoisie) — those who owned and operated businesses that took advantage of the workers.

The primary purpose of The Communist Manifesto was to stir up the emotions of the workers who felt as though they were being taken advantage of by the businesses they worked for.  The remedy Marx proposed was to replace existing governmental leaders with a leader who would represent the interests of the workers.  This could be done either by an election or through revolution.

Marx made it appear as though he was for the defenseless workers.  He was a master at creating anger and resentment among the workers by claiming that wealthy business owners considered the workers to be “social scum” and the “passively rotting mass” that were to be thrown away and discarded when they were no longer useful.  (Unlike the Founding Fathers, Marx used very interesting and colorful language in his manifesto.)

July 7, 2012

A Government of Unlimited Powers

I owe my patriotism and my love of country primarily to the two men who had the most influence on me while I was growing up – my dad, Carl Williams, and my grandfather, Tom Williams.

When I was 12 years old, my dad installed a 15-foot flagpole in our front yard.  It was my job to raise and lower the flag every day.  The first thing Dad taught me was how important it was to show respect for the flag – not because it was a nice piece of colored cloth, but because it represented a glorious nation that was built upon our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Dad showed me how to fold the flag and where to store it at night.  He told me to pay attention to the condition of the fabric.  If the edges ever became frayed or torn, it was my job to make sure it got repaired. (I learned how to use a sewing machine when I was 8 years old.)  He said that if the flag couldn’t be repaired, I was to let him know and he would replace it with a new one.

The first time Dad showed me how to attach the flag to the ropes, he told me that after I was finished raising it, I should put my hand over my heart and say the “Pledge of Allegiance.”  From then on, I did exactly what he told me to do.

I suppose that in today’s sophisticated and modern world it may sound corny or old-fashioned to stand next to a flagpole every day and say the “Pledge of Allegiance,” but as I look back, I’m grateful for what my dad taught me about the flag and our country.  I wonder how many 12-year-old boys (or girls) today can recite the “Pledge of Allegiance” from memory.

Whenever my grandfather talked about our country, he used the word “Union” instead of “America” or “United States.”  At first I thought that was odd, but I quickly realized he was using the language of our Founding Fathers.  To our Founding Fathers, the original states that adopted the Constitution (and the other states that followed) were a union of states.

June 30, 2012

Cooperation Among Strangers

The Ford Quadricycle

We’ve all heard that the foundation upon which the United States economy was built is capitalism.  Ask any person to define “capitalism” and in return you’ll get either a blank look or some ambiguous answer.  If you look up “capitalism” in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, here’s what you’ll find:

“An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”

Now that you’ve read the formal definition of capitalism, can you tell me in your own words what it means?

If you search for the word “capitalism” using Google, you’ll get 51,700,000 results.  When you click on the Wikipedia link (the first of the Google results), you get a 28-page explanation of capitalism.

Despite the fact that the word is constantly being thrown around by politicians, journalists, commentators, and so-called experts, no one seems to understand what it really means.  This is unfortunate.  How can we be expected to defend capitalism if we don’t know what it is?

The best definition of capitalism that I’ve seen is from Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, a company that helps business owners develop and improve their own strengths and capabilities.  Sullivan’s definition of capitalism is simple and straightforward.  Here it is:

Capitalism is an ever-increasing system of greater cooperation among strangers.

That’s it.  One sentence.  Ten words.

To illustrate what Sullivan is talking about, let’s go back to 1976.  The place was Los Altos, California, where two college dropouts, Steve Jobs and Steven Wozniak, got together and cooperated with each other to build a personal computer.  They called their first computer the Apple I.  You probably know the rest of the story.  These two men launched the most creative and innovative company of the 20th century.  You can’t go anywhere without seeing an Apple product, such as the iPhone, iPad, iPod, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro.  Apple started out as (and continues to be) “an ever-increasing system of greater cooperation among strangers.”

May 5, 2012

The Religion of America – As Represented in Disney Productions and The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen - District 12 - The Hunger Games

Most people don’t realize it, but the new government regulations that were put into place forcing Catholic institutions to provide free contraceptives and abortion pills to employees not only hit a raw nerve with Catholics, but also caused non-Catholic Americans to question the motives of the Obama Administration.  These non-Catholic Americans rallied to the side of the Catholic Bishops in their opposition to the new regulations, which took the president and his administration by complete surprise.  Obama and his gang of thugs thought they were picking a fight with a weak church that was frowned upon by its members because of its position on contraception.  Instead, the administration quickly found itself at war with millions of patriotic Americans who now feel threatened by the flagrant violation of the rights they have always cherished.

Stick with me here.  I’m about to reveal to you how the Obama Administration not only violated the religion of the Catholic Church, but also violated the religion of America.

Ever since the founding of our country, there has been a secular religion that has been proudly practiced by a majority of Americans.  One of the definitions of religion is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”  Do you know what principles and beliefs have been held by Americans since the founding of our country?  They are the principles of individualism, self-reliance, hard work, and independence.

If you look at any point in the history of our country, you will see those principles woven into the fabric of the American culture and way of life.  I could give you examples of what I’m talking about from 150 and 200 years ago, but because of space limitations, I’m going to focus on the more recent past.

Let’s talk about Walt Disney first.

July 2, 2011

American Exceptionalism

Every July 4th we celebrate “Independence Day,” the anniversary of when our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776).

The United States of America is the only nation in the history of mankind that formally declared at the time of its founding that its citizens would always be allowed to exercise their God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

You and I have had the privilege and opportunity to grow up with freedoms that a majority of the people in the world will never have the chance to experience – freedoms our founding fathers fought and died for.

The Declaration of Independence was the spark that ignited the founding of a great nation.  But that spark was only the beginning.  There was something different about the American people that helped transform America into the most powerful and envied nation in the world.  That “something” was American Exceptionalism.

The first writer to describe America as “exceptional” was the French political historian, Alexis de Tocqueville.  De Tocqueville spent six months in the United States in the 1830’s studying and observing the behavior and attitudes of the American people.  He then returned to France and wrote Democracy in America, a definitive analysis of what he believed was the basis of America’s greatness.

De Tocqueville made it clear that the majority of Americans possessed an essential trait that made America (and Americans) “exceptional.”  Americans insisted on “being their own masters.”  And as masters of their own destiny, they refused to be ruled by their political leaders.

The qualities that our founding fathers and the first Americans possessed that made them masters of their own destiny were self-reliance, self-determination, initiative, ambition, industriousness, perseverance, resilience, and a strong work ethic.

July 3, 2010

The First Independence Day

StatueLibertyLast Monday morning while I was driving to the office, I turned on the radio to listen to the morning news.  The big story of the day was the death of Robert Byrd, the record holder for longevity in the United States Senate.  Byrd died at the age of 92, and was a senator for the state of West Virginia for 51 years. 

I’m 53 years old, so Byrd won his first election to the senate when I was 2 years old.  That’s a long time ago.  With the growth of the Internet and the continuing decline of the influence of network television, I doubt that Robert Byrd’s record will ever be broken.

The next day (Tuesday), I heard a report on the radio that Larry King had announced that he was going to retire from CNN after 25 years as the host of his own interview show, Larry King Live.  King recently made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest running show with the same host in the same time slot.  Again, because of the changes that are taking place as a result of the Internet, I don’t think anyone will ever break Larry King’s record.

The following day (Wednesday), while I was in the adoration chapel, one of our daily adorers, Beth Fuson, walked up to me and handed me a holy card and a medal to give to my wife, Georgette.  (Georgette had open heart surgery 2 weeks ago as described in a previous article on  The holy card had two prayers to St. John of God, along with a short biography of his life. 

St. John of God was born in 1495.  As an adult he devoted himself to assisting Christian slaves in Africa and later started and ran a hospital for the poor and sick in Granada.  He died in 1550 from heart disease and was canonized in 1690.  He is known as the patron saint of people who suffer from heart disease.

Over a period of three days my attention was drawn to three very different men – a United States senator, a celebrity television host, and a saint.  Although all three of these men had notable accomplishments, the first two men focused most of their energy on worldly endeavors, while the third man looked beyond the world and focused on serving the children of God.