NBC to Donald Trump: “You’re Fired!”

by Dr. Mark Denison–

Yesterday, NBC fired The Donald. Ending a longtime relationship with Trump’s Miss USA and Miss Universe pageant, along with The Apprentice, NBC was responding to comments Trump made about immigrants in his speech announcing his presidential ambitions two weeks ago. “At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values,” NBC said in a statement. Trump attributed the decision to a clash in viewpoints on immigration, saying his views were strong and NBC’s were “weak.” Asked to apologize for his statements, he declined because his statements “were correct.” He continued, “Whatever they want to do is ok with me. When I came out with a strong immigration stance, and I’m very strong on borders and I’m very strong on crime, I knew I might lose NBC along the way.”

Let’s put a timeline on all this. You need to understand three dates: June 16, 29, and 29. On June 16, Trump announced for President. In his remarks he portrayed Mexican immigrants as “bringing drugs and crime. They are rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.” Of course, this did not endear Trump to the Hispanic community. In response, NBC said they “didn’t agree with his position on a number of issues, including his recent comments on immigration.” But they reaffirmed his standing with the network.

The second date is June 29. Univision, the nation’s largest Spanish-language network launched a petition drive to run Mr. Trump from the airwaves. The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a group of 39 Latino advocacy organizations, had called on NBC to sever ties with Trump. But the network stood behind their star. While they didn’t support his views, they supported him. After all, his shows brought in millions of dollars to the peacock network. But on June 29, something changed. Univision plopped their petitions on the desk of NBC – 218,000 of them.

The third date is June 29, about ten seconds after the second date. On June 28, Trump’s views were in contrast to those of NBC, but they affirmed their relationship. But when a petition with 218,000 names on it was dropped on them, they dropped the hammer on Mr. Trump. What was forgivable on June 28 was unforgivable on June 29. They stood by their man one day, but he was fired the next.

I’m not going to pass a hat for Mr. Trump, nor do I defend what he said. In fact, I disagree with what he said. But let’s not miss the bigger picture. This story is not about Donald Trump, Univision, or the National Leadership Agenda. It is about NBC. They did not dump Trump because they were appalled at his statements on immigration, or they would have done so on June 16. NBC caved to expediency. The 218,000 signatures convinced them that it would cost them more to keep Trump than fire him. So, in a nanosecond, Trump was gone. No more pageants, no more Apprentice, no more stress. Dump Trump and the problem was solved.

In this age of political correctness, when the prize goes not to the one who stands on their principles, but to the one whose only principle is to offend no one, I appreciate a man who says what he thinks, whether I agree with him or not. NBC found Mr. Trump’s statements reprehensible – not when he said it, but when 218,000 others found them reprehensible. And I’m sorry to say it, but that is the America we now live in.

Reaction to Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

by Dr. Mark Denison–

In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, 5-4. The Proud Americans does not agree with the ruling. We agree with the position signed by 100 Christian evangelical leaders in Christianity Today. We hold to the Biblical definition of marriage, being one man and one woman, as instituted by God before there was government. Sadly, the Court has followed the path of too many political leaders. President Obama and Secretary Clinton were against same-sex marriage before they were for it. Suddenly (and predictably), at the very time public opinion turned in favor of same-sex marriage, our “leaders” changed their positions. Republicans who have indicated such support include U.S. Senators Collins, Kirk, Murkowski, Portman, and several members of the House. I admire those, like President Ford, who have been consistent in their position, rather than changing their position the moment Gallop said to.

So, yes we oppose same-sex marriage and we understand the reason for the sudden endorsement of this by our leaders in government and on the Supreme Court. But how are we of the Christian faith to respond now that the Court has ruled? While a future President and Congress may bring forth new legislation and even an amendment to the Constitution, most of us won’t be President or serve in Congress. So how do we respond? Where do we go from here? I offer five suggestions.

1. Don’t let it steal your joy. When Paul told the Philippians to rejoice (twice) he knew the tribulation they were facing. He knew what it meant to be in the minority. Some scholars estimate the number of believers was less than one percent of the population at the time. When early Christians stood on principle, they faced persecution and often, death. But they still rejoiced. To state the obvious, since our nation has strayed from her spiritual roots, we have seen a moral decline in every arena that can be measured. If you don’t believe me, watch an episode of The Andy Griffith Show followed by Modern Family, and let me know what you think. I don’t recall Ward Cleaver having any guest appearances on Married with Children. But our joy is not based on what is happening around us; it’s all about what is happening in us.

2. Deal with your own issues. It is easy to blast those whose positons and lifestyles are in opposition to our view of Scripture. But that is just our way of deflecting from our own struggles. I read a survey that concluded that 133% of Americans suffer from on addition. That means the average person has more than one. One of my favorite churches it the Gracepointe Church in Birmingham. When you walk in, you see their sign. It reads, “A Church for Messed Up People.” Here’s the thing. We are all messed up. That’s why Jesus said to get the log out of your own eye before you worry about the speck in someone else’s eye.

3. Rethink how you connect with the LGBT community. We are no longer seen as a threat to them, legally. There will be more opportunities to connect with them. And do not see gays and lesbians as gays and lesbians, but as people in need of the same Savior that you need. A recent survey of church attenders concluded that almost all of us struggle mightily in at least one area we would never want the world to know about. Here’s the problem. We want grace for ourselves, but justice (our view of justice) for everyone else. We are to love everyone. I know churches that don’t allow gays and lesbians in the church. Jesus would welcome them. Don’t misunderstand. To accept a person is not to agree with them. Do you think God agrees with all your choices in life? Yet, you want him to accept you.

4. Carry water, not lighter fluid. When you see a fire, you have two choices. In one hand you have a bucket of water, in the other some lighter fluid. Which will you pour on the fire? We need to pick our battles. Remember this. The moral decay of our country and the rulings with which many of us vehemently disagree (on abortion, gay marriage, etc.) are not the problem. I repeat, the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage is not the problem. It is the symptom. When a nation strays from God, that nation will make bad decisions. Our response is not to scream and rant over the decisions of their minds, but to pray for the conditions of their hearts. We can expect further spiritual and moral decay in America. And that is not because our President is a Democrat, our Supreme Court is activist, or because the “bad guys” are making bad decisions.

5. Here’s the solution. We need a fire-from-heaven revival that leads millions to faith in Jesus. Nothing less will do. If you want to see America return to God, pray for America. But mostly, pray for yourself. I leave you with the words of D.L. Moody, the great American evangelist of over 100 years ago. “Get down on your knees and draw a circle around yourself. Then get everyone inside that circle right with God, and help will be on the way.” Revival has never begun in the White House. It always begins in God’s House. And now it can begin in you.

America’s Top Ten Patriotic Events in July

July 4 marks the 239th birthday of America. You will find the top ten July 4 fireworks events in the country on this site. But America is to be celebrated all month. So let’s look at some of the hidden jewels across our great land. As you travel the country, check out some of these unique and amazing events.

1. Franklin County, Virginia. Get a jump on your July 4 celebration on July 2. At the Franklin County High School in Rocky Mount, Virginia, the fun starts at 6:00 p.m. The night is filled with patriotic music, fireworks, and kids activities, sponsored by the local Rotary Club.

2. Key West, Florida. The most southern point of our country makes July a month to remember. Every day in July, you will find street festivals by day and an incredible light display by night. Of special note is the Hemmingway Days Festival, running throughout mid-July.

3. Cut Bank, Montana. This is the place for the annual Lewis and Clark Festival. The fun kicks off the morning of July 23 and runs for four days. As a part of the festival, you will enjoy free hot dogs, a great antique car show, and lots of patriotic music.

4. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It doesn’t get any more patriot than this. Go to Gettysburg for the annual Pickett’s Charge observance. On July 24, you can follow the footsteps of the men who took part in the most famous infantry assault in American military history.

5. Boston, Massachusetts. The Civil War re-enactment takes place on July 17. Go to the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial on the Commons. The whole day is filled with an educational look at the Civil War from the perspective of multiple battles.

6. Morristown, New Jersey. July 3 marks the celebration of the place where Gen. George Washington and his troops spent two brutal winters in the fight for American independence. All events, sponsored by the Morris County Tourism Bureau, are free  to the public.

7. Hutchinson, Kansas. On July 4, celebrate in the nation’s heartland. In downtown Hutchinson, the annual Patriot’s Parade starts at 1:00 p.m. Sponsored by Eagle Radio, this event is a perfect example of small town America at its best.

8. Lemont, Illinois. The 25th Annual Heritage Fest is upon us! In downtown Lemont, the outdoor street festival provides free food, music, and tons of family fun. Historic downtown Lemont is transformed into a step back in time. The year is 1776, and the celebration is one of a kind.

9. Washington, D.C. The annual Korean War observance takes place at the Korean War Memorial. Enjoy a tour of the memorial along with the National Mall tour. Events commemorate the Korean War  and honor her veterans, from July 23-27.

July Holidays in America

For those of you on summer vacation, America has something to offer every day of July. On some days, you have multiple options of celebrations and activities. Here is a sampling of July holidays in America.

1 – Canada Day

1 – Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day

1 – International Joke Day

2 – I Forgot Day

2 – World UFO Day

3 – Compliment Your Mirror Day

3 – Disobedience Day

3 – Stay Out of the Sun Day

4 – Independence Day

4 – National Country Music Day

4 – Sidewalk Egg Frying Day

5 – Build a Scarecrow Day

5 – Work-a-holics Day

6 – Fried Chicken Day

7 – Chocolate Day

7 – Strawberry Sundae Day

8 – Video Games Day

9 – Sugar Cookie Day

10 – Teddy Bear Picnic Day

11 – Cheer Up the Lonely Day

12 – Different Colored Eyes Day

12 – Pecan Pie Day

13 – Barbershop Music Appreciation Day

13 – Embrace Your Greatness Day

13 – Fool’s Paradise Day

14 – Bastille Day

14 – Pandemonium Day

15 – Tapioca Pudding Day

15 – Cow Appreciation Day

16 – Fresh Spinach Day

17 – Peach Ice Cream Day

17 – Yellow Pig Day

18 – National Caviar Day

19 – National Ice Cream Day

19 – Raspberry Cake Day

20 – National Lollipop Day

20 – Moon Day

20 – Ugly Truck Day

21 – National Junk Food Day

22 – Hammock Day

22 – Ratcatcher’s Day

23 – National Hot Dog Day

23 – Vanilla Ice Cream Day

24 – Amelia Earhart Day

24 – Cousins Day

25 – Culinarians Day

25 – Threading the Needle Day

26 – All or Nothing Day

26 – Aunt and Uncle Day

26 – Parent’s Day

27 – Take Your Pants for a Walk Day

28 – National Milk Chocolate Day

29 – National Lasagna Day

30 – National Cheesecake Day

30 – Father-in-Law Day

30 – Day of Friendship

31 – Mutt’s Day

America’s Top Ten Bridges

There is more to see in America than a person could possibly see in ten lifetimes. We love our mountains, monuments, and malls. We are drawn to beaches, ballparks, and bridges. Yes, I said bridges. There are thousands of them all across our nation. Many have interesting stories behind them. Many are fascinating in their beauty, construction, and length. In our continuing series on America’s Top Ten, let’s take a look at America’s top ten bridges. How many have you seen?

1. Sunshine Skyway Bridge – Tampa Bay, Florida. I’m biased, in that I cross this bridge about once a week and see it from a distance every day. I’ve never seen anything else like it. With a cable-stayed main span, it has an amazing length of 21,877 feet, or 4.1 miles. It connects St. Petersburg and Terra Ceia, passing over Hillsborough County waters. Construction began in 1982 and concluded in 1987. The bridge cost $244 million.

2. Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, California. Spanning the Golden Gate, this massive suspension bridge is probably the most well-known bridge in America. The structure links the city of San Francisco to Marin County. It is the recognized symbol of San Francisco, and has  been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

3. Royal Gorge Bridge – Canon City, Colorado. This is a major tourist attraction in Colorado, set within a 360-acre theme park. The bridge deck hangs 955 feet above the Arkansas River and held the record of highest bridge in the world from 1929 until 2001, when China completed the Liuguanghe Bridge. The Royal Gorge Bridge spans 1,260 feet and is 18 feet wide, with a wooden walkway that has 1292 planks. The bridge is supported by towers that are 150 feet high.

4. Contoocook Covered Railroad Bridge – New Hampshire. This is America’s greatest covered bridge, set on a former railroad line spanning the Contoocook River. It is referred to, in the National Register of Historic Places, as the Hopkinton Railroad Covered Bridge. It is the oldest extant covered railroad bridge in the United States.

5. Frankford Avenue Bridge – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Also known as the Pennypack Creek Bridge, it was erected in 1697 in the Holmesburg section of Northeast Philadelphia, and is the oldest surviving roadway bridge in the country. The three-span, 73-foot-long twin stone arch bridge carries Frankford Avenue just north of Solly Avenue, over Pennypack Creek in Pennypack Park.

6. Brooklyn Bridge – New York City. Completed in 1883, this is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. With a span of 1,595 feet, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its opening until 1903. Since its opening, it has been an icon of New York City, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

7. Devil’s Elbow Bridge – Pulaski County, Missouri. Devil’s Elbow, Missouri is one of the prettiest places on Route 66. There is great history in this part of the Ozarks. Lumberjacks would float logs down the Big Piney River, which often became overcrowded. So they built this bridge in 1923. It was rendered obsolete by the more modern US 66 bridge in 1942, but the two-span truss bridge remains an amazing attraction.

8. Mackinac Bridge – Michigan. This is the third longest suspension bridge in the world and longest in the Western Hemisphere. It’s length is an amazing 26,372 feet, or about five miles. All suspension bridges are designed to move to accommodate wind, change in temperature, and weight. The Mackinac Bridge is built such that the deck at the center span can move  by as much as 35 feet.

9. Francis Scott Key Bridge – Washington, D.C. More commonly known as the Key Bridge, this is a six-lane reinforced concrete arch bridge taking U.S. Route 29 traffic across the Potomac River between the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington County, Virginia and the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Completed in 1923, it is Washington’s oldest surviving bridge across the Potomac River, with a length of 1,791 feet.

10. Claiborne Pell Bridge – Newport, Rhode Island. Commonly known as the Newport Bridge, this suspension bridge is operated by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. It spans the East Passage of the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. Part of RI 138, it connects the City of Newport on Aquidneck Island and the Town of Jamestown on Conanicut Island, which in turn is connected to the mainland by the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge.

America’s Best July 4 Fireworks

It’s a part of who we are as Americans. We love our fireworks, especially on July 4. While every town in America gets in on the act, the bigger the fireworks, the better. And no one does July 4 fireworks like our big cities. They spend millions of dollars for 15 minutes of glory. For those of you fortunate enough to get to the big city this July 4, check out these impressive fireworks displays. We have compiled several lists of the best, from many sources. Here, we present a consensus of the 15 best places to watch fireworks this July 4, starting with the very best.

1. Addison, Texas. This north Texas city offers the largest fireworks display in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. With more than 1,500 pounds of fireworks, this Texas-sized party – complete with live entertainment and air shows – has been recognized by the American Pyrotechnics Association for its over-the-top demonstration.

2. Atlantic City, New Jersey. Visible for a one-mile stretch of the boardwalk and beach from Revel Resort to the Atlantic Club, the fireworks in Atlantic City are a show that must not be missed. Following the fireworks, a 3-D light show will debut in the Boardwalk Hall façade and will continue every night for the next year.

3. Boston, Massachusetts. Sponsored by the Boston Pops, this spectacular attracts 500,000 people to the Charles River for the best view, every year. The fireworks are accompanied by concerts. Locals argue that the best viewing is across the river in Cambridge, MA.

4. Chicago, Illinois. The Navy Pier is the place to be in the Windy City this July 4. They offer a dinner cruise on Lake Michigan, offering a spectacular view with the massive city skyline as a backdrop, beyond the Lake.

5. Houston, Texas. America’s fourth largest city (soon to be third) proves everything is bigger in Texas. They offer the nation’s largest land-based fireworks show. The annual “Freedom Over Texas” celebration features a full six hours of family fun activities and entertainment, followed by a massive fireworks show that is choreographed to music.

6. Lake Tahoe, California. Dig your feet into the sand at Lake Tahoe and take in a display that The Today Show recently recognized as one of America’s best. Best viewing is from the beach – Edgewood or Lakeside Beach. It’s so big they gave it a name – “The Lights on the Lake Spectacular.”

7. Nashville, Tennessee. They offer fun for the whole family in the Music City. “Let Freedom Sing” attracts the largest July 4 crowd in the South. The 27-minute fireworks show is choreographed to a live performance by the Grammy award-winning Nashville Symphony Orchestra.

8. New Orleans, Louisiana. Barges battle on the Mississippi River at “Go 4th on the River in New Orleans.” The fireworks display, set to music provided by the Navy Band, can be seen from many places around New Orleans if you want to avoid the downtown traffic.

9. New York City, New York. They offer the country’s largest pyrotechnic show in New York, with fireworks shot from multiple barges along the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge. In addition to the fireworks, the event features performances by A-list artists from around the country.

10. Pasadena, California. This one is a Rose Bowl Stadium tradition. They have perfected this for over 85 years. The largest show in Southern California, the fun-filled event begins at 2:00 p.m. and includes live entertainment, motorcycle stunts, exhibits, vendors, and a Pyro Spectacular by Souza Fourth of July fireworks show at 9:00 p.m.

The Rest – These are just outside our “Top Ten” list. But if you can’t get to the others, try one of these. In Philadelphia, lay out a blanket along Boa Row or in Schuylkill River Park. In San Francisco, take in the music of the Air Force Band and set your chair near Fisherman’s Wharf. If you live in the nation’s heartland, St. Louis is the place to be. “America’s Biggest Birthday Party” is set by the beautiful arch. Or check out the show at Washington, D.C., where they launch the fireworks from behind the Capitol and Washington Monument. And if you can’t get to any of those, there is one more place to view the July 4 spectacular. It may be the best place of all. Try your home town. There is nothing better than joining with family and friends to celebrate the big day. This is a great time to remember all that is good about America. Happy 239th birthday, America. May we all join in on the celebration!

America’s Top Ten Monuments

America has 112 national monuments. Each one is maintained and protected by the National Park Service. Many of these have become national symbols. These monuments vary greatly, but all have an amazing story, and are well worth your time. President Theodore Roosevelt designated the first official American monuments in 1906. As you get to know your America, these monuments are a great place to start. How many of these have you seen?

1. Lincoln Memorial – Washington, D.C. Built to honor our 16th president, it is located on the National Mall, across from the Washington Monument. President Lincoln, who led America during the Civil War, sits immortalized in marble. As an enduring symbol of freedom, the Lincoln Memorial attracts millions from around the world every year.

2. Mount Rushmore – South Dakota. A sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore is this incredible monument. Located near Keystone, South Dakota, it is visited by three million people each year. With the backdrop of the Black Hills, the monument honors four transformative presidents from our past: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

3. The Statute of Liberty – New York City. A gift from France, the statue stands as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. Dedicated on October 28, 1886 and designated a National Monument in 1924, the amazing structure was restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986. Any visit to Mother Liberty should include a tour of Ellis Island.

4. Vietnam Veterans Memorial – Washington, D.C. This is one of our newer monuments, honoring U.S. service members who fought and died in the Vietnam War. It also recognizes the thousands who are still unaccounted for, and presumed dead. The monument consists of three parts: the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

5. Castillo de San Marcos – St. Augustine, Florida. The Spanish fort in northeast Florida served for 205 years, under four different flags. Built in 1672, it was involved in sieges with the British while under Spanish command, the American Revolution under Britain, the Civil War under the Confederacy, and the Spanish American War under the United States.

6. Mount St. Helens – Washington. This remains an active stratovolcano, located in Skamania County, 90 miles south of Seattle and 50 miles northeast of Portland. The volcano is in the Cascade Range and is part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, a segment of the Pacific Ring of Fire that includes over 160 active volcanos.

7. World War II Valor in the Pacific – Hawaii, Alaska, California. This memorial honors several aspects of American engagement in World War II. It encompasses nine sites in three states, totaling 6,310 acres. It is the only great monument that is spread across an entire ocean.

8. Navajo National Monument – Arizona. Located within the northwest part of the Navajo Reservation in northern Arizona, this monument preserves three amazing cliff dwellings of the ancestral puebloan people. The monument sits high atop the Shonto plateau, overlooking the Tsegi Canyon system in the Navajo Nation, west of Kayenta, Arizona.

9. Little Bighorn Battlefield – Montana. This monument includes the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn, fought between George Custer’s 7th Calvary and the combined Lakota-Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho force. Custer National Cemetery sits nearby. The monument recognizes the bloody battle that occurred on June 25 and 26, 1876. Markers honor the Indians who fought at Little Big Horn, including Crazy Horse, in addition to markers recognizing fallen U.S. troops.

10. George Washington’s Birthplace – Virginia. Located in Westmoreland County, the area was fist settled by John Washington, George’s great-grandfather. George was born here on February 22, 1732, and lived here until age three. He returned later as a teenager. For anyone interested in how it all began, this home is a must visit.

Confederate Flag – Why Now?

by Dr. Mark Denison–

Last week, 21-year-old Dylann Roof gunned down nine Christ-worshipers in their church in Charleston, South Carolina. This week, everyone from the Charleston mayor, both South Carolina senators, and their governor called for the removal of the Confederate flag from state grounds. While Hillary Clinton reminded voters that she stood for taking down the flag “for years,” Republican presidential candidates stampeded to the nearest microphone to announce their personal outrage over the flag. Within days, state governments in Mississippi, Kentucky, and Arkansas joined the outcry. A week ago, national polls showed an even 50-50 split in opinion on whether the Confederate flag should still be flown on public grounds. Today, it’s easier to find a supporter of the bubonic plague than a supporter of the Confederate flag.

Of course, Dylann Roof has been identified as a bigot, racist, and lover of that flag. He had one on his car. He was not shy about his pro-Confederate, anti-black opinions. And so, when the mass murderer was captured and his bigoted character was exposed, all that is associated with him, including the Confederate flag, is free game.

I am an equal opportunity critic. On the Republican side, until last week, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley had never taken a stand against the flying of the flag in her state, a tradition which began in 1962. But within days of the Charleston shooting, she came out against the flag. “This is not political. I am doing this for personal reasons,” she said. “It came down to one simple thing. I couldn’t look at my son or daughter in the face and justify that flag flying anymore.” Politics were not an issue, she said. The flag flew over the Capitol for 53 years. But it only took 53 hours to take it down. Sure, there was a national outcry and the “keep it up” position had become untenable politically. But that was not a factor in her decision.

On the other side, Hillary Clinton has reminded us that she has spoken against the flying of this flag “for years.” She did, in fact, speak out for its removal in 2007, while running for the Democratic nomination for President. But in 1987, she offered no resistance when her husband, then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, signed Act 116, which stated, “The blue star above the word ‘ARKANSAS’ is to commemorate the Confederate States of America.” Mrs. Clinton, to this day, has not commented on that act, nor has she ever offered resistance to it.

Paul Begala, co-chair of a pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC, explained the change. “Times change. Circumstances change,” he said. Times have suddenly changed for the likes of Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Mike Huckabee, as well. One pro-Confederate racist became the personification of evil last week. And though there is zero evidence that a contributing factor was the Confederate flag, times have now “changed.” Similarly, “times have changed,” favoring more gun control, in light of the shooting. Never mind, Mr. Roof violated two existing gun laws that horrific night. It’s hard to imagine that one more law would have changed the evil that filled his heart.

So where does that leave us? Sadly, I must disagree with Mr. Begala. Times have not changed. Political expediency is what it has always been – the single most significant driving force in the forming of positions by politicians from both parties. The Civil War ended 150 years ago. Seven southern states have continued to display the Confederate symbol prominently for decades. Taking the flag down or leaving it up will have no bearing on what a crazed man like Dylann Roof does in the future. If anyone truly thought the flag had that kind of effect, it wouldn’t have been put up in the first place. The political leaders are right to bring down the flag. But it would be nice to hear one of them say, “We should have done this decades ago. I’ve been as guilty as anyone. While the flag represents southern heritage to millions who proudly recognize their ancestors, it is a symbol that brings too much pain to be sanctioned on government grounds.” The sad fact is that our elected leaders have not come to their positions for any reason but one. Mr. Begala said, “Times have changed.” The only thing that changed was that the Confederate flag’s approval rating fell under 50 percent. So, the next day, it had to go. Political leaders do and say what benefits them at the time. So no, Mr. Begala, you are wrong. Times have not changed

The Confederate Flag – Where Candidates Stand

The recent shootings in the Emanuel Church of Charleston, South Carolina have sparked a debate other than the predictable outcry for and against gun rights. When the killer, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, was apprehended, his car displayed the Confederate flag. The flag was removed from the State House in July of 2000. A Confederate flag still flies on the grounds of the state Capitol. The recent tragedy has pulled many political leaders, some reluctantly, into the flag debate once more. So where do they stand?

The 2016 presidential aspirants fall into five groups: those who are for the flag’s removal, those who oppose it, those who see it exclusively as a states’ rights issue, and those who have not been reported as taking a position as of yet. In the first group, those who favor the flag’s removal, period, we have the following: Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, George Pataki, and Rick Perry. The lone candidate whose stated position is leaving the flag up is Lindsey Graham. The candidates who prefer the State of South Carolina decide are Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich. Patently unclear in his position is Bernie Sanders. And we have yet to hear from Chris Christie, Martin O’Malley, Donald Trump, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, and Lincoln Chafee.

Here is a sampling of the candidates’ positions on this most controversial issue. Said Mike Huckabee, “I don’t personally display the flag, so it’s not an issue for me. That is an issue for the people of South Carolina.” Lindsey Graham said the flag is “part of who we are” in South Carolina. Marco Rubio opined, “The people of South Carolina will make the right decision for South Carolina and I believe in their capacity to make that decision.” Rick Perry said, “In Texas we dealt with those issues,” referring to Texas’ decision to ban the federate emblem from license plates. While leaving the decision to state government, Perry’s view is obvious. Clinton called for the flag’s removal in 2007, in part because “the nation should unite under one banner while at war.” John Kasich said, “It is up to the people of South Carolina to decide.”

John McCain took the politically expedient route when running for president in 2008, saying the issue had no place in national politics. He later regretted this stance, saying he had “not told the truth” about his position. Mitt Romney has called for bringing down the flag. President Obama has praised Romney for stating his position. I’m sure other candidates will weigh in on the issue very soon.

So what are we to take from these varied positions? Let’s review. To date, four candidates have called for the flag’s removal, one says to leave it up, seven leave it to the state of South Carolina, seven had yet to weigh in, and one is unclear. To be fair, many of those who emphasize leaving the decision to the state of South Carolina have made their personal views against the flag clear, but they are more passionate about states’ rights.

So what do we take from these varied positions? I’m not sure of any issue that receives such diverse response among the current crop of presidential candidates. How a person judges these candidates’ responses depends on that person’s perspective. Some voters will side with candidates who agreed with their position to bring the flag down or leave it up. Some will side with candidates who have staked out a position that emphasizes the state’s rights to make these decisions. Others will view this as deflection and reluctance to take a position. And all voters have a point. I would suggest the position on the Confederate flag issue, though rife with emotion, is not as important as the principles that direct presidential candidates to their positions. The issue is much bigger than where they stand on this issue. The bigger issue is how they got there, and what that says about how they will weigh in on other issues, whether on a state or federal level.

The Youngest Female Congressman Ever

On November 4, 2014 Elise Stafanik became the youngest woman ever elected to the United States Congress, at the age of 30. A Republican from upstate New York, she defeated her Democratic opponent by a whopping 22 percent. Appointed to the powerful House Armed Services Committee for the 114th Congress, Stafanik is a rising star in national politics. But while her party has their eye on her, she has her eye on her own generation, best known as the millennials. This is now the largest generation in the history of America, in population. And while they turned out for President Obama in big numbers in 2008, they have since retreated from politics. As one of their own, Stafanik understands this group, probably better than anyone else in Congress.

The Harvard graduate is chairing a meeting for fellow Republicans in Congress, called “Millennials and the GOP.” Her lineup of guest speakers includes experts who will describe the demographic, political, and cultural attributes of this diverse generation. “I want to help Congress put together a vision and set of policies that resonate with my generation,” she says. One of the witnesses is Harvard pollster John Della Volpe, who just concluded a 15-year study on this generation. His findings conclude that young Americans are uniquely civic minded. They volunteer in record numbers, but they are disconnected from politics and government.

Stafanik believes there is an opportunity for whatever party adapts to the millennials’ spirit of bipartisan problem solving. “My generation is very tolerant and tries to build relationships and build teams,” she says. “They support limited government and a bottom-up approach to governing. Millennials are up for grabs if we can actually connect with them on those issues.”

As baby boomers age and as the millennials move into leadership, we need to listen to them. A few years ago, they were our future. Now they are our present. We need to connect with this generation, whatever the cost. We must respect them and learn from them. I, for one, applaud their spirit of volunteerism and independence. We must hear them from up close, not from a distance. For that reason, I am grateful that the people of upstate New York had the good sense to elect a 30-year-old woman to Congress. In just six months in office, Rep. Elise Stafanik has already taught us a valuable lesson. The millennials are no longer coming. They are here.