Looking Back – OKC Bombing, Lessons Learned

It happened 22 years ago today. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, while injuring 680 others. Their motive was to retaliate for the wrongs of the sieges of Ruby Ridge and Waco.

The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius, shattering glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroying or burning 86 cars. This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in history to that point.

What are the lessons from the Oklahoma City bombing? I see three.

1. Evil still persists in the world – and that includes America. This should come as no surprise. The Bible is clear. In the end times, things will get worse, not better. The enemy is still at work, man’s heart is still desperately wicked, and evil is still with us.

2. God has created man with a free will. Could God have stopped the bombing? Of course He could have. But we are not robots. We all make daily choices to do good or evil. That is what makes God’s relationship with His children so special. We enter into our relationships with God by choice.

3. Judgement will always come. Man picks his choices, but not the consequences. God always gets the last word. There used to be a preacher named R.G. Lee. He preached one sermon thousands of times. It was called “Payday Someday.” Lee made the point that justice always prevails – eventually.

All in One Day

It all happened in one day – April 3.

April 3, 1860 – The first successful Unites States Pony Express run from Saint Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, begins.

April 3, 1865 – In the Civil War, Union forces capture Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederate States of America, signaling an end to the war between the states.

April 3, 1882 – In the American old west, outlaw Jesse James is killed by Robert Ford. (Some claimed he actually escaped and died in Texas some 40 years later.)

April 3, 1948 – President Harry S. Truman signs the Marshall Plan, authorizing $5 billion in aid for 16 different countries.

April 3, 1968 – Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., delivers his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, shortly before his assassination.

A lot can happen in a day. And on this day in history – April 3 – a lot has happened. But this particular April 3 has never come this way before, and it will never return to us again. So go out and make today the best April 3 you ever had.

A lot can happen – in one day.

John and Abigail Adams’ Letters – This Day in 1777

On March 7, 1777, Continental Congressman John Adams wrote three letters to his wife, Abigail. On that same day, he received two letters from her. Mr. Adams was with the Congress in Philadelphia, while she maintained their farm in Braintree, Massachusetts. The remarkable correspondence between John and Abigail – numbering 1,160 letters in total – covered topics ranging from politics and military strategy to household economy and family health.

But these letters went far deeper than that. Their mutual respect and adoration for each other served as evidence that even in an age when women were unable to vote, there were marriages in which wives and husbands were true intellectual and emotional equals.

In the second letter John drafted to Abigail on this day, he declared that Philadelphia had lost its vibrancy during Congress’ removal to Baltimore, and he described Loyalists as “sordid Scoundrels.” In the letters from Abigail, written in February of 1777, she bemoaned the lack of military fervor demonstrated by the New Englanders around her.

These amazing treasures tell us a lot about what made our second president tick. These five letters, along with 1,155 others, remind us that behind every good man is patriotism, courage – and a good wife.

Miracle on Ice

Mike Eruzione – have you ever heard of him?

Let me help. Mike was born in Winthrop, Massachusetts, on October 25, 1944. At 5 feet 10 and 180 pounds, he was not an imposing athlete, even in his prime. A college hockey player, his dream was to play in the NHL. But he was drafted by the WHA, not the NHL. The WHA (World Hockey Association) was a fledgling league that never competed successfully with the NHL. And Mike never even made it to the WHA. His professional career played out in the minor hockey leagues of the IHL and AHL, where he played left wing for the Toledo Goaldiggers and Philadelphia Firebirds. He was cut from the Firebirds in 1980, and his professional career was over.

But that’s where history begins.

Because Eruzione was no longer a pro, he could try out for the American amateur hockey team, going against college players for a spot on the team. Mike made the team and was elected captain, based on his seasoned age in the midst of players barely out of high school.

That amateur hockey team is better known as the Olympic team. They played in Lake Placid, New York. It was there that the unthinkable became reality – 37 years ago today.

In the medal round, or semi-finals, the American team came up against the vaunted Russian team, many of whom were NHL All-Stars and award-winning veterans. It was the ultimate David vs. Goliath.

On this day, David won.

It was never supposed to happen. This would be like a mid-level college football team beating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The American team beating the Russians and then winning the gold medal (which they did two days later) would be the ultimate feel-good story.

And yet, it happened.

In the final period, the scored was tied, 3-3. Then Mike Eruzione scored the winning goal. And at the sound of the final horn, legendary broadcaster Al Michaels asked, “Do you believe in miracles?” And the term “Miracle on Ice” was birthed.

You know the names of the greats of American sports history: Ruth, Ali, Jordan, and Unitas. But you didn’t know Mike Eruzione’s name.

And here’s the lesson – country above person. That’s it. We remember that the Americans beat the Russians. We don’t care who scored the winning goal. Credit goes to the team.

And that’s how it should be. When one man becomes bigger than the team or country, we have lost our way. “Miracle on Ice” will live forever in the hearts and minds of all who were of age in 1980. The names may be forgotten, but not the event. For that one day on ice, 37 years ago, America was #1.

That’s all that mattered then. And that’s all that matters now.

The Rushmore Report: 25 Fun Facts from Past Presidential Inaugurations

Friday, Donald John Trump will take the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States. This brings to mind 25 fun facts of inaugurations past. Do you know who the youngest president was? The oldest? Who was the first to be sworn into office in Washington, D.C.? Who gave the longest speech? Whose was shortest? Keep reading!

Here are 25 fun facts of presidential inauguration history.

1. In 1953, Texas-born Dwight D. Eisenhower was lassoed in the reviewing stand by a cowboy who rode up to him on a horse.

2. JFK’s inauguration almost went up in flames when the podium caught fire as Cardinal Richard Cushing was delivering the invocation.

3. One of the most awkward moments of inauguration history occurred in 2009, when Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the oath during Obama’s public ceremony – putting the word “faithfully” in the wrong place. It was a small slip of the tongue, but since it raised concerns that Obama may not have been properly sworn in, they repeated the 35 words, in the right order, in private the next day at the White House.

4. The most botched oath goes to Lyndon Johnson, who took the vice-presidential oath during JFK’s inauguration “without any mental reservation whatever,” instead of “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”

5. Jimmy Carter took his inauguration in stride when he walked from the Capitol to the White House in the ceremony parade. (The only other president to do so was Thomas Jefferson.)

6. Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration became so wild that the police had to be called in.

7. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be sworn into office in Washington, D.C.

8. Theodore Roosevelt – not John F. Kennedy – was the youngest man inaugurated into office, at 42 years of age.

9. Ronald Reagan was our oldest president to take office, just 17 days short of his 70th birthday.

10. Bill Clinton’s second inauguration was the first to be live-streamed on the Internet.

11. Bill and Hillary Clinton attended a record 14 inaugural balls.

12. While tickets for this year’s ball are being scalped for as much as $12,500, the 400 tickets to James Madison’s celebration went for just $4 each.

13. William Henry Harrison gave the longest speech – 100 minutes – in a snowstorm. (He got sick and died a month later.)

14. The shortest speech was given by George Washington – just 135 words.

15. The only president to kiss the Bible as he was sworn in was George Washington.

16. Washington was the only president to ad lib his oath of office, ending it with “so help me God,” setting a precedent for future presidents.

17. Teddy Roosevelt went off script when he concluded his oath with “And thus I swear.”

18. John Quincy Adams was the first of three presidents to not use the Bible while being sworn in, opting to place his hand on a constitutional law volume instead.

19. John Quincy was also the one to break the dress code mold – opting to wear trousers instead of the traditional knee breeches.

20. An estimated 1.2 million people attended Lyndon Johnson’s inauguration. (President Obama drew 1.8 million in 2009.)

21. In 1909 William Taft was sworn into office as nearly 10 inches of snow fell – still an inauguration snowfall record.

22. Franklin Roosevelt’s second inauguration in 1937 was the rainiest – 1.77 inches.

23. James Buchanan’s inauguration in 1857 was the first to be photographed.

24. Robert Frost became the first inaugural poet when he spoke at John F. Kennedy’s swearing in.

25. The most expensive inauguration was Barack Obama’s in 2009, with a bill of more than $150 million, two thirds of which was financed by private donors.

The Birth of Alexander Hamilton

He was one of America’s most influential early statesmen and the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. I’m talking about Alexander Hamilton. If you see him today, wish him happy birthday. He is 260 years old today.

Hamilton was quite a fellow. In 1787, as a New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention, he pushed for a strong central government, an idea to which he was committed throughout his life. As co-author of The Federalist Papers, along with James Madison and John Jay, Hamilton was the most staunch supporter of a republican form of government. The Federalist Papers ran in newspapers for over a year, when the states, still governed by the Articles of Confederation, were debating whether to ratify the proposed document.

On July 11, 1804, Hamilton was fatally wounded in a duel with former vice president Aaron Burr after a long and bitter feud. Three years earlier, Hamilton’s son Philip, had met the same fate on the very same hill in Weehawken, New Jersey.

Next week, we inaugurate our 45th president, arguably the most controversial man to ever fill this highest office. The 2016 election has brought a level of incivility like most of us have never seen. But as we look back, we can see we really have come a long way.

Whether you ascribe to the theory that America needs to be great again, or we already are, we can all agree we have come a long way. I can’t remember the last time a vice president killed a member of the president’s cabinet with a sword.

The Last Lunar Mission

The Apollo lunar landing program ended on this day in 1972, when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean. Apollo 17 had lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on December 7. In July of 1969, after three years of preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accomplished President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth with Apollo 11.

From 1969 to 1972, there were six successful lunar landing missions and one aborted mission, Apollo 13. During the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt stayed for a record 75 hours on the surface of the moon, conducting three separate surface excursions in the lunar rover vehicle and collecting 243 pounds of rock and soil samples.

It’s hard to believe all that NASA accomplished in just ten years, from the time of Kennedy’s pronouncement at Rice University in Houston, Texas, to the final lunar landing. It has been nearly 45 years since that historic moment. Amazingly, most living Americans have no memory of man on the moon. In this era of modern technology, the generation that trains the rest of us in how to use a smart phone came after what is arguably the most significant technological achievement of mankind – going to the moon.

For those of us old enough to remember Neil Armstrong’s “giant step for mankind,” the Apollo program represents far more than winning the space race over the Russians. It represents everything that is great about the American spirit. Sadly, since that day in 1972, we have never been back to the moon.

So this is a good day to reflect on that incredible day – December 19, 1972.

The Boston Tea Party

The biggest tea party ever took place 243 years ago today. In Boston Harbor, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three British tea ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The midnight raid, popularly known as the Boston Tea Party, was done in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade.

The low tax allowed the East India Company to undercut tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny. When three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England. After Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the “tea party” with about sixty members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British tea dumped in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16 was valued at approximately $18,000.

What the colonists did 243 years ago remains at the heart of the American spirit today. They were all about fairness and democratic representation. As we enter a new year and a new presidential administration, these are unchartered waters. May God bless us with the same spirit and values of our founding fathers.


The Rushmore Report: What’s Wrong with Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State?

On one hand, Donald Trump’s pick of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State has come under fire. The head of ExxonMobil is being criticized for his cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin, his lack of diplomatic experience, and the fact that he is a corporate bigwig who champions fossil fuels even as many bemoan the growing threat of global warming.

On the other hand, Tillerson is touted as a world class manager who is well-connected with major foreign powers. He understands international economic variables as well as geopolitical and sovereignty issues. And by assuming the new position, he is willing to work for 1/145th of his current salary.

But there is more to the story. Great resistance is emerging – and it’s not what you think.

Social conservatives view Tillerson with a wary eye, and for good reason. These social conservatives are the base of Trump’s support (they voted for him 81-19 percent), and some of them are critical of Tillerson. There are two problems they have with Tillerson.

1. While Tillerson headed the Boy Scouts of America from 2010 to 2012, he helped persuade the organization to admit gay youths and leaders.

2. ExxonMobil contributes to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of abortions.

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, wrote a sharply worded message to supporters Monday. He wrote, “Tillerson may be the greatest ally liberals have in the new Cabinet for their abortion and LGBT agendas. To hear that Donald Trump is appointing a man who not only led the charge to open the Boy Scouts to gay troop leaders, but whose company gives directly to Planned Parenthood is upsetting at best.”

Evangelicals have been steady critics of President Obama’s insistence on putting LGBT rights at the center of its foreign policy and for permitting foreign aid for organizations that provide access to abortion.

Just how much Mr. Tillerson would actually push for such initiatives from his perch as lead diplomat is unknown, and he would  be serving at the pleasure of the new president, if confirmed. But by making this appointment, Trump may run afoul of Perkins, and millions of other evangelicals Perkins represents.

Tillerson will already face enough opposition to threaten his confirmation. Republican Senators McCain, Graham, and Rubio have all expressed serious doubts about his nomination, largely due to his ties to Mr. Putin. Now, with his left-leaning social views well-documented, one must assume that strong social conservatives such as Senators Ted Cruz  and Mike Lee may have a hard time voting for him.

Trump said, “Through hard work, dedication, and smart deal making, Rex rose through the ranks to become CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest and most respected companies.” The question is, with his pro-abortion and pro-LGBT background, will “hard work, dedication, and smart deal making” be enough to get confirmed?

One thing is for certain. There will come a time when social conservatives draw a line in the sand and stand up to the new President. The question is whether this is that time and this is that line in the sand.

We will know soon enough.

The Rushmore Report: Pearl Harbor – Five Things You Didn’t Know

The attack on Pearl Harbor occurred 75 years ago – on December 7, 1941. The day that “will live in infamy” is remembered by only 2.3 percent of today’s population. Of the 16 million American soldiers who served in WWII, only 855,000 are still with us. That is just four percent, with 492 dying each day. So this is a good day to reflect. I offer you five facts about the bombing of Pearl Harbor you probably didn’t know.

My dad served in the South Pacific during the War. I still have his Army trunk, uniform, and medals. WWII brings special meaning to me and my family. The proud service of my dad and his dad (WWI) are why I didn’t have to fight in a WWIII. I’ve been to Pearl Harbor. It is a sobering experience. I hope you enjoy the facts below, as we reflect on the ruthless attack that left 2,403 dead and 1,178 injured.

1. Some of the battleships sunk that day were resurrected.

Of the eight battleships that were targeted during the attacks, all but two were eventually repaired and returned to the U.S. Navy’s fleet. The USS West Virginia and the USS California had both sunk completely, but the Navy raised them, repaired them, and reused them.

Furthermore, bullet holes and damages from the attacks can be seen to this day at many of the active military installations on Oahu, including Schofield Barracks. Rather than repair or cover up the damage, the bullet holes serve as a reminder of the lives lost that day and as motivation for our military to never relax.

2. Veterans of the attack can be laid to rest at Pearl Harbor.

Survivors of the attack have the option to join their lost comrades and make Pearl Harbor their final resting place. Crewmembers who served on board the USS Arizona – which experienced the most devastating damage – may choose to have their ashes deposited by divers beneath one of the sunken Arizona’s gun turrets. Roughly 30 Arizona survivors have chosen this option and less than a dozen of the 355 survivors are known to still be alive.

3. The USS Arizona still leaks fuel.

The day before the attack, the USS Arizona took on a full load of fuel – nearly 1.5 million gallons. Much of that fuel helped ignite the explosion and subsequent fires that destroyed the ship, but – amazingly – some of that fuel continues to seep out of the wreckage. According to the History Channel, the Arizona “continues to spill up to nine quarts of oil into the harbor each day and visitors often say it is as if the ship were still bleeding.”

4. Servicemen stationed in Hawaii took care of the memorial during the 2013 government shutdown.

Servicemen stationed in Hawaii treat Pearl Harbor as a living memorial and have been known to rally around it when times are tough. In October, 2013, for instance, when the U.S. government shut down for more than two weeks, no one was around to take care of the memorial site. A spontaneous group of servicemen and their families gathered to tend to the seemingly abandoned site, raking, weeding, and mowing the overgrown grass. Their message, they said, was to all veterans: “We haven’t forgotten about you. We will not forget about you.”

5. Many tourists from Japan come to visit the memorial.

While most school children can tell you that the Japanese were responsible for the attacks on Pearl Harbor, not everyone realizes that the Japanese now visit the memorial in droves. Japan, now one of America’s strongest allies, is the largest source of international tourists to the state of Hawaii. They pay their respects at Pearl Harbor just as Americans do, and ironically, the economic vitality of Hawaii today depends largely on tourism from Japan.

When we think of defining moments in American history, we think of Pearl Harbor. What was once stamped into Americans’ memories is now mostly American history. Amazingly, the time that has lapsed from Pearl Harbor until today is the same as the span of Reconstruction to Pearl Harbor.

I suggest you find a WWII veteran today – though it may not be easy. Tell him thanks for saving a nation and freedom for us all. Then offer a prayer of gratitude for those who suffered and died – 75 years ago.

In all of American history, two words capture the heart of American greatness, birthed from the horror and tragedy of war.

Pearl Harbor.