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Essays

Does that make sense?

When a person says something you disagree with, start with “does that make sense to me?” as your first reaction. If it doesn’t make sense, move your thinking to “why are they saying this? And does this tell me something new about this issue or their experience with it?”

A default reaction of “they’re just dumb” doesn’t open up your mind to other possibilities. It diminishes the humanity of the other person. It leaves no room for forward movement.

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Essays

Get More Involved

In this year’s General Assembly, state legislators considered a slate of hateful legislation that discriminates against the LGBTQ community. Legislators introduced12 different bills with plans to ban gay marriage, allow adoption agencies to decline placing children with LGBTQ parents, and more.

After seeing these anti-LGBTQ bills moving through the General Assembly, businesses like Amazon, Hilton, Lyft, the Tennessee Titans, Nike, and Warby Parker wrote an open letter to Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally and Speaker Glen Casada opposing the legislation.

“Put simply, these bills do not reflect the values of our companies. We are disappointed to see the legislature consider discriminatory legislation. The business community, by and large, has consistently communicated to lawmakers at every level that bills that target LGBTQ people are bad for our employees and their families, bad for our customers and bad for business. This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development.”

In response, Speaker Casada said, “Tennessee provides a fertile ground for them to make money and be prosperous. And that’s what they should do. They should take care of their stockholders and not get so much involved in politics.”

“Don’t get so much involved in politics.”

It’s an old refrain from politicians looking to maintain their grasp on power. We see it when teachers share their experience with school vouchers and are told to stick to teaching. We see it when students advocate for gun safety and are dismissed with vague sayings of being too young. I never imagined that a pro-corporation Republican would tell businesses to “not get so much involved in politics” but even that line has now been crossed.

The reason politicians use the “don’t get involved” refrain is simple – if you’re paying attention, it can impact their chances of re-election. The more attention paid to the bad actions a politician takes, the more voters and especially donors start to notice. “Don’t get involved” really means “don’t take away my power”. And politicians who pass hateful legislation deserve to lose every bit of power they have.

We’re at a defining moment in history. That’s why Democratic parties across Tennessee work so hard at registering voters, running candidates, and getting everyone involved in politics at every level.

For our government to work best, we need more people involved in politics, not less.

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Essays

Today’s Goodness

The heavy wooden door creaks as I swing it open. As I start climbing the stairs to his office, I hear him call my name.

“Chase, is that you coming up those steps?”

I call out, “Yes sir.” I’m only halfway up the stairs but I went ahead and asked, “How’s this day treating you so far?”

He replies with the same answer he always gives me.

“Every day’s a good day because I get to do good things.”


Ben Franklin had two questions he asked himself each day. He began the morning with “What Good shall I do this day?” and ended each evening with “What Good did I do today?”. By focusing on those two questions, Franklin set a simple goal for the day — to do good.

Compared to Franklin’s era, I’ve got more tools to do good than he could ever dream. With my computer in hand, I can start Kickstarter campaigns, raise money for water wells overseas, or volunteer for political candidates that promise change. With a tweet I’m raising awareness for a disease and with a like I show my support for a certain group.

That’s all doing good each day, right?

I’d ask myself that and instantly come back to that one phrase — “Every day’s a good day because I get to do good things.”. This one reply from a gentleman who’s never heard of Twitter or Kickstarter. He’s got a few computers in his office but I’m pretty sure the number of typewriters outnumber them at least two to one.

I remember seeing him once, hearing his normal reply, and asking, “If you don’t mind me asking, what good things have you done today?”

His answer wasn’t full of tweets or likes. It wasn’t raising awareness for this or campaigning for that. Just like that simple daily goal, it focused on one thing — kindness.

It’s the small acts of kindness that have big impacts.


From the Art of Manliness:

“It’s great to have big, idealistic plans to build wells in Africa or change the whole political process. But oftentimes we only associate doing good with doing something big, and since we don’t know how to get started on a huge project, we end up doing….nothing at all.”

During my grandfather’s final days, I saw this firsthand with his nursing staff in the ICU. They made sure my grandmother had enough blankets to keep warm during the night. They placed a cart outside the door with drinks and food for our family. They showed us kindness in every way imaginable.

That’s what I strive for each day now. Nothing big or flashy but something more than a simple tweet or like.

One act of kindness, of goodness, for the day.

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Essays

Better is the Enemy of Best

Recently I’ve been reading Chariots for Apollo from Charles Pellegrino and Joshua Stoff. I’m a huge geek when it comes to the Apollo space program and this is one of my favorite books on the race to the moon.

One chapter tells the story of Tommy Attridge, a Grumman test pilot assigned to the lunar module (LM) program. The Grumman Corporation received the contract to build the craft that would carry astronauts down to the lunar surface. However, the LM team kept second guessing themselves with their designs and decisions. Their line of thinking was, “This craft would put a man on the moon so it had to be perfect!”

When he arrived at the Grumman plant in 1967, Attridge focused on one question  –  “Must we build it better?” He learned very quickly that better is the enemy of best.

Enter LM-3 (lunar module-3).

An engineer finished installing the landing radar on LM-3 only to tell Attridge, “We have the best radar in the world today. But tomorrow, I can make it better because just yesterday they invented this new transistor. And if I can put the new transistor in here and add this integrated circuit. You know, now that we have integrated circuits, we can build it better.”

Attridge answered, “Sure. Why not? We can keep putting a better one in every day. Let’s see if we can’t stretch this thing out till 1990.”

Every new day brings new gadgets and gizmos. New options and ideas. Whatever project or product you’re working on, there’s probably something that will make it just a tad bit better tomorrow. And a little bit better the day after that. And a smidge better the following day. But for every thing that makes it better, it means one more day of not getting it into the hands of your customers.

Launch the new project. Start selling that new product. Stop letting slightly better control your plans instead of making things happen.

That engineer ended up going over Attridge’s head to get the landing radar replaced. With the “better” choice came new problems as the radar kept locking up on itself, which made the new tech worthless. That choice ended up delaying LM-3 so that Apollo 8 just launched without it. That “better” choice left the Apollo teams even further behind in their race to the moon.

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Essays

Our Shining City on a Hill

Our state politicians here in Tennessee are spreading hate and lies on the topic of accepting refugees.

I think Fox’s Shep Smith put it best:

“Our shining city on a hill is vulnerable. We’ve always known that. If we change it to accommodate the savages, have they won? And what then would be left to protect? We profess to stand as an example for all the world. Our unique experiment in freedom, tolerance, openness, and equality is our gift to societies and peoples everywhere. Come, join us. Enjoy a chance at the American dream.”

After World War II, our city on a hill embraced more than 650,000 European refugees. Between 1979 and 1980, we welcomed nearly 320,000 Vietnamese refugees. After passing the Refugee Act in 1980, we took in another 3 million refugees. For most of our history, people fleeing from war, strife, and death have seen our shining city and found a warm embrace in our open arms.

We must not build a wall at the bottom of our hill.

For those folks like myself that have found a home in the Church, I’d only point out this:

“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

I can only hope that the racism, fear, xenophobia, and hate that has taken hold in the recent months will be pushed aside in favor of love, compassion, empathy, and humanity. If only our leaders could be more like these mayors:

“We have taken in refugees, and will help make room for thousands more.”