Lessons learned from my son

I learned a lot from my son in the 6 months that he was here with us.  I wanted to share with everyone the message I shared at his ceremony.  I know there are a lot of people out there who are supporting us and could not be at the service and so I wanted to share what I shared with those who did attend. Below is the opening message I shared.


I would like to thank all of you for being here today. We have been touched by all the overwhelming support we have received from all of you. Your support has been a vital part of our healing this week.

As we gather today, I know there will be tears shed; but we want them to be tears of joy and not sorrow. We want to celebrate the life of Aaron, by focusing on all the happy memories and the lessons he taught us.

Aaron is one of the strongest people I know despite only being here for six months. He valiantly fought through countless surgeries and procedures, and defied the odds on several occasions with his will to live, and he fought til his last breath.

But I don’t want to focus on his suffering, because he is no longer suffering.  I want to focus on all the happy memories. Like why we referred to him as baby hulk. Despite the nurses best efforts, he had an uncanny ability to work his arms free and try to pull out his cords and ventilation tubes.

Or how when watching the super bowl with him, he couldn’t make it past halftime as this grandmother looking person, I mean Madonna, sang him to sleep. Or how during the few weeks he was home, he would look at his sisters like they were the weirdest people in the world.

My two favorite memories involve sports and politics. His first taste of politics was watching one of the countless Republican debates. Whenever Rick Perry would talk he would cry, whenever Mitt Romney spoke he looked confused, but whenever Ron Paul spoke he would smile and laugh. I guess he was ready for the Ron Paul revolution.

If you know me well then you know I am a die-hard Kentucky basketball fan, despite living in dUKe country. I still have a very strong dislike for Christian Laettner and Duke Basketball, and it was with great pride that Aaron and I sported our Kentucky basketball gear at Duke University Hospital. I watched all but two games with Aaron this season, those were the games we lost. Aaron watched every Kentucky tournament game with me. Even when he was sleep, he would always wake up for game time. The only game he slept through was the National Championship game. I took that as his way of saying he need not leave his slumber because Big Blue Nation would be celebrating that night, and we did.

But the big things were the lessons I learned from him. His strength and will were uncanny for a baby. Through everything he never quit because he had a passion for life. We should all learn from this, I know I did. All he went through makes what I complain about seem like nothing. If he didn’t quit, then I shouldn’t either.  No more sorry excuses about exercise and getting in shape. All the books I say I will write, need to get written.

Most importantly though, my passion and desire to work for equal rights, justice, and opportunity for everyone has been enhanced. I want to fight with the same strength and will that Aaron used every day.

I hope you all will join me in celebrating the life and strength of Aaron, and make a commitment to living your life with the same strength, will, and passion for life as he did. That is the best way to honor him and keep him in our hearts forever.

Once again, thank you for being here and for the overwhelming support you have shown us.

Thank You.




More NC BBQ Fun

So after jumping on Rick Perry for his dislike of Eastern NC BBQ, I wanted to have some more fun with it. Here is a Poll to test what the readers of this blog think about BBQ.

Will BBQ cost Rick Perry a shot at NC?

If Governor Rick Perry, stays on his current path as a GOP front runner, he is going to have to campaign in NC at least once.  Depending on how well he does, multiple times.  Something from his past may come back to bite him.  People in NC are passionate about their BBQ.  There are debates about whether eastern or western carolina has the best, Lexington who has a style of their own likes to make claim to theirs being the best.  One thing most everyone here can agree on is that any NC BBQ is better than no BBQ and definitely better than BBQ from somewhere else.

Apparently, Rick Perry doesn’t like NC BBQ.  Eastern NC BBQ to be more specific.  In fact he claims roadkill tastes better!  I have never eaten at the place who catered the meal, but after looking them up and their reviews, to prefer roadkill you have to just hate that style of BBQ.  I think I may have to make a trip and try it myself (when I do, I will report back).

The point is, we love our BBQ in NC no matter what side of the state you live.  Some of you may say that BBQ has nothing to do with the issues Perry is campaigning on.  That may be true, but when someone from a state who claims to have the best BBQ (false claim), and attacks our BBQ as lower than roadkill he will have an uphill battle to win support.  Maybe he will just avoid the Eastern Part of the state altogether and avoid the issue.  But no matter where he goes, he will have to answer for his comments.

Don’t mess with Texas, whatever.  When it comes to BBQ, don’t mess with NC!

Is Newt finished for real this time?

The campaign news of the day is that at least 5 of Newt Gingrich’s top campaign people have left his campaign.  There were disagreements about the direction of the campaign that led to their exits.  Some people have speculated that it could be that some of these aides want to move on to a possible Rick Perry campaign, though they dispute that (though one co-chair has moved to Pawlenty).

The big question though is can his campaign withstand this overhaul.  He says he isn’t going anywhere and will begin anew.  I respect his desire to push through, but is it worth it.  He is already an older candidate which in this day and age will work against him, and he has already battled his own party over comments he made on television.

I thought he made some good comments when he questioned the support for Ryancare, but I was disappointed when he backtracked from his comments days later, because the party was upset.  I think it would have been good for him to stand up for what he really thinks.

After going through that, then factoring in his top campaign people, I am not sure he can make it through this.  There has been an influx of more attractive candidates into the race, and I think it may be time for Newt to call it a career when it comes to running for public office.

Policy Makers Start to Question Merits of a College Education

Written by: Adam Rust and is a cross post from www.banktalk.org

The momentum against college enrollment spiked this week. Much of the fervor draws from Texas Governor Rick Perry’s State of the State address earlier in the year. Perry believes that college costs too much. He wants a new model that allows students to get a bachelor’s degree for less than $10,000. He also wants to address curriculum. He says that too many students graduate with a degree that does nothing to help their chances of participating in the workforce. Texas subsidizes the supply and demand sides of college education. Yet according to Perry, the benefits to Texas accrete through the training of a few students in a few disciplines.

Perry is probably overstating some of the costs to Texas. Federal Pell grants provide much of the tuition relief to lower-income students. They do make college accessible to more people. Student loans have gotten harder to get, particularly private student loans, because sales of student loan asset-based securities are much more difficult. They don’t attract investors in this environment.

Yet Perry does have a good point. College does cost too much. Some colleges now cost more than $50,000 a year. What share of the population can hope to attend a college with those costs? Many colleges do offer scholarships, cross-subsidized by the students that pay a full ride. But what about middle-class students? They can’t get Pell grants.

A lot of consumer advocates railed against mortage lenders five years ago when it wasn’t uncommon to see loans being made with a debt-to-income ratio of 45 or 50 percent. I had such a conversation with the lenders at Option One in 2005. They were insisting that 45 percent was a reasonable maximum. Look how that turned out! Sensible lending should hinge on a reasonable expectation that the customer has an ability to repay. Check out the numbers here, where the Department of Education reports that only one in four four-year private for-profit schools is able to pass more than 45 percent of its students within six years.

Obama has suggested that colleges demonstrate the value of the education that they offer through the gainful employment rule. Basically, gainful employment means that students can service the debt on their schooling with a job in the field that they pursued at university. The carrot offered to universities is the right to get student aid for your student. The stick is losing those funds. How simple.

The system creates thwarts competition. Colleges can up their costs with the benefit of demand-side subsidies. Everyone knows what has happened to the cost of medicine since the arrival of Medicare and Medicaid. Being a doctor used to be an upwardly mobile position, but one that presented significant training costs. Now doctors can start at $200,000. English majors don’t start at $200,000. Many start out waiting tables.  Then they go to graduate school.

That lack of competition means that for-profit schools can undercut private not-for-profit and state institutions and still generate a solid margin. It is a good business. Most of your customers are not paying. How great is that?

My own experience with for-profit schools is telling. Back in the early 90s, I worked for a small investment bank over the summer. I wasn’t making investments. I was answering phones and delivering files. The firm had made an early stage investment in a for-profit school. I had a chance to read the business plan. It went something like this:

Most of our students come with little or no academic training. They do have bright hopes. They want to be chefs, graphic designers, small business owners, or paralegals. Never mind that most of the jobs never pay much. The students don’t spend much time calculating their risks. This is because most don’t intend to pay for their education. If they do, they don’t pay until several years later. Most can get Pell grants and just about all of them can take out student loans. Our risk is minimal. Students pay up front. Our real customers is the Department of Education.

This was back when private not-for-profit schools didn’t cost that much, because college didn’t cost that much. I was paying between $8,000 and $10,000 per year. My school now charges tuition of over $30,000 a year. The total cost of attending exceeds $50,000 per year.

don’t want to say how much I was able to make with my history degree. Suffice to say that I was back in graduate school within 15 months. I paid the bills for graduate school by working as a research assistant. Tuition wasn’t that high in the first place. It was a well-regarded Midwestern state university – the University of Missouri-Columbia. I took coursework in a skills-based subject. The school had many connections to private employers. I was able to spend my summers working on paid positions. I returned to school having advanced my skill set.

Rick Perry wants colleges to focus on jobs that deliver skills that have value in the marketplace. His pet target is a paper that researched the history of Texas barbecue. I can understand the appeal of Texas barbecue, but we had no such class at the University of Missouri. Certainly, it wasn’t for a lack of material. Missouri is a state with a venerable tradition in barbecue.

Many English majors can help you with selecting fries. Sadly, it is hard to get an AC repairman from May to July, and it isn’t easy to get your furnace fixed in December.