Ryan Owens Changes a Presidency

Sometimes the course of history is changed by the actions of one person.  We don’t always recognize it when it happens. Last night we may have watched one of those moments; when a brave American patriot changed the course of history. That patriot is Ryan Owens.  

Ryan was a decorated United States Navy SEAL senior chief petty officer. He died in a raid in Yemen as the result of an order given by President Trump. Ryan’s sacrifice on the battlefield could change the course of a presidency. 

A President Prepared

For many of us, our biggest concern about Donald Trump was that he wouldn’t take the job seriously.  We wondered if he would be the first President to start a war with a Tweet. It was hard to imagine him executing the solemn duties that are required of a president. Could he be serious? Could he be solemn? Could he be presidential? Is he able to focus on what transcends his Twitter feed and the talking news heads?

Not to say he is totally unprepared for this. Many presidents might be intimidated by the opulence of the office and the pace of the White House. Meeting with foreign aides and dignitaries can be challenging.  Making deals and having the weight of the economy on their shoulders is daunting. But I don't think any of this intimidates or surprises Donald Trump. He has been doing many of these things already, just in the business arena. So it won’t surprise me if he slides into those roles somewhat easily. 

One Thing You Can’t Learn in Business

But one thing that a president cannot be prepared for and cannot learn in the business world is the weight of giving an order that results in the death of a marine.

And looking into the brokenhearted eyes of a gold star mother, father, wife, husband or children is something that will change you forever. It’s a heavy burden to carry. We've seen it play out in the gray hairs, wrinkles and slumped shoulders of presidents in the past. And now President Trump carries a little of that weight as well.

A Stone in His Pocket

President Trump gave the order that resulted in the death of Ryan Owens. He went to Dover and witnessed the dignified transfer. He looked into the eyes of Ryan’s wife, tears streaming down her face. These experiences will not leave you unchanged. And I pray that this weight will be a stone in his pocket that he carries. Not enough to weigh him down from doing all the other things he's charged with, but a constant reminder that this power he's been given, this responsibility that he's been entrusted with, is a solemn duty. Not one to be handled without great care.

As a military wife who has worked with Gold Star families I know this weight. I know the cost of freedom. And I want to know that my president has a sense of that too. I want to know that when he's making decisions he will remember the potential cost of that freedom. Not so that he's paralyzed from taking military action, because our Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines signed up to fight when necessary.

But in the lesser moments, in the day-to-day chaos, I want him to remember that this is not about him. It's about us and it's about the future. We don't have any more time for petty bickering or name-calling. 

Time to Lead

It is time to lead Mr. President. It is time to get on your knees and pray for guidance. It is time to take hold of the agenda that you sent forward last night. Pick a few battles that you can win and go after them with gusto. Ronald Reagan did not fight every battle because he knew he couldn't win them all. So pick your battles wisely and win.

We are counting on you Mr. President. Not to make America great again, because that's up to all of us, but to lead by example. Be a cheerful warrior. Fight hard but not dirty. If you do these things, we will be there for you.  We will back you up and we will celebrate the victories.

Skeptical Optimism

Donald Trump wasn't my first choice and I'm still kind of skeptical. But I'm watching with anticipation for his great legacy to unfold. Last night was a turning point. May he take hold of his destiny and rise to the occasion. We will be praying for him and watching.  We will celebrate his victories and call him out when he missteps. He should expect it. 

But for today, I am taking a deep breath and inhaling optimism.  Praying for my President, my country, and the family of Ryan Owens, who may have changed the course of history in ways yet to be seen.

The Hunt for the Authentic

I still can’t believe Mike Seaver's dad died.  I had such a crush on Mike when I was growing up and loved the show Growing Pains.  As a Gen Xer, I grew up in the in the world of broken homes and absentee fathers.  So I looked forward to romantic comedies and weekly sitcoms that told stories of perky families and wrapped up with a happy ending in 30 minutes or less. 

Inspired by the sitcoms and ABC after school specials, Gen Xers like me have hovered over our snowflakes, and yearned to give them the childhood we didn’t have.  While we tried to create the perfect sitcom family life, the line between reality and fiction became blurred.   Authenticity was lost, and the Millennials are on the hunt to find it again.

Back when MTV actually showed music videos, they introduced us to one of the first reality television shows, The Real World.  It was wildly popular and reality television quickly replaced scripted sitcoms.  News and weather necessarily morphed into entertainment as it tried to fill a 24-hour cycle.  These changes to the news stations have had Baby Boomers tuning in, and Millennials turning it off.

The 2016 presidential election was a culmination of this generational struggle.  It was a last ditch effort by baby boomers to elect one of their own to fix the mess they made.  They turned out in droves to enthusiastically vote for Donald Trump.  Meanwhile Gen Xers cynically chuckled in the corner chanting either “burn it down” or mumbling, “think I'll skip this one and go get a beer.”

But the Millennial's have been on the hunt in 2016. They've been on the hunt for something authentic and real. After placing their hope in the change promised by President Obama, they were determined not to fall for the same platitudes again.  They have learned that unicorns are not real and politicians will lie. And while everyone may get a ribbon, not everyone gets a job.

They're not cynical.  They're just searching.  Searching for something that's real, authentic, and even a little gritty. That's why they were drawn to Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, who were polar opposites in their political views, but share  authenticity that was attractive to Millennials.

For Millennials, that search for honest emotional grit is turning movies like Manchester by the Sea and La La Land into hits.  Both of these movies have an authenticity that has been missing from our Kardashian culture.  My 20-year old son dragged me to Manchester by the Sea after he saw it and loved it.  He was sure I would love it too.  It was a good movie, with fantastic acting and raw emotion.  La La Land was a good movie too.  Who wouldn’t enjoy Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling tap dancing?  But seeing both of these movies in the span of 24-hours left me melancholy and yearning for a happy ending. 

Millennials embrace the uncomfortable reality of loose ends.  They will settle for a step in the right direction instead of having to reach the destination.  They don’t need things to be tied up neatly. And instead of fake reality television shows, Millennials will choose an authentically acted show or movie any day.

Upstream from politics, culture always directs the flow of conversation.  And as the culture shifts towards toward authenticity, we must be ready to effectively offer liberty as the authentic answer to the problems our country faces.  It will be up to the Gen Xers to maintain a healthy skepticism about politicians and partner with Millennials to make sure America is kept free.

In Defense of Hamilton

While most of us have been watching Fox News and hanging on every Trump tweet, the play Alexander Hamilton by Lin-Manual Miranda has taken the world by storm.  Tickets are going for anywhere from $400 for a bad seat to upwards of $1500 for decent seats. Around the world people, especially Millennials, are being introduced to Alexander Hamilton and the amazing story of our country’s founding.

Conservatives will know “Hamilton” from reports of the cast speaking out during a show attended by Vice President elect Pence. It was a poorly timed move on the part of the cast, no doubt about it.  I can understand how they thought it was their only chance to have their voices heard. Ironically, it was the actor playing Burr (portrayed as a squishy politician who didn’t stand for anything) that actually spoke up. If you know anything about the play you know that if they had one shot, they were going to take it.

I was introduced to the play by my 12-year-old daughter. She found it on YouTube and quickly learned every lyric to every song in the entire play.  She walked around humming melodies and asked me to listen, only to roll her eyes when I wouldn’t give the songs appropriate reverence while trying to make dinner or fold laundry. I resisted an extended study of the music because frankly, I'm busy and wasn't sure what I thought about it, given the controversy.  And I was afraid I would hear just another leftist interpretation of the founding of my great love, America.

On a drive to a neighboring town, she finally trapped me and made me listen. We streamed the music, with my daughter singing along to every note. She was right. It is amazing and addictive. I downloaded the soundtrack and now am on my way to learning every word. Hamilton is at times raw and melancholy, and then cleverly hopeful - all the things that America is.

Here are some of my favorite lyrics from the play- from the song The Schulyer Sisters:

I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine
So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane
You want a revolution? I want a revelation
So listen to my declaration:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident
That all men are created equal”

And when I meet Thomas Jefferson


I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!


Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now!

I love the energy and passion of those who helped drive forward the cause of liberty.  The strong women characters in this play are inspiring a generation of girls. 

But now we’re in a pickle.
  The left has tried to take this play and use it to define their love for America. But this play is actually something we should be embracing. It is a wonderful illustration of what makes America truly great. It reveals American exceptionalism and the struggles our forefathers endured to give us a shot at freedom. It portrays the humanity of our founding fathers (who are sometimes idealized) and includes their failures and their triumphs. How they sometimes fell backwards into victory and rushed forward into defeat. It is the antithesis to the nanny state government that the left loves to embrace. The main character is anything but a snowflake.

The most important thing about this play is the telling of this story to young people in a way that they are absorbing and understanding. It's causing them to research more about our founding fathers and learn more about Hamilton.  They are learning about the Constitution and the Federalist papers. Heck, I know people who would give their right arm to get young people to read the Federalist papers. And yet here's a play that talks about it.   What an amazing opportunity for us to share the message of liberty!
One of my favorite songs from the play is One Last Time, where Washington explains to Hamilton why he won’t run for office again. He is asking for Hamilton’s help in writing the President’s last address:

No! One last time
The people will hear from me
One last time
And if we get this right
We’re gonna teach ‘em how to say
You and I—

Mr. President, they will say you’re weak

No, they will see we’re strong

Your position is so unique

So I’ll use it to move them along

Why do you have to say goodbye?

If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on
It outlives me when I’m gone
Like the scripture says:
“Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid.”
They’ll be safe in the nation we’ve made
I wanna sit under my own vine and fig tree
A moment alone in the shade
At home in this nation we’ve made
One last time

What an amazing way to explain the sacrifice Washington made. Here is the lyric of the King’s response to the news:

They say
George Washington’s yielding his power and stepping away
‘Zat true?
I wasn’t aware that was something a person could do
I’m perplexed
Are they gonna keep on replacing whoever’s in charge?
If so, who’s next?
There’s nobody else in their country who looms quite as large…

The mix of hip-hop and Broadway has resulted in a fantastic history lesson. If we are eager to wage war against socialism, this is a valuable weapon we need to pick up and use.

Some who looked to stop the Trump presidency called themselves #hamiltonelectors and claimed that they were putting country before party by trying to stop the Electoral College. They reference Alexander Hamilton picking Jefferson over Burr in the election of 1800.  The nation was split and Hamilton's endorsement carried significant weight. Hamilton and Jefferson had been on opposite sides of many issues and were not friends. Hamilton had known Burr since they were young men.  Even so, Hamilton endorsed Jefferson and Jefferson won in a landslide. He didn't pick Jefferson out of some kind of liberal ideal. He picked Jefferson because Jefferson stood for something. His whole life he had known Burr to be nothing but a squish, a politician. And that wasn't something Hamilton could respect.

I have seen conservatives speak out against the play without ever hearing a word of it. That is a mistake.  We shouldn’t waste the opportunity we have been given. We should embrace Hamilton.  Know it, share it, and talk about it with young people who are listening to every word. That is how they relate to the cause of liberty. If we want to have a discussion with them about our values, this is our chance.  

Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz did very well with the millennial vote. Their authenticity and commitment to principle is attractive to idealistic Millennials. The question is whether they will embrace the socialism of Sanders or choose liberty.  Hamilton and all of our founding fathers, are depending on us to draw them to the cause of liberty.  What a timely gift we have been given in Hamilton.  So what are you waiting for? Go download the music and start listening. You won't be dissapointed.