Shadows

Yesterday was a day that will forever live in my memory.  I was privileged to follow and shadow an United States Senator in all that he did.  It was my privilege to attend his meetings, listen to his conversations, and personally visit with him throughout the day.  At one point I even got to go on the United States Senate Floor.  That is a rare honor as it is only reserved for Senators and other  selected individuals.  He had to ask permission for me to be on the floor.  If he had not inserted his talk into the record, my name would even be a part of the Congressional Record.  What an honor it was to follow and visit with him.
It was my honor to see him visit with a couple of other Senators.  They visited about budgets, amendments to budgets, and plans in relation to upcoming votes.  He even visited with Senator Vitter about the costs of rebuilding Louisiana.  That was interesting.
Going to the floor was something I will never forget.  It was electric.  It was fun to be on the floor rather than up in the gallery looking down.  There were three of us there, all with our special little passes, and watched the Senator give his little 7 1/2 minute talk.
After coming back to the floor, and since we had missed some of the commerce committee meeting, he visited with me in his office for almost an hour.  I asked him a series of questions.  Everything from ANWR to Garrett, his son.  We discussed Garrett for a little while and the effect it has had upon his life.  He told me about the every day life of being LDS and serving as an  Oregon representative.  He told me about his contacts with the church and how that relationship is structured.  He told me about some of their latest interactions.  I asked him about spiritual  interactions with Garrett which was interesting, especially about some of the interactions with other members of the family.
The rest of the day was in meetings with a variety of groups on a variety of topics.  It made me tired just thinking about it.  We went from bio-diesel to environmental issues, car production to timber, and French movies to the election of governor in Virginia.  It was an exhausting sphere and round of conversations.  It was all very enlightening and impressive that he knew about each of these subjects.  I loved it.
Looking back I really appreciate the time he gave me.  It was very interesting to spend time with the man all this revolves around.  What is more, the father of a dear friend of mine.  It helped  change some of the frustration I had struggled with in not knowing who I represented.  While I still think he is pretty aloof and not totally in touch with reality, it was great to get to know him one and one.  It was an honor to be given the time for such an opportunity.  I loved it.  It was very instructive to him and his personality, especially in relation to the church and politics.  It was a distinct privilege I shall never soon forget.

Interesting Days

It is strange how coincidence seems to play into our lives. Even I, a low staffer, an Idahoan, who is of very little importance in the realm of all men who have walked upon the earth have the privilege of meeting such amazing men. There are giants around us and we very seldom realize it. Most of those will never be  recognized or accredited for what they do. However, today I wish to pay tribute to the common man (men and women, you know what I mean…man is not without the woman, and woman not without the man). There are souls around us who affect us so deeply that they forever change our course. Most of them are the every day run of the mill who humbly go about doing their duty. Many men do what they can to get by, others in service to others oblivious and often doing more damage, but then there are those who know what they need to do and do it well. Those who seek to do what they do well, live their lives to the best of their capability who influence the most.This week I met a man by the name of Mehmet Ali Talat. He paid a visit to Senator Smith. He is the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It definitely is not every day that we meet the President of a small country. What is more, one that is a bit more questionable in the eyes of many nations. Besides that, he is a very powerful man. He came with his entourage and sat in the office for a while (the Senator was meeting with the President of Starbucks…how ironic) and then left to visit with the Senator in his office. I do not know the culture, I do not know the man, but he seemed very deliberate and almost unhappy. The whole group seemed almost dire in many ways. While I can boast that I met the man who leads another nation, he left little or no influence upon me.

The same day, I met a man named Bob Livingston. A representative from Louisiana that served in the house for over 20 years. If I remember right, he was even Speaker of the House of the United States for a short time. A powerful man in the United States who served for a third of most people’s lives. (While there are hundreds of people in the U.S. government and I have come to learn it is just another job, it still holds a mystique) He sat with me for a few moments and was so concerned about his blackberry he couldn’t even visit for a whole five minutes. Another man who influenced millions of lives, but in lasting tribute will have little more than name recognition to go with his face in my life. Do we recognize the influence we could have on people, but due to our own concerns and selfishness do not take the opportunity to reach out more often.

If you would not know it, I was giving a tour this week and while explaining the Capitol Ceiling (which is always accompanied with my looking around while explaining rather than peering up a dozen noses) and I recognized a man sitting on one of the benches on the outer parameter. I excused myself from my tour group for a moment to go say hello to the Governor of Idaho, my beloved home state. I walked over, shook the hand of Dirk Kempthorne, and introduced myself. He looked pensive and contemplative. I somewhat regret having visiting with him as he seemed almost melancholy, but I was thrilled with the opportunity. Here was a man who took a few moments to say hello and learn a little about me. He did not brush me off and seemed somewhat interested. This man, while definitely with his own thoughts, took a few moments out to focus on the one. He will have a much more lasting influence than the President of a small nation or Speaker of the House. Nevertheless, many don’t like the Governor, but he seemed much more willing to care about other people than the first two.

In that tour group that I excused myself from was a former Senator of the State of Oregon. Neil and Mary Bryant were a different breed though. They were engaging, willing to share of themselves and learn of others, and even reached out to meet others. They and their friends Neal and Linda Huston were fun to take on the tour as they were so willing to get along and be a part of society. They are good individuals who loved to learn. He tried to stump me on historical facts of the United States of the Pacific Northwest (which my knowledge is not very good, I just got lucky that I knew his answers). They were by far the best people I met that day. While not as impressive in stature of the world, they left an impression that will be much more lasting.

With all that said, I want to recognize some of those who have affected my life the most. Colleen Jonas. Father in Heaven. Jesus Christ. Milo Ross. Sandra Jonas. Amanda Hemsley. Brad Hales. Kathy Duncan. Ted Tateoka. Kevin Orton. Nicole Whitesides. Laurel Hepworth. Marie Lundgreen. Kathryn England. Anna Badger. Chris Horsley. Megan Duncan. Dustin McClellan. James Cazier. Tom Kunzler. Altan Hardcastle. Warren Crane. Gene Hansen. Lorn Duff. I am sure there are more, many more. Thank God for good souls who reach out and connect with people. Who care more for others than they do for themselves. May God forever bless those who have affected my life and may I return the favor to all I come in contact with.

Katrina

Things were really kind of crazy in the office today. The phones were so hot they I was put on them for a while. Preparation for the Roberts nominations I guess. But constituents were calling in madder than mad that we were not doing anything about Louisiana. They were literally yelling at us on the phones. It is a really hard position to be in. I mean, they did warn the people that they all needed to evacuate and this would be a very bad storm. They were aware they would be caught in the thick of it. They were warned that if things were as bad as predicted, it would not be easy to get in and help. However, people, disobedient and obstinate stayed. Now they are paying the consequences. However, now the question is, should we be stuck dropping everything for those who deliberately disobeyed? I don’t know. I do believe we should be charitable, but where do you draw the line. We could be working on restoring and fixing problems now if people would have listened. There were buses and ways made available, even for the poor.  They decided not to go. What if all these helicopters were dropping loads in damaged levees now rather than rescuing? Anyhow, what bothers me more is that people expect that it is the governments job to fix the situation.  They cannot of their own accord call the Red Cross and offer money or help.  They call their legislator to do it for them. Rather than saying, what can I do to help, it is why aren’t you helping? Even more sad were the phone calls coming in about why we are not fixing the fuel price problem. Isn’t it obvious why prices are rising at the moment? What are we going to do about the situation? I suppose we could set a price ceiling, but that would only cause horrible shortages. Then this all leads to the inevitable questions. Why do people continue to invest so much money and time into a city below sea level, where the inevitable will happen. That is like building your house on the sand, or the beach. At some point, nature will do a freak thing and damages will occur. If government had not been involved in the subsidizing of the pumping of New Orleans, business and others would have found it too expensive and moved elsewhere. This problem may have been alleviated altogether.
Oh well, now we should be saving those who are in need and dire situations. I don’t think they should return. Especially the poor. Ask people to take them in and incorporate them into society where they are at. Sadly, this will have destroyed the poor population. They will have the problem that Florida is having with having the lower paying jobs filled. May we find a quick and peaceful end to the situation. So much for having any rainy day funds sitting around. After all, we haven’t learned to live within our means. Another point of disobedience which could cost us dearly later on as well.  Watching the people suffer and struggle. Hopefully we see the importance and emphasis on keeping and maintaining food storage. If we have two years worth on hand, we could feed 4 families the same size as ours for 6 months.  That would be enough time to overcome most of the situation with Katrina.  Nevertheless, we don’t save up, we don’t prepare.

Portland

A wonderful weekend in Portland. A much needed break in the drive to Preston, Burley, or Logan every weekend. Tom, Erika, Seth, and Gabriel Kunzler all went with me. We left Thursday afternoon and wound our way to the center of the blue state. The sun set on us in Pendleton so from that point on was mostly not too interesting. I saw a couple of the dams on the Columbia river, and they were beautiful with their shimmering lights. I dropped them off in Gresham and made my way to my Sister Becky’s house. They moved to Portland about two years ago onto Peacock Lane and purchased a 1920’s Tudor House. They have been fixing it up ever since and have it almost done, all except the kitchen. It is a beautiful classic home. She has decorated it with the pastel and rich colors which were popular during the 30’s and have been coming much more back into style. I have always loved the Art Deco colors. Joe, her husband, was in town because he had hurt his back. The constant stress of traveling, meetings, working, and various other things sent his back into little spasms which have laid him up for a few days and probably will for weeks.

Friday I awoke and visited with them for some time. I was given a full tour of the home and the neighborhood. For lunch we went to a authentic German restaurant which was very good. I enjoyed my sauerbraten and spatzle. I did not partake of the beer, but enjoyed an amazing raspberry lemonade. I had to stir it every single time I wanted to drink so the raspberry would not all be in the bottom. There were even seeds in it!

That evening I was privileged to attend the swearing in of Molly Bordonaro. She is the new U.S. Ambassador to Malta. Her husband is part Maltese so I suppose that is one of the factors that put her in favor with the President. The story goes that every time she has met the President, she has been pregnant. That supposedly endeared her to him as well. I don’t know if it is because a pregnant woman would require more effort to do those sorts of things, or the nobility of motherhood. It was an interesting affair. Those who were supposed to be attending with me missed their flight so I ended up flying solo at the affair. It was a good experience. I met and come to know many more people. I also met fellow associates from The Gallatin Group for the first time. Shelley, Julia, Chris, Kent and his wife, were all there. Greg Walden of U.S. House of Representatives spoke and conducted. Also speaking were Senator Gordon Smith. I did not get to visit with Senator Smith as he was always cornered by other individuals. He did give me a hello wave as if he recognized me, but I really don’t think he placed where he knew me from. I was sad his wife, Sharon, was not there. It was a great evening. They took so long to get dinner going after the event that many people left. I decided to do the same. After all, hanging out with some snobby and increasingly drunk lawyers was not my thought of a great continuing evening. It was interesting how I would start visiting with people and my being an intern caused them to quickly lose interest. However, it was fun to have one man come up to me and was so interested after he found out more about the Gallatin Group. He started telling me all about what he does and his business and a myriad of details like I was a founding partner. He must have missed the fact that I was only an intern in our first introduction. He gave me his card, his personal cell written on it, and other little notes and requested us to remember his business. My personal preference is still friends first, then business. I seem to have misplaced his card too.

Saturday was an interesting day as well.  Joe and Becky took me to breakfast at “No Fish! Go Fish!”  It was really good food and I thought everyone was friendly.  The owner came out and visited with us most of the time.  Afterward on the walk home they informed me that Shawn was gay.  I remember the thought crossing my mind, but it didn’t really matter to me.  They went on to tell me about Shawn and John were one of the first couples in Portland to be married.  It was a few months ago, I guess just short of their one year anniversary that their marriage was declared unlawful.  He seemed like a nice man, I did not have any problems with him.  I have to admit, if he can cook that well, I really don’t have any problems with him.  It then led to a discussion of people and their reactions to the gay segment of our society.  We also discussed how people treat them as individuals.  Without going into the political side of the argument, we basically agreed on one thing.  Somehow in our denunciation of the actions of these people, we as a people somehow find it Christian to treat with utter disdain this people.  Being so entrenched in our way of life and our notion of right and wrong, being entrenched in our opposition forget there are people’s lives at stake.  While I will never entertain the lifestyle that these people espouse (pun intended), it does not mean at all I should ever treat them as subhuman.  Becky and I discussed an individual we know who would find it completely unbearable to even be in the presence of Shawn.  They may be okay to begin with, but would fester and before long say things which they should not say.  Or flat out ignore him the entire time.

As part of the discussion Becky told me of a story of a member of Joe’s family.  Who considers himself a good Christian.  However, because Becky has not been “active” in a religion that she somehow is sub Christian, or unable to think in Christian terms.  What is worse, he proclaims to be a Christian while treating his family in ways that are plain rude and inconsiderate, if not verbally abusive.  He made the comment that since Becky came from a family of divorced parents that she would have the same inclinations towards divorce.  He had the nerve to ask her what she thought or what she was doing to avoid a divorce.  (This was before her and Joe married)  He then went on to counsel her about Christian living.  She informed him that while her parents may have divorced, she had two sets of Grandparents who were not.  Plus they were more Christian than he could ever hope to be, and they didn’t have to go around proclaiming it to everyone.

On the same note, there seems so many people who are so set on protecting the Christian way and lifestyle that they have forgotten to live it.  While we do not permit any form of adultery, it doesn’t mean we still stone everyone in the street.  Which is the equivalent to what some of these professing Christians do.  Moreover, it extends to the conservative party in many ways.  They are so set on providing the perfect life, what they determine to be the right way of life, they don’t care who they stone along the way.  I do not agree with their lifestyle at all, but I cannot force them to live my way.  If I don’t like it, well, suck it up and get on with it.  I remember the scriptures talk about gathering to people of similar beliefs.  Of leaving Babylon and letting them go on to their own destruction.  I cannot remember any scriptures whatsoever that talk about transforming or making Babylon live the the Christian life.  We keep that up we will end up with a state similar to the history of the Catholic Church.  Many, many Catholics, but most simply in name.  Heck, lets go back to Constantinople and force all of Rome to be Christian.  Oh wait, we are already headed that way.  Suddenly I sound very blue!  I am not either party.  In some ways I am Constitutionalist, other Fundamentalist, others Republican, and yet others Democrat (heaven forbid!  Utah higher education failed here!!  Pass some more laws!).  Too bad Utah State does not teach down any particular line.  Randy Simmons, don’t let the Utah State Legislature find out.  Lets stick with the basics of the Constitution and let people govern themselves.  Even better, Common Law, which I advocate always is much better to the governing of society than Statutory Law ever was.  I think some in this country are beginning to see this.

Anyhow, Saturday afternoon Becky and I made a trip to downtown Portland.  What a great city.  Their buildings have style and design.  They don’t all look the same.  I applaud the Portland urban renewal belt.  It is helping revitalize the city.  While Portland may claim to be the most green city, they have some serious roads yet to make in their downtown area.  Some streets had trees, others without.  Some were hot concrete jungles, others were nice, shady, beautiful areas.  What a beautiful city, hopefully that will spread throughout the rest.  You get so far out of the downtown and it is a dump.  In fact, driving into Portland Thursday night, I had a fight between two end up in the road and I nearly ran them over.

Well, off my little soapbox about politics.  Saturday night Joe and Becky took me to dinner with a couple of their friends.  Hal and Mindy seemed like a great couple.  She teaches acting or something like that at Portland University.  I don’t remember what Hal does.   Since we were in a big city, I told Becky of my hankering for some good Indian food.  Especially if I could get a donner kebab.  So we met Hal and Mindy and ate at this great Indian restaurant.  There were not any donner kebabs, but I had this amazing chicken korma.  We ordered and somehow my future marriage came up.  It then came knowledge to Hal and Mindy that I would be married in an LDS Temple.  So cornered me and asked if I was excited about learning all the secret stuff that happens therein.  In jest I assured her I already knew.  Becky told her I had already received my endowments and that this was just the sealing.  They did not know there were multiple ordinances performed in the temple.  She turned to me and asked if I would tell her the secrets.  I told her I could share with her those things which are in the scriptures and thereby give her a general overview of what takes place therein.  I went on eating my appetizer and realized they wanted it now.  Well, for the next hour I taught them the overall scriptural ideas of the endowment.  They found it utterly fascinating.  Hal at one time was quite the scholar on the ancient tabernacle in the wilderness so I did the discussion completely from there and the Temple in Herod’s day.  They really liked how I kept tying the Old and New Testaments together and were apt to asking questions before I could even finish a topic.  Finally after nearly 2 hours we had gone through the endowment.  Washing, Anointing, Garments, New name, Adam and Eve, covenants, and finally the sealing.  What was great was the promptings I felt of the Spirit to where I could nearly quote entire passages of relevant scripture.  Obviously I did not reveal any of the signs, keys, or tokens.  Mindy as a acting instructor found the theatrical portion ideas of the endowment to be very interesting.  We discussed some of the ancient plays recorded in the scriptures, Greece, and Becky even brought in this one part about the Native Indians.  It was a very fascinating conversation.  In discussion of the covenants portion of the endowment, I discussed why the covenants were sacred and why we do not reveal or tell them.  Hal made the most interesting of all evening on how he missed the rituals of organized religion.  He commented how he noticed there was a certain mystic, power, in the ritual.  I instantly thought of some Hugh Nibley and thought to refer him, but did not.

The conversation moved away to politics.  They were noticeably impressed with the clarity the endowment made.  They said they would think about it and next time definitely have more questions.  Perhaps I may be able to refer them to the missionaries next time.  However, after the discussion of the temple, they then asked what my political leanings were.  Especially since they liked the way I thought.  We ended up discussing marriage, abortion, stem cell research, death penalty, republicanism, democracy, the proper role of government, and a whole host of things.  Joe and Becky were much more a part of that conversation.  By the end of the evening I just barely finished my food and we all had a great time.

That evening we were plum tired out.  So we decided to go to bed early.  However, Becky and I stayed up and talked about family, genetics, and traits until nearly midnight.  It was a good bonding experience.

Sunday rolled around and I finally awoke and got ready for the day.  I had blueberry pancakes with Joe and Becky and then headed out to pick up Tom and Co from Gresham.  It was good to see Chad and Morley again.  They are good guys.  Rather than going home on I-84, we chose U.S. 26.  It was a beautiful drive.  We found the church in Madras but they had it earlier in the morning and there was not an afternoon ward.  We tried again in Prineville, but they were just letting out of church when we got there.  There are two wards, but the second ward started at 11:00 AM so that put us too late.  In the end, we were not able to attend church.  We tried.  There were some really cool little towns on the way like Mitchell, Dayville, John Day, Prairie City, Unity, Vale, Nyssa, Parma, Notus, and back to home.  It was interesting to drive through Nyssa and see the Sugar Factory there.  I have known of it all my life with my Dad’s association with Amalgamated Sugar.  I have recently heard much of it working for The Gallatin Group and watching DR-CAFTA with Amalgamated and their closing the plant this year.

Today found me back at work and loving my job.  This is my last week, so there are some bittersweet feelings there.  Nevertheless, DC will prove to be fascinating and interesting.

Lunch with History

Out to lunch.  What an amazing lunch.  Just had lunch with a man who worked as a personal associate to a former Governor of Idaho, Cecil D Andrus.  Marc Johnson was the Press Secretary and Chief of Staff to Governor Andrus.  What a fascinating lunch.  Marc is currently writing a book on Senator Wheeler of Montana.  Wat a great discussion.  We discussed Senator Borah, Senator R Smoot, Senator Thomas, Senator Church, Governor Kempthorne, President Wilson, President F Roosevelt, Governor Steunenberg, Governor Ross and more.  We discussed politics in Idaho, Utah, Montana, and the US.  Chatted about the current Supreme Court appointment and the state of the court.  It was all fascinating.  He let me borrow a book on Idaho Governors.  Also a newspaper clipping on the 1936 race of Borah and Ross.  There is so much to learn and so much to gain.  What a history in the specifics of individual lives.  The assassination of Governor Steunenberg.  The political debate in seating Senator Reed Smoot of Utah.  There is so much to learn and do.  Marc also told me of his life and how he came to Boise.  Born in Nebraska and raised in South Dakota.  He came to Boise to work in journalism after his boss transferred from South Dakota to here.  Met his wife here as well.  Interesting how each and every life have their own story.  So much to learn, so little time to do it in.  I have so much to learn.