I Agree With Joe Biden

In the TV sitcom “Parks and Rec” one of the main characters, Leslie Knope, has a crush on Joe Biden. When his name is mentioned she swoons. I assume this little bit of humor is thrown into the show because the number of people with a crush on the Vice President is probably pretty low. For the record, I am not in the “Joe Biden Man Crush Club”.  However, when he spoke at Syracuse University last week, he made some statements that really resonated with me.

The Vice President’s speech was directed at the problem of sexual assaults on college campuses. Working with college students, I know this is a very real issue at most universities. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

In a society, where everything around us is disposable, sexuality is treated with the same care as your coffee cup from Starbucks. You get your quick fix, throw the cup in the trash and move on. I applaud the Vice President for addressing this topic.

In particular, there were two quotes from his speech that I found especially meaningful…

“The real definition of manhood is having the courage to do the right thing”. I have no idea if the guys in the crowd were listening to that statement but I sure hope they were. In our society, young men have fewer and fewer examples of what it looks like to be an authentic man. Dads are becoming increasingly absent. Guys need to know that true masculinity isn’t defined by instant gratification. Manhood is living by principles even when it is difficult. More of us men should be speaking out to the next generation and stepping up as role models for them to follow.

The second phrase that really stood out to me was “What we need most is a fundamental change in our culture and the quickest place to change culture is the college campuses in America.” I couldn’t agree more with that statement! His observation is one of the main reasons Laura and I have spent the last 14 years working with college students. Well, that and college students are a ton of fun!

College students are the future leaders of our country and our world. If you want to invest your time in a place that has potential to impact thousands of people, you don’t need to look any further than the college campus.

My observation after spending many years in that environment is true change can’t happen by a list of rules. In the end, people can follow the rules and be exactly the same inside. True transformation of individuals and a culture needs to come from the inside out.

I have seen drastic change in the lives of many students over the years. This metamorphosis didn’t happen because of me. In the end, the greatest transformation comes when people see themselves accurately and experience God deeply.

I want that to be true in my life and I want to bring that message of hope to others. My goal is to play a little part in “changing the culture” for the good.



Judges, Juries, You and Me

Recently, a verdict was handed down in one of the most publicized trials of the year in Rochester. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. No “verdict” was ever given. The jury couldn’t reach a unanimous decision even after deliberating for 8 days. It was a mistrial.

The details of the case read something like an episode of 48 hours. A college aged young man was accused of shooting his father with a shotgun and killing him. But, not so fast! As with any good crime show, there was a backstory. The father was an alleged serial abuser. The mother was in the home at the time of the murder. Perhaps most intriguingly, the prosecution was never able to actually prove that the gun was ever in the hands of the alleged killer.

Yesterday, when everyone was gathered to determine a date for a new trial, the judge did an unexpected thing. He threw out the case completely. He accused the DA of doing a poor job with the case and set the man free.

If you live in Rochester, you probably have an opinion on the case. Was it a miscarriage of justice? Was it proof that our legal system works? People have reacted in different ways.

I felt a peculiar connection to yesterday’s decision. I know the judge. There I go, exaggerating again! We aren’t Facebook friends or anything but I was a juror in his courtroom last summer.

It was another complicated case. A man was accused of almost killing another man but the murder weapon was never found. As a matter of fact, the weapon was never even seen by the person who was attacked. Our jury had to decide if the accused committed the crime.

Ultimately, being on a jury was a lot tougher than I ever expected. Our deliberations lasted a day and a half. I barely slept the night before we handed down our decision.

Throughout the length of the trial I observed as the judge acted in fairness. He spelled out every detail of the law for us so that we could understand. He was compassionate to people who needed it and was firm when it was required.

After the trial, the judge came to the deliberation chambers to process the trial with us. He shared wisdom gained from years on the bench and answered any question we threw his way.

When the announcement of his decision hit the news yesterday, I didn’t think twice about it. I assumed the judge had made the right call. Then I asked myself, “why”? I think it’s because I had learned to trust him.

Ultimately, I think a lot of us spend our lives trying to “sit on the judge’s bench” in the lives of others.

Maybe a better use of our time would be getting to know the Judge really well and learning to trust Him.

In the end, that will be the most important thing for any of us.

The woods at night…reflections on manhood

Whoever said “It is always darkest before the dawn” actually knew what they were talking about.

It was a cold, late October day. I woke up well ahead of the sun and made the one hour drive to the farm where I was hunting. Pulling up to the edge of the woods, I noticed how unbelievable dark it was. The full moon had set about an hour before and the sun was still about an hour from hitting the horizon.

I exited my van as stealthy as I could and bundled up one layer at a time. Somewhere in that dark woods was a tree stand I hadn’t visited in a year. My primary mission was to make it to that stand alive. My secondary goal was to avoid scaring wildlife on my way in. That meant using my flashlight only as a last resort. The anxiety hit shortly after I began to walk.

While I was making my way through a 50 yard patch of high weeds, I heard a “thump! thump! thump!” on my right. It was obvious this was no little creature. Oh… did I forget to mention the farmer told me they were seeing a bear in this area over the summer? I strained my eyes to see the silhouette of a large beast. My heart raced and then slowly calmed down when I realized it was the neighbor’s horse. Horses are freaky in the dark but not as freaky as bears.

One step at a time, I entered the woods, never able to see what was directly in front of me. Each move forward seemed like an act of faith. Every sense was on high alert. Thankfully, I found the stand before my heart gave out. It was a successful hunt, I had made it to my stand alive!

The experience made me think about the quest for “Manhood”. Perhaps the only thing scarier than walking into the woods alone at night is asking the question, “What does it mean for me to be a man?” I think that is why a lot of guys never get around to fully addressing this question.

I prefer to be sitting on my couch in comfort than putting myself in situations where I wonder about my survival. My guess is a lot of other guys do too. As a result, we end up surviving but never thriving.

In order to fully enter manhood, we must take steps to enter the scary places of our lives. “What fears are motivating me?”, “Why am I caught in the same cycle of behavior?” and “Where is the source of my strength?” These are just a few of the questions I continue to ask myself.

In my experience, the journey into manhood is not about “having it all together”. It starts by admitting how weak I really am. Only then can I truly say, “When I am weak, then I am strong”.