ABC News quotes its foreign affairs analyst Tony Cordesman as saying that the War in Iraq could wind up costing US taxpayers as much as a trillion dollars: "When the administration submitted its original budget for the Iraq war, it didn't provide money for continuing the war this year or any other. We could end up spending up to $1 trillion in supplemental budgets for this war. " The ABC report notes that "not only in human lives, but in monetary terms as well, the costs of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq far exceed the initial projection of a $50 billion tab."
The ABC report comes at a time when the Bush Administration is reported to be considering military action against Iran over its nuclear program. On that subject the U.S. Intelligence chief John Negroponte was quoted Thursday as saying that "we believe that it is still years off before (Iran is) likely to have enough fissile material to assemble into, or to put into a nuclear weapon; perhaps into the next decade. So I think it's important that this issue be kept in perspective."
Today is the 170th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, wherein Texas won its revolution and became free of Mexican domination. More or less.
Inscribed on the San Jacinto Monument outside Houston:
"Measured by its results, San Jacinto was one of the decisive battles of the world. The freedom of Texas from Mexico won here led to annexation and to the Mexican War, resulting in the acquisition by the United States of the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma. Almost one-third of the present area of the American Nation, nearly a million square miles of territory, changed sovereignty."
Many Texans understandably wait until the last week to file their federal tax returns. The experience is so unpleasant—and I'm not just talking about paying taxes due—that we tend to put it off as long as possible
With the mid-April filing deadline now behind us, let's take a moment to look at the monster we have created in the federal income tax. What started in 1913 as a small levy that affected only two percent of citizens has grown in complexity and seeming inequality. It increasingly frustrates almost everyone.
There are currently 325 separate forms that taxpayers might be required to complete. The code has become so complex that a majority of Americans now require professional help to file their taxes—and even those pros often make mistakes. We spend a total of $250 billion annually just to comply with tax laws, and more than six billion hours preparing our returns.
Here's another way to look at it. In 1955, there were 744,000 words in the IRS code. By 2000, this number had grown to 6.9 million. And since 1986, there have been more than 15,000 changes made to the tax code, many of them special provisions to benefit a small number of taxpayers.
The process seems designed to confuse even those who don't have to pay. Consider this deceptively simple directive on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) web site: "Even if you do not have to file a return, you should file one to get a refund of any Federal Income Tax withheld."
If someone is eligible for a refund, why would the IRS obscure the matter by even suggesting that filing a return was unnecessary?
It reminds me of some advice an accountant friend in Austin once said: "When it comes to the IRS, the answer is maybe, and that's final."
I've now come to the conclusion that our current tax system is in danger of collapsing under its own weight. It ought to be replaced by a much fairer and simpler process. That's why I'm a co-sponsor of the Fair Tax Act (S.25). If passed and signed by the President, the bill would significantly change the way we collect taxes in America.
The bill would eliminate most current major federal taxes—including the income tax, capital gains, all payroll taxes, estate, gift, corporate and self-employment taxes—and replace them with a national retail sales tax. Collection could be done through state systems, and the IRS would be significantly downsized and reformed.
Think about it—no Byzantine forms and laws to comprehend quarterly or annually. In their place: a simple sales tax on the cost of new goods and services.
To ensure a fair tax didn't penalize low-income Americans, everyone would receive a monthly "prebate" of the tax on essential goods and services.
This system would greatly simplify the collection process. It would eliminate the demand for expensive tax advisers who specialize in finding loopholes and exceptions in our complicated tax code. It would also negate measures such as the Alternative Minimum Tax that are sweeping up increasing numbers of middle-class taxpayers.
The Fair Tax idea has been talked about for decades. But there is increasing support for making a radical change, in the name of fairness and efficiency.
I've always believed the key to economic prosperity in our country is keeping taxes low for Americans and their businesses. That's the way to reward initiative, and to promote job creation and economic growth.
Reclaiming the reins of our runaway federal income tax system will help promote a strong economy. A national retail sales tax is a simple and viable alternative to our current federal income system.
Albert Einstein, a genius at analyzing complex scientific principles, once said: "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax."
Einstein died more than 50 years ago. What would he say about the system today?
Sen. Cornyn is a member of the following Senate Committees: Armed Services, Judiciary, Budget, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Joint Economic. He is also the chairman of the subcommittees on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship and Emerging Threats and Capabilities.
A New York Times front page story today says Texans are fed up with hosting hurricane evacuees. Elected officials, law enforcement agencies and residents say Texas is nearing the end of its ability to play good neighbor without compensation. Houston, in particular is straining at the seams, reporting a rise in crime and problems at schools. More federal funds are sought to pay for new police officers in Houston. See the story here.
Principal incentives and dual language programs are crucial to raising student achievement levels, according to one Dallas ISD Trustee who is seeking reelection.
District 1 School Board Trustee Edwin Flores, who faces a challenge from Linus Spiller in the election, talked to DallasBlog about some key issues facing Dallas ISD. When asked by the DallasBlog about his position on performance incentives for principals, Flores indicated that he was disappointed that the proposal has not come up for a vote.
“I’m 100 percent behind the Superintendent on this. It boils down to one word: accountability,” said Flores.
Flores said that he supported implementing a performance incentive proposal because it would allow the district to have a broad comprehensive evaluation system that includes both subjective and objective measurements. The evaluation system would also help determine the leadership quality of the principals.
“Where you have a great principal, you have a great school,” said Flores. “Where you have a solid principal, you will have student achievement. Where you do not have a solid principal, you will have rare pockets of excellence and a whole lot of mediocrity.”
Flores also questioned his opponent’s “no teacher left behind” campaign slogan. “The question is, are we here about the adults or the kids?” said Flores. “If we’re here about the adults, then we’re just a jobs program. If we’re here about the kids, then we will do what it takes to educate those kids.”
Principals are the key when it comes to working with the Spanish-speaking community, according to Flores. Flores said that it is important to make the school a welcoming place for the community and that student achievement is linked with parental involvement.
“Where you have involved parents, you have student achievement,” said Flores.
“The state requires that we have (bilingual principals),” added Flores. “We have been taking exemptions. The only difference is now we have the backbone and the spine to implement them.”
DallasBlog also asked Flores about his plan to make coursework more challenging. Flores believes that dual language programs are a great way to raise student achievement. The goal of these programs is to graduate bilingual, bi-literate and bicultural students and close the achievement gap among student groups.
Flores cited research showing the achievement gap between native English speakers and students without native language instruction and also students with traditional bilingual education. Flores said that students enrolled in dual-language programs eventually attained an average reading performance that exceeded the average reading performance of students from a native English speaking background.
More Q&A with Edwin Flores-
DallasBlog: How do you plan to work with the legislator to improve and simplify funding for public schools?
Edwin Flores: To the extent that I can put pressure on our legislators to come up with a rational long term solution, I will talk individually with them.
But more importantly, we need to do more with less. For example, we’re now a recapture district, theoretically. That doesn’t make any sense. That’s something that we can work with the legislature to change. How could 90 percent of our kids be of low socio-economic status and yet we be considered a wealthy school district like Highland Park. If we’re a recapture district, then Houston is next.
That just doesn’t make any sense. (Recapture) was always meant for a very small category of school districts to redistribute some of their wealth.
DallasBlog: What is your view on cutting hall monitor jobs in DISD?
EF: I think that when the idea was first proposed the teachers would have more time for themselves, and it has turned out that instead we’ve created a whole new group of problems.
From what we’ve heard, a lot of these hall monitors are young men that have run-ins with other young men trying to enforce the rules. They are selective in who they enforce the rules on. And being that they are young males, there are many young females at these schools and there have been some problems in that area as well.
To me, it seems like it’s a recipe for trouble and for lawsuits. Again, whatever the intent was at the time, this may eventually cost us some money.
But to the extent possible, we may have to go back to giving teachers an extra period of discretion, which means having more teachers and increased costs. It just seems like it is more community policing to have teachers monitoring the halls.
DallasBlog: What is the biggest, most pressing issue facing the district and if you are reelected how do you propose to deal with it?
EF: High academic student achievement is the only big issue. Why? Well it’s what we want. It’s what the taxpayers deserve. It’s what the students deserve. We’re mandated to do it under No Child Left Behind. It’s the right thing to do. It will improve our graduation rate. It will improve our neighborhoods.
An uneducated kid is a future prisoner. If you look at our prisons, they are full of uneducated dropouts.
(High academic achievement) will increase property values. Good schools increase property values. If all of Dallas had good schools, it would increase the value of all our property. Taxpayers would be happy and would say “we’re getting our money’s worth”.
Will it cause pain? Yes it will. Transforming a school district the size of Dallas - almost 20K employees and 220 schools – it’s not going to be overnight and it’s not going to be painless. There’s going to be screaming and yelling and moaning. The question that we have to ask ourselves is it the right thing to do for the kids.
Scott Rasmussen has a new poll out on the race for Governor of Texas. It appears Rick Perry can rest much easier. Perry stands at 40% of the electorate while his independent Republican Carol Keeton Rylander has fallen to 19%. Democrat Chris Bell stands at 17% and Kinky Friedman at 15%. One two months ago Rasmussen found Strayhorn at 31% and gaining. Strayhorn and Friedman are not assured of a place on the ballot and have two more weeks to collect sufficient names on petitions to gain ballot access.
The Washington Post story this a.m. on the White House shakeup said press secretary Scott McClellan resigned as the "public face of an administration under fire." The Post story says likely replacements are either Tony Snow of Fox News or former Iraq occupation spokesman Dan Senor. The problem with Senor, however, is that he is married to Campbell Brown, a primary correspondent for the NBC Nightly News and the Today Show. It's hard to believe that the White House would name someone to be its new "public face" who's sleeping with the enemy.
My guess is that the White House wants someone who will be more aggressive in blaming the press for all the bad news about the administration. That was a tactic in the Bush Sr. administration. I still have a button from the 1988 convention in Houston that says: "It's All My Fault -- I'm from the Media." At any rate, McClellan, a genial guy, has had some contentious encounters with the White House press corps. The worst one was probably over the Cheney hunting incident. While well-liked personally, McClellan m.o. was to give out no unauthorized info, to suggest to reporters that they seek information elsewhere or simply to stonewall with no comment. Tony Snow would likely be much smoother as well as be able to put a more persuasive "public face" on news coming out of the White House. And a new face would not conjure up the "bad news" about this administration -- from Katrina, to Iraq and domestic spying.
As for Karl Rove losing part of his portfolio, that's probably long overdue. Rove's expertise has always been politics -- pure and simple. He's the master. What he knows how to do is campaign and win. A policy wonk, he's not. Now, he's in a better position to help Republicans hold onto Congress in the mid-term elections, without attention to policy matters dividing his interest.
AMR Corporation, parent of American Airlines, posted a loss of $92 million for the first quarter of 2006, a substantial improvement over its loss of $231 million in the first quarter of last year. Southwest Airlines continued its string of profitable quarters with a reported profit of $56 million. However, both airlines face mounting energy costs with oil over $70 a barrel refined juet fuel is pushing $80 per barrel. In the meantime AA provided a lift for its new Love Field service to Kansas City and St. Louis by offering 19,000 Maverick's fans at last night's home game free passes to those cities. Southwest responded by announcing free drinks on its flights to those airports through Memorial Day. And today, the Dallas Morning News business section headlined an article "If we started over at Love ..." in which they look at options for Love if that airport were closed.
For those who reminisce from time to time about the old days in Dallas when this city worked,one of the things that made Dallas so successful was the type of leaders who rose to positions of influence in our city. One of those "unsung heroes" was Lawrence Ackels, Sr., a prominent Dallas attorney and former member of the Dallas City Council. Mr. Ackels died shortly before Easter and his funeral was held at St. Monica’s Catholic Church on the Tuesday after Easter. The Church was packed with the family and friends of the late Lawrence Ackels. They had come to pay their respects to this good man.
A family man, a veteran, a man of deep religious faith, and a man of the utmost integrity, Lawrence Ackels, Sr. represented the very best of what Dallas once was. His son, Larry Ackels, Jr., gave a marvelous eulogy about the life of his father. With his permission we reprint that Eulogy here at DallasBlog. While "The Mighty Cedar has Fallen", he has gone to meet his Maker. May his soul rest in peace.
Here are Larry’s words about his father, the late Lawrence Edward Ackels, Sr.:
THE MIGHTY CEDAR HAS FALLEN by Larry Ackels, Jr.
He was our strength and consolation. Our fortress against the storm. Our knight in shining armor. Our lion in winter. Our advocate for justice. Our patriarch and mentor. Our blocking back on fourth down and goal to go. We leaned on him for his wisdom and courage, his knowledge and experience, his love and devotion. He fulfilled the ancient biblical precept: "He fought the good fight, he completed the race, he kept the faith." We shall not see his likes again. We shall miss him dearly. But his invincible spirit lives on in our hearts forevermore. And the angels rejoice in his glory.
I stand before you as the voice of my brothers and sisters and our entire family in celebration of the wonderful life and indomitable spirit of our beloved father and patriarch, and my HERO, Lawrence Edward Ackels, Sr.
We come here today to mark the passing of a good and great man. Not a perfect man - but a thoroughly good and decent man with an unfailing sense of fairness and justice. For us, it all began when Lawrence’s father, Henry John Ackels, emigrated to the United States as a boy in the early 1900's from his native Lebanon through Ellis Island. He and his wife, Mary Ellen Abraham, settled in Dallas, where Lawrence was born and raised. He attended the old St. Patrick’s church and school where the ruddy Irishman, Father Charles Redfern, was pastor and the Ursuline nuns taught him. He attended St. Joseph High School. And worked in his family’s poultry and grocery business as part of a pioneer family of the original Dallas Farmers Market. He graduated in three years from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, where he played football and was ping-pong champion - a fact that he often proved to his sons in later years. As a member of the Greatest Generation, he served in the Army during World War II in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater and was at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii at the time of his honorable discharge in 1946. He forever remained proud to have served his country and he was an old-fashioned patriot who would get a lump in his throat every time he heard "God Bless America." After the war, he obtained his law degree on the trimester plan from SMU School of Law in 1948 and set up his law offices in Dallas where he practiced continuously as a prominent attorney for 58 years.
In 1949, he made the most important (and the most fortunate) decision in his life when he married Isabel Zoghby in Mobile, Alabama. Theirs was a beautiful and vibrant love affair for 52 years until Isabel’s death four years ago. They were a great team and had ten children – six sons and four daughters. They sacrificed mightily to raise their ten children and to educate them in Catholic and private schools and universities. We counted it up, and their ten children have amassed a total of 179 years of Catholic and private school education - that’s right 179 years - including six sons graduating from Jesuit College Prep, four daughter from Ursuline Academy, eight graduates of Spring Hill College, and seven graduates of the SMU School of Law. One prominent Dallas lawyer with six children says that every time he writes a tuition check, he thinks of Lawrence Ackels, Sr. and wonders how he did it. Well, we all wonder how he did it. And only Lawrence could tell us how -- he trusted in the Lord to show him the way. He called him the "Almighty Big Boss." And always said that he would "just turn things over to the Big Boss and He would take care of everything." For, you see, when he was about 46 or 47 years old, Lawrence took a long walk in the park one day. He saw the vast horizon looming before him with the onerous financial obligations and responsibilities of raising and educating ten children. That day in the park, he had a conversation with the Big Boss and told Him that if he was going to carry out his responsibilities to his family, the Boss would have to help him, would have to show him the way. And from that moment on, Lawrence writes in one of his many essays, he never worried or fretted about anything. He just turned everything over to the Big Boss and that was it. "Pray," he said, "as if everything depends on God; work as if everything depends on you." Lawrence never deviated from this riveting belief in the power of the Almighty. This is what he always told us and this is how he lived his life - faithfully, steadfastly, loyally, consistently.
He was a man of deep and abiding faith and a leading Catholic laymen in the Diocese of Dallas, a founder and charter member of St. Phillip the Apostle Church in the 1950's, and a faithful member of St. Monica Catholic Church for the past 30 years, where he was President of the Holy Name Society and a Eucharistic Minister. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus for more than 65 years attaining the rank of Fourth Degree and Grand Knight. And as members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, he and my mother made a pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land in 1992.
And he had a special devotion to St. Michael the Archangel, the strong right arm of God, whom he always called his champion and protector. He recalls seeing St. Michael on that fateful night in 1969 when we were driving to Mobile with eleven people in the family station wagon and were caught in the violent middle of Hurricane Camille. He lost control of the car, it began to fishtail on a dark narrow two-lane highway in Mississippi. That was when an agitated St. Michael appeared to him, the archangel was driving his spear downward. Lawrence took this to mean that he should apply his breaks. So, disregarding everything that he had ever been told to do in a skidding vehicle, he slammed on his brakes - hard. The station wagon did a 180 degree turn and stopped on a dime in the middle of the pitch-black highway - where once it was heading north, it was now pointing due south. But we were all okay.
In the 1950's he was Judge in the City of Carrollton and was known by many in the legal profession and the community as "Judge Ackels," or simply, "the Judge." He served on the Dallas City Council in the early 1970's. He loved public service and his term on the City Council was a happy time for him.
He was the founding attorney of Ackels & Ackels, where he practiced with four of his sons until the time of his death. As a Dallas pioneer in mediation, he assisted thousands of parties and attorneys in resolving their legal disputes on amicable terms in more than 1,000 mediations. The best decision I ever made in my professional life was to go into law practice with my father. For 31 years, I saw my dad at the office every day. For me, and my siblings, this was the greatest experience we could have – to get to know our father as a colleague and a friend, as well as the most brilliant legal mind around. He taught us how to practice law ethically and morally, with high-minded principals of honor and integrity. To him, a lawyer’s good reputation was worth more than anything. Your word was your bond. This is the creed he practiced for 58 years. He knew all the Judges at the courthouse and thousands of lawyers. But the court clerks and staff were his favorites. He chatted with them constantly, knew their names, their children’s names, and always asked how they were feeling. For years, he personally delivered candy at Christmas, and always wearing his trademark Stetson hat - he was instantly recognizable.
I can remember my first days in his law office, back in the mid 1970's. The end of the month rolled around and, having worked summers during law school in other law firms, I was accustomed to submitting time sheets and preparing the monthly client billings. I asked my dad about the monthly invoices and I was shocked when he replied that he did not regularly send bills to his clients – "It all has a way of working itself out," he said. That was Lawrence Ackels. For him, being a lawyer was not a business, it was a calling. His most significant case was the one for which he never got paid. His most important client, the least among us.
And, he had a flair for the dramatic. He was a stirring orator who could move a judge or jury to tears with his emotional and well-paced speaking style. During his illness, we received a message from one of his colleagues who recalled their first case against each other in the 1950's. It was a week-long child custody case and, after announcing his ruling in my dad’s favor, the Judge cried for 3 or 4 minutes. Another case early in his career is recounted humorously by the legendary Paul Crume in his BIG D column on page one of The Dallas Morning News, November 23, 1952. Mr. Crume wrote:
Young Lawyer Larry Ackels, a devout Catholic, Friday defended a man in justice court who was charged with offering moldy lunch meat for sale. Worked up by the injustice of the whole thing, Ackels ate some of the meat during his argument to prove that it was all right. His client got only a $25 fine, the minimum. But it wasn’t until after the jury had come in that Ackels realized he had eaten meat on Friday....
And Lawrence was always proud of his Lebanese heritage. He was a faithful member and Past President of the Southern Federation of Syrian Lebanese American Clubs. While he was President of the Federation in the early 60's, he and Isabel, as personal escorts for the Patriarch of Antioch, were visitors to the LBJ Ranch and guests of Vice-President and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson; and they were involved with Danny Thomas and others in the early development of ALSAC and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. He loved Lebanese food, especially kibbee, and he and my mother imparted to their children our Lebanese customs and traditions, which we carry on today. And in 1995, he accompanied Bishop Charles Grahmann on a trip to Lebanon – the first and only time Lawrence ever went. He visited his ancestral hometown of Bzebdine and found his family’s house still intact. He recalled that on Bishop Grahmann’s birthday, the Lebanese children, not sure how to pronounce his last name, sang "Happy Birthday to Charlie!"
We will remember the things that Lawrence loved, like:
· crossword puzzles · watching "Jeopardy," and "Who Wants to be A Millionaire" hosted by Regis Philbin · card games, especially bridge, canasta, and poker · Babe Ruth, whom he saw play one time in Dallas · his favorite depression-era meal of bologna, cheese, tomatoes, and sardines · "The Honeymooners" and his alter ego, Ralph Cramden · Trips to Las Vegas with all the guys, especially his 80th birthday celebration, and the time his grandson and his fraternity brothers joined him and, because of their limited student funds, they all slept spread out in Lawrence’s hotel room · Mario Lanza · Winston Churchill, the Lion of Britain, and his hero of the twentieth century · ice cream ("a scoop of each, please") · that he was a lifelong Democrat and a proud Texan · the Dallas Cowboys · and SMU athletics, especially his hero, Doak Walker, and the Doc Hayes’ basketball teams · and that he was a special friend and generous supporter of the clergy, here and throughout the country, including especially the Bishops, diocesan priests and deacons, the Jesuits, the Ursuline nuns, and the Brothers of the Holy Cross. Many of those priests are on the altar here today.
He made friends everywhere he went. And he would always take the time to talk to people, to learn their names, and the names of their children. He listened to them. For Lawrence, life was all about human relationships and he was genuinely interested in people from all walks of life. From the mail-room clerk to the Supreme Court Justice, from the janitor to the Chairman and CEO – he was a friend to all. That is why he had such a lasting impact on people of all ages – young and old. To some he was like a second father, to others he was a wise counselor, a mentor, a big brother, a hero.
In the past few days, we have received hundreds of visitors, cards, letters, e-mails, and telephone calls. One forty-something young man said, "When I was 17 he talked to me like I was a man and no one had ever done that." Another, commenting on Lawrence’s youthful outlook on life, opined, "He was never like all the other old men." A mother of two young children said, "Your Dad was one of those people who made you feel like the most important person on earth when you were in his presence." And a past president of the Dallas Bar Association said that, "He made great contributions to our community and to our profession." Another prominent attorney wrote that, "the combined contributions of your family to the practice of law in North Central Texas over the past 50 years have been enormous." A judge on receiving news of his death e-mailed, "I am on the bench in a jury trial with a tear in my eye."
A most captivating story involves an attorney-mediator colleague who called the house on the last day of my father’s life. He called at a particularly difficult time and my sister had to tell him to call back later. Like the persistent mediator he is, he did call back in the afternoon and I took the call. I thought he wanted to reminisce about the good old days when we first started mediating in the Dallas legal community as charter members of the Association of Attorney-Mediators. But he said, no, that is not why he was calling. He was adamant that I take a message to my father. And he told the story of traveling with my dad to another state to attend a mediation seminar. While at the seminar, he said that my dad witnessed to him and spoke to him about his faith in Jesus Christ. He said that, at that time, he had not accepted Christ, but that conversation with my Dad changed his life forever; that, in fact, it saved his life.
I want to thank my sister, Cecilia, and her husband, Matt Martin, for having Dad in their home these last two years and opening their doors 24-hours a day in the past few weeks to accommodate our family and hundreds of visitors who came to see Lawrence in his final days, and all the while taking care of their six children including their newborn twins, Christine and William. Lawrence was so happy to see the birth of those twins and he loved living with Cecilia and Matt. He was overjoyed in the final weeks, also, to learn of Michael’s engagement and to welcome Veronica into our family. They asked for his blessing, showed him the ring and we toasted with champagne in the hospital. Yes, Lawrence was ever thankful that his family’s cycle of life – weddings and funerals, birth and death – would go on and on.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t extend a special and warm thank-you to two people who rescued my Dad after my mother’s death four years ago. Although he never recovered from the loss of his beloved Isabel, two of his dearest friends, Joe and Isabell Haggar, made sure they included him in their social life - especially their trips to Lone Star Park where they enjoyed the horse races together and became racing buddies. Lawrence enjoyed the track so much that he kept going back and soon he was on a first-name basis with everyone at the Jockey Club, from the lady who took his ticket to the waiter who served him lunch. All the regulars called him "the Judge," and treated him like a celebrity. In fact, they even named a race in his honor and took our family picture with the winning horse on the victory stand. It was a magic tonic for his still-aching heart. Thank you, Joe and Isabell, for being his guardian angels.
Finally, I know that Dad would have wanted me to say a word about the new generation.
Today, you have seen his thirty-nine grandchildren and great-grandchildren participating in this Holy Mass – as singers, pallbearers, altar servers, readers, and gift bearers. He would be so proud of all of you. And special recognition to our family’s songbird of the new generation, Catherine Karam, for her heartfelt rendition of the songs that her grandfather requested be sung at his funeral.
To his grandchildren and great-grandchildren – you were his pride and joy. He loved to hear you call him Giddy, to bring your favorite candy and chocolates when he came to your house, to display the handmade cards and letters you lovingly prepared for him, to take the college cousins to lunch at Al Biernat’s, to pass out $2 bills in honor of Sittie Bell, and to have you all around him on Christmas Eve as he handed out the gifts under the tree. As one of his granddaughters said: "You make it a point [,Giddy,] to have a special relationship with each and every one of us, which is an extremely hard thing to do considering how many of us there are." But your numbers energized him, because he saw in you a new generation, a promise of an even brighter future of hope and achievement for this family which he and Isabel started. It is to you that he confidently entrusts his good name and impeccable reputation and it is his most fervent desire that you continue to bring honor to your family as you reach your goals in life.
A few months ago, Lawrence wrote his last essay - addressed to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and descendants yet to be born. It is entitled, "You Carry The Flag," and it contains a lot of practical suggestions and old-fashioned advice about laundry, and studying, and discipline, and hard work, but it also has these words of wisdom that I think he wants me to pass on to you. Lawrence wrote:
This is my letter to each one of you as your Freshman year begins in college:
You carry the flag for us. Always put the Almighty Big Boss first in your life, your plans, your hopes. You will be blessed all the days of your life, and for all eternity.
Never give up. Never give up. Never. NEVER!! Always take the high road, always set as your target the farthermost star! Way out there. Never just the closest, easiest one.
Lifetime experiences must be carefully, thoughtfully approached and always decided with the Almighty Big Boss helping you.
It is our togetherness that carries each one of us to victory. You are never alone! Never! All members of our family love each other. Each one of us cares about you, prays for you. Will help you at anytime, at any place. You are never alone. YOU CARRY THE FLAG.
May God bless you always, love you as I do, keep you on the right path – until we all share eternal happiness together forever. I love you.
I want you to know that up until the very last moment of his life, Lawrence’s mind was clear, his indomitable spirit unchallenged. As his great heart beat its last, he was surrounded by his children saying the prayers that he loved, ready to be escorted into eternity by the Ambassador of Paradise, St. Michael the Archangel. He fought like a lion to live, but he died in utter peace and tranquility. It was the happy death of a man who was ready to meet his Maker -- the Almighty Big Boss; ready to be united once again with his beloved wife, Isabel, his younger brother Alfred, his parents and all those who have gone before him.
Each day of his ordinary yet remarkable life, he showed us how to live as his lord and savior lived. And, ultimately, he showed us how to die – with dignity, with courage, with honor, and with grace.
I close now with words that have always reminded me of my Dad, my HERO from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:
He was the noblest Roman of them all ... His life was gentle, and the elements So mixed in him that Nature might stand up And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!