J.R.’s written observations on politics, public policy, and society.


It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally the publisher assigns a topic.

Given that this past weekend was Armed Services Weekend and we’re leading up to Memorial Day, John asked those of us with a military background what we “took from our service for the rest of our days.”

That, in and of itself, is a fairly straightforward question.

The correct answer, if there is such a thing, is what you expect: I learned planning, discipline, respect, punctuality, hard work, teamwork, sacrifice, courage, honor, integrity and so much more.

However, I do not think John was really looking for the transformative qualities that were instilled into me over the course of ten weeks in the hot Orlando sun in 1992, which eventually gave way to the same sun beating down on me in the Persian Gulf during at-sea replenishments a decade later, or the white-hot light of a video camera glaring at me throughout my career as a public affairs officer.

No, if I know the publisher, he wants me to dig a bit deeper.

The reality is that what will always stay with me from my military service is loyalty.

Whether it’s the camaraderie I still have with shipmates who I served with long ago or my commitment to writing this column for John and you, being known as loyal is incredibly important to me. This is not a blind loyalty or loyalty that ignores problems and concerns. If anything, it’s that sense of loyalty and desire to improve organizations, groups, states, nations, cities, etc. that makes what I learned from the military so special.

Truly high-performing units in the military understand this cohesion and the productivity that comes not from mutiny or disobedience, but from skilled and sometimes courageous advice from everyone who is part of the team. It is a loyalty to ensuring that your team achieves the mission efficiently, utilizing the unique skills of all involved. Working on solving the problem together.

Loyalty is also the embodiment of the golden rule. It is the concept of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Loyalty, as a form of love, is mutual to all involved. In other words, loyalty is not a one-way street.

Loyal organizations and people are found everywhere throughout the military. There are, of course, exceptions, but I have been blessed to serve and work with exceptional people who put others ahead of themselves. They were tremendous human beings. They had your back, stood up for others, supported the team, did what was necessary to get the job done and were present through thick and thin.

The opposite of loyalty, of course, is betrayal. There’s a reason this act hurts so much and is met with such a strong response. When someone breaks trust and confidence, it is the worst sort of pain. We instinctively understand betrayal, which should help us understand loyalty.

I like to think of myself as loyal, and I attempt to practice it in everything I do. I also think most of us are instinctively loyal, but it was the military that made me aware of the behavior.

Knowing what loyalty is and conscientiously applying it to my everyday actions has truly added more value and meaning to my life.

This column was written for The Princess Anne Independent News.

“The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever”

The evil is Sri Lanka is just another example of futility. You cannot defeat an Easter people.

Live for Life

The political argument and what is reported in the news regarding abortion is, in a word, heartbreaking.

This topic tends to polarize instead of looking for long-term solutions. People go to their respective corners – quickly – and shout at each other.

Worse yet, they shut each other out.

Why? Because this really isn’t a debate about changing an opinion or attitude. This goes much deeper into challenging a person’s beliefs and changing our culture.

For those who truly believe in life, what really is at stake in this conversation requires much more than words. As I type these words on a keyboard, I realize the irony: that pro-life advocates simply can’t defend the innocent by typing on a keyboard.

No, recent arguments on the left have moved beyond “safe, legal, and rare” into the realm of a governor saying: “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Ralph Northam later tried to clarify that the remark wasn’t about infanticide, but some pro-choice advocates have pretty much jumped the shark into openly supporting infanticide.

The time for words is really over. The pro-life movement must act.

Proponents need to truly support life through volunteering and fundraising for organizations like the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Tidewater or Virginia’s Kids Belong.

And there are plenty of opportunities that present themselves for action now.

Crisis Pregnancy Center is a non-profit that exists to support women who are unprepared for pregnancy, including offering counseling – on all options, including abortion recovery, parenting classes, call centers, ultrasounds and more. In 2017, the organization reported it was able to save more than 686 babies from being aborted.

The center has a 33-year record of success in Hampton Roads, existing because there was an obvious need to offer women an alternative to and information about abortion. They have proven time and again that if women are provided support, love and encouragement, a life will be saved.

Over the next few weeks, it is holding its annual Walk for Life at City Park in Chesapeake, on the Boardwalk in Virginia Beach and at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk. This is an opportunity to visibly show your support for life and help them with their mission. You can find out more about the walk by visiting cpcfriends.org/walk.

In this regard, I will be walking the walk vice just talking the talk. I have walked for CPC on the Boardwalk in the past. This year, I am walking at the Virginia Zoo.

Another option is to foster a child. Despite recent news, foster care is an outstanding way to help a child who has been neglected, is among our most vulnerable, and simply a victim of circumstance.

Recent legislation passed in the General Assembly to reform the foster care system should make fostering a child focused on where it should be – care and compassion.

According to Virginia’s Kids Belong (vakidsbelong.org), a non-profit that advocates for fostering and adoption, there are thousands of kids in the foster care system in Virginia. Hundreds are never adopted and “age out.” Of these kids, the financial costs per child alone exceed $300,000 in social welfare and 60 percent of social workers leave foster care within the first year due to burnout, according to the group.

My friend Eve Marie Gleason and her husband, Ryan, of Loudoun have fostered four kids.

“I choose to foster kids because kids matter,” she told me. “It’s that simple. Being a foster parent isn’t easy. It changes your life, changes you. It’s hard and inconvenient. It means choosing loss and heartache, dealing with difficult adults, and parenting kids who have been through things nobody should have to face ever.

“It also means being the voice of hope in their life, the stable constant who teaches them how to make healthy choices and provides the unconditional love they need to have a chance to flourish. We don’t always feel like it, but foster parents make a tremendous difference.”

One thing Gleason also mentioned is that, even if a person or couple is not able to foster or adopt, they still can immeasurably support the foster parents through gift cards or just being available to help out with babysitting, moral support or preparing a meal. At virginiakidsbelong.org, there are opportunities listed to “lean in” where everyone can get involved from supporting foster families, birth families, teens, workers and more.

“Not everyone can foster or adopt, but everyone can care and be part of the solution to Virginia’s foster care crisis,” Janet Kelly, president of Virginia Kids Belong and an adoptive mom, wrote in an email. “This crisis is solvable if servant leaders from communities across the commonwealth step up to help vulnerable children and families.”

While conservatives can’t keep the left from outrageous statements and inconceivable policy positions, we can continue to promote a culture of life.

It’s as simple as making a commitment and taking constructive action. By making a commitment, the culture will change. In time, words and legislation may, too.

This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News

Monopoly – A Life Lesson

From setting your kids up for success, ownership, to random socialism – Monopoly has it all.

Virginia is for Lovers of Free Speech, not Lawbreakers

We have our disagreements as Virginians, we don’t need folks from out-of-state breaking our laws and making it worse.

Justin Fairfax faces another accusation

Fairfax facing increasing evidence that he is not fit for office.

For choice in education

Before agreeing to spend millions on education, concessions need to be made regarding school choice.

A Tale of Two Amendments

The Virginia General Assembly has reconvened in Richmond, and the longest continuously serving democratically elected legislature presses on.

In its 400th year, the legislature has an opportunity to do something extraordinary: ratify an amendment to the United States Constitution and set in motion a state amendment that transforms politics as we know it.

Pretty heady stuff.

Equal Rights Amendment
In 1923, Alice Paul, the drafter of the ERA, proclaimed, “We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government.”

Her vision was that women would have the same rights as men and that this specifically would be codified in our Constitution.

The amendment has gone through several revisions and still doesn’t have consensus on its wording.

In 1943, when the amendment finally made it to a vote in Congress, it read:

Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In 2014, Congress reintroduced the amendment as follows:

Section 1: Women shall have equal rights in the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2: Congress and the several States shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

The difference in the two is the clear identification of women.

Five states voted to rescind their ratification, but the Constitution doesn’t say if states have that power. Additionally, new concerns over what genetic makeup constitutes a “woman” has been clearly conveyed in the recent transgender discussions.

Finally – and in my view, most importantly – states that have enacted similar laws have faced challenges from pro-choice advocates demanding state funding for abortion as protected under this law. And their appeals have been upheld.

“We the people of the United States …” plus amendments 14, 15, 19, and 26 have more than abundantly clarified the question. The language of the ERA will bring about a new era of judicial process, should the U.S. Supreme Court rule that states must fund abortion as part of its healthcare plans.

This new era of litigation will largely focus on an individual’s right to exercise their faith by not funding abortion – and take direct aim at our First Amendment.

State Gerrymandering
Politics is involved in everything. And the preservation of power is certainly at its root.

It really doesn’t matter if Patrick Henry was trying to oust James Madison from Congress, or if Democrats drew uncompetitive lines for George Allen and Randy Forbes, or whether Republicans attempted to hold the state House of Delegates by making a deal with state Senate Democrats.

It is a simply flawed process.

Our U.S. Constitution leaves the process of how to determine the drawing of legislative boundaries to the states. And, in this case, the drafter of Virginia’s state constitution, A.E. Dick Howard – along with former Attorney General Ken Cuccinell, former Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong, and many others – have all come to the conclusion that the best check and balance on legislative tyranny and judicial activism is a very detailed process that has its own checks and balances.

That is an independent redistricting commission.

Now is the time to act. Because of Virginia’s constitutional amendment process, this proposal must pass this General Assembly, be voted on by the public in an intervening election, and then pass the Assembly again.

It’s imperative now because of the 2020 Census. Only if this amendment is passed now and winds its way through the previously described wickets will it be in place to have any meaning for the next decade.

Stop fooling yourself. If you think your vote is a secret, yet you vote consistently in any partisan political primary, you’ve identified yourself. And that data will be isolated with today’s technology to ensure the majority has the partisan makeup it needs to retain its power.

That was never the intent of our Founding Fathers, nor our state constitution’s crafters.

It’s time for an independent redistricting commission.

Pretty amazing things are happening this General Assembly session. It’s nice to be part of living history.

This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News.

Top Political Stories to Follow in 2019

From federal to local, plenty of important topics happening this year. Let me know the big stories that you’ll be tracking in the comments!