Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Just because it was a tough year doesn't mean we can't be thankful.

It was a rough year.

Watching my seven year old son awake from eight hours of surgery and anticipating his next three months in a body cast was numbing.

Spending dinner with close family friends and reviewing travel photo albums with their beautiful daughter while her best friends, my daughters, were away visiting their cousins in Florida was delightful. It was devastating five days later when her father called to say she'd fallen into a terminal coma.

To lose the last vestige of someone I referred to as a mother die when my godmother died in December forced me to reflect on the passing of a wonderful generation of our family's WWII era cousins.

To see my mother's cousin's husband die made me wish for happier times, when we'd spend every Christmas Eve together.

To hear my first friend describe how most of the black kids from our NJ neighborhood died young makes me question community in America.

To learn two admired Brown classmates; one a freshman hall mate who evolved into an Ivy basketball star and the other a fraternity brother and football teammate, our star quarterback, diagnosed with MS and advanced lung cancer, respectively, was unbelievable given their devotion to life and health.

Reading about a once great firm, where my father toiled as an honest stockbroker for thirty five years only to leave in disgust when its senior executive mandated selling very suspect investment vehicles responsible for its ultimate demise, was surreal.

To see once vaunted security firms and banks, many with whom I verified and facilitated transactions during my college summer job, topple like dominoes was disheartening, and infuriating.

To see executives prosper under very little government regulation, and then to see them expect a government bailout because their firms' massive sizes, thanks to growth fostered by deregulation, forced no other alternative, makes me very suspect and condemning of the leadership in our country.

To see the CEO's of Chrysler, GM, and Ford, beg for a bailout after pushing gas guzzling products on American markets was a joke.

To hear a governor attempt to sell a senate seat was shocking.

To read a man swindled fifty billion dollars ($50,000,000,000) from his friends, clients, and charitable foundations is unimaginable. To realize the SEC and internal auditors let this perpetuate is reprehensible.

To watch: my son suffer, our friends go into shock over the loss of their daughter, my father shake his head, our family mourn, my hometown wash its hands of its needy, my classmates struggle, our society tailspin from the character flaws of its leaders is painful.

But there is hope.

My son is walking, running, and wrestling. The love and skill his surgeon and therapists, family, teachers, friends, and classmates expressed demonstrated great community, and fostered his resiliency.

Our friends' son is applying to, and qualified to attend, the best universities in the nation. His capacity to function at his high level in the wake of losing his sister is remarkable.

Our extended family added three new babies in the past year, laying groundwork for a new era of cousins.

My classmates are moving forward, exploring possible solutions and committing themselves to being in the moment; appreciating life day to day. The former basketball star's mother in law stated she likes him better now. He empathizes with, rather than critiques, those struggling.

Teammates returned from around the globe to spend time with our quarterback, and to watch the Brown Bears beat Harvard on Brown's march to an Ivy League Football Title.

Related to this, I met with a Japanese college fraternity brother for the first time in twenty five years when our business schedules connected us in San Francisco.

Our nation elected its first African American President. I was in Ireland on business during the election. Before the election, Irish people asked me about the candidates and expressed great fear and concern about Obama. After the election, every Irish person I spoke with was very excited about Obama and wished similar change would bestow Ireland. They stated America is great.

If anything, I hope Obama's election will give future generations of black men, unlike those from my old neighborhood who died young, a sense of direction and inspiration; to become contributors and problem solvers.

Thanks to faulty character and leadership, a slate is cleaned. Opportunity and scrutiny will welcome new leaders, and my hope is entrepreneurship and enterprise will again spark great innovation and opportunity in our nation.

I am inspired by my clients who make great things and provide great services. They spawn new markets and cultivate innovative opportunities.

I am thankful for my beautiful family and wonderful friends. If you are reading this, you fall into one of these two categories.

Grace, hope, faith, and love carried us through some very dark times in 2008. My Christmas and New Years Wish is for these good traits to bless you and your family so we may continue to grow and solve problems.