Last month, I sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in federal prison for his shooting rampage in Tucson. That tragedy left six people dead, more than twice that number injured and a community shaken to its core.
In mid-December, some Brenau trustees, administrators, employees and faculty members joined with city officials, business leaders and other guests for an informal coffee klatch commemorating the beginning of the university's long-term lease arrangement with the city.
It was a year of storms, of raging winds and rising waters, but also broader turbulence that strained our moorings. Our atmosphere, our politics, our economy - rarely in memory have they seemed in such constant agitation.
One year ago, we wrote in this space of an unmet human need - the need for relief from hunger among those Gainesvillians and Hall Countians who, while fortunate enough to have housing, nevertheless suffer from "food insecurity" - the gnawing uncertainty of "where their next meal will come from."
Having four children 10 and under offers plenty of intimate, hands-on lessons on human nature. For example, sometimes, in spite of Michelle's and my best efforts, good parental instruction is ignored and hard lessons have to be learned. I'm not talking about situations that lead to enforced discipline, but those that result in sad and tough natural consequences.
The Pew Forum recently found that 1 in 5 people claim no religion. There is a growing diversity of worldviews in this nation. In our present political landscape there is much distrust between "values voters" and secularists. Open communication is going to be all the more important for our democracy to survive. I hope to explain why many secularists find "values voting" worrisome.
The election is history and businesses across America know who will lead the country for the next four years. But will the tone of the second term be as harsh and demeaning about businesses and the people who run them or will President Obama finally realize that American free enterprise is the force that makes the country strong and prosperous?
We in the blue states hear from the talking heads on Fox News and MSNBC that many of you in the red states are so distressed about the outcome of the elections that you would like to secede from the Union. Now, it seems that at least six of you - Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina - have submitted enough signatures (25,000) on petitions to the White House website to merit a formal response, with more petitions on the way.
Gather together a few friends today, friends who love words and freedom and American history, and revisit a high peak in our long struggle to move closer to the ideals of the Declaration: The dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery at Gettysburg on Nov. 19, 1863, 149 years ago Monday.