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1421 - My annual message to grads - watch those facts!

         This summer I will attend my 50th high school graduation reunion.  As someone that old, what on earth could I possibly tell a crowd of Wyoming high school or college graduates during their important time?

         This is my annual column is pretty much what my speech would be if asked to speak at a high school graduation.  Giving that speech is a lot of fun and I look forward to doing it.  Here are some of my thoughts for graduates:

         Is it possible that many of the great truths that you graduates have come to take for granted just are not true, after all? Let me share three examples:

First, you were told that loyalty to your boss or your employer was a total waste of time and a relic from your parents and grandparents’ generations.

Not true.

Instead loyalty may be the most important factor going forward in getting and keeping that job that you covet. Do you remember the key component of the state of Wyoming’s official philosophy, called the Cowboy Code of Ethics?  To me, the big one is “Ride for the Brand.”

         Second, here in Wyoming energy is a big, big deal. You were told your entire lives that America would be relying on foreign energy imports forever.  You were taught that our destiny, as a country, is to make Arab Sheiks rich as we continually import their oil.

Not true.

         Today we are a net energy exporting country.  With Wyoming’s vast coal deposits, gigantic natural gas reserves and amazing new oil discoveries, we are helping the country send out more energy than we are importing.  Amazing.

         Third, you were told that manufacturing is dying in America and, no matter what you do, do not get into that dinosaur business.  We expect everything of importance to be built in China.  Surely the experience of Wal Mart and Apple Computer would verify this.

Not true.

         Surprise, the USA manufacturing sector is gigantic.  At $1.84 trillion, if it were a country, it would be the 10th largest economy on the planet.

After turning these three truisms onto their heads, it sort of seems like much of what was drilled into you over your brief lifetime of about two decades was not as true as it was told to you.

         So what happened?

         Just when everything had a gloomy but predictable look to it, we find out that many assumed truths in the world really are upside down. What you thought was true is false. What was passé is back in fashion. 

         To a graduate sitting in a hot, crowded auditorium pondering that biggest of all questions: “What am I going to do?” well, these times can be times of opportunity just as easily as they can be times of despair.

         And because of all the above, that is why I write.

         This annual column to high school and college graduates is much like speeches given in person. It just seems like this is an important time to peer into our crystal ball and help you graduates in any way that I can.

         I remember my high school graduation in 1964 back in Iowa.  A future U. S. Senator predicted a long and gloomy Cold War with the Soviet Union (Russia) that could last a millennium.  No one in that room would have believed the USSR would come crashing down just a generation later.

         Today the national focus is on the economy.  Our country is enduring massive debt and inflation is probably in our future.  These factors could make getting and holding a good job look dismal.

         But there are jobs out there, lots of them.

         If you are a mess, then you have a problem.  And probably what I am writing is not for you.

If you are a hard worker with wonderful work habits and good ethics, well, your future is bright.

You grads heading out into the world of new jobs need to be alert to trends in your chosen fields. 

         Employers are looking for good workers.  And they are looking for good people. And most of them want to hire you for a long, long time. They are looking as hard for you as you are looking for them.  Don’t give up too soon.

         I see a future that is as bright as ever for the young person willing to work hard, make friends and perhaps, most of all, “keep learning” as you grow in your careers.

         Good luck and Godspeed.



1420 - Little Wyoming girl kissed by the Pope

       Some day little Theresa Freeh will realize what a special little girl she was on that Wednesday when Pope Francis kissed her.

       She was among 800,000 people crowding the Vatican in the center of Rome during the sainthood ceremonies recently where two former popes were canonized.

       Theresa was born in Lander back in 2012 to Professor John Freeh and his wife Helen.  Most recently the Freeh’s have been working in Santa Fe but he will be returning this fall to the faculty of Wyoming Catholic College.

       Here is John’s version of what happened:

       “Greetings from Assisi, and thanks so much for your help during our pilgrimage to Italy for Easter and the Canonization of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II.

       “We have yet to fully comprehend the blessings of this trip, the highlight of which was the papal audience in St. Peter`s square. There were great crowds still in Rome that had come for Sunday`s historic event that has been called the day of the four popes: Francis and Benedict honoring their holy predecessors, and all the Church.

       “I arrived at the square shortly after 7 a.m., but found the lines for the 10:30 audience already long. After passing through security, the crowd rushed to fill the seats in the front section. Whether through divine inspiration or human laziness, I held back, and sat instead in the second–to-last row of the section, staking out three seats and hoping my wife Helen and daughter Theresa would be able to work their way there later. They did, thanks to a sympathetic Swiss guard who let them into the piazza about 9 a.m., after the entryways had been closed.

       “I had with me an invitation for Pope Francis to visit the city of Santa Fe (whose full name is, in English, the City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi).

       “Just before the audience, the Popemobile with a smiling Francis turned into the passageway behind where we were sitting. I grabbed our daughter and the invitation as Helen readied the camera.  I held our daughter high as the Pope passed. A plainclothes` Swiss guard swept Theresa from me, presenting her to the Holy Father to be kissed, while I handed the invite to one of those who rode behind the Pope.

       “Our daughter was then returned to her stunned and wildly grateful parents. It gets no better in this vale terrestrial. God is good.”

       If the name Freeh sounds familiar, it is because John is the younger brother of Louis Freeh, the former head of the FBI.

       It will be wonderful to have the Freeh family back in Wyoming. They were in Lander for a couple of years and then spent a year in Orange County, California and then some time in Santa Fe. 

       Not sure they missed the vast distances of Wyoming, but another prominent Wyoming Catholic knows just how big the state can be.

       Bishop Paul Etienne of Cheyenne was in St. Stephens recently conducting confirmation services for about 40 young people from all over Fremont County.

       He insisted that he was not complaining, but “this really is a big state.”  One of his main duties is traveling the state each year for the annual confirmation rites and that involves putting a lot of miles on his car.

       Although not objecting to the size of the state, he did complain about the wind.  “Wind is pretty normal in Cheyenne,” he said, “but the whole state has been like a hurricane this year. Is that normal?” he asked, having been assigned here four years ago from Indiana.

       Perhaps it is the new normal.

       Nancy and I took a trip to Door County, WI, last fall in our motorhome and had a chance to visit with Bishop Etienne’s predecessor, Bishop David Ricken, who is the bishop of Green Bay now.

       His new diocese is a fraction of the size of Wyoming but has eight times as many people.  And, yes, he keeps mighty busy traveling the area.  He said he misses Wyoming and especially the people. “I must admit I do not miss the vast distances and the wind.”

       Bishop Ricken conducted the Mass that morning on the day of a Packers game.  I accused him of purposely doing a short sermon, to which he said it was about the right length.  No way could he have done a long one on that day for the impatient Packer football fans, he laughed.



1419 - Spring time means clean-up to us hoarders

    At a recent meeting of the Lander Planning Commission, of which I have been a member for years, it was mentioned that we would soon be deciding on the addition of yet another “storage” facility on the east edge of our town.

         To which, one of our members exclaimed: “What on earth do we need another storage facility for? The town is full of them!”

         And not just Lander. Every city and town in Wyoming is stocked to capacity with those ubiquitous steel facilities known as storage units.

         When I related this story to the guys I have coffee with, most were wistful about wishing they had built storage units years ago.

         Most can see the need for them and use them.

         Luckily, my own hoarding tendencies are covered by the fact that when we bought our current home and the land around it, it contained four outbuildings.  All of which are now full of my “stuff.”

         My excuse is fundamentally sound for having all this stuff.

         As a media person over the past 50 years, we mainly dealt in tangible things like old copies of newspapers and film and notebooks and scrapbooks. I tell my wife Nancy that had we been in the Internet age about 35 years earlier, I would have had a heckuva lot less stuff.

         Back to the subject storing things.

         In the 1970s, the late Tom Rush wrote a funny weekly column for my newspaper.  In one favorite, he described how he was showing a foreign exchange student around Lander.

         He pointed out you could always identify the rich people because they parked their vehicles outside in the front of their garages.

         The reason?  Those rich folks owned so much stuff, they had to use the garages to store it rather than just put vehicles inside.

         Very true.

Lately our winters have been fierce and our springs have been cold, lengthy and snowy.  Thus when the weather finally does warm up, we venture outside to tackle what to do with all this inventory.

At my house, like most, it is the little woman who carries the big stick when it comes to disciplining a husband who just cannot part with anything.  On the rare occasion when we have tried to thin it out, I might find something that has been stored for 15 years. 

To her, this is proof that the item is not important, thus it can be tossed or sold or given away.  But, alas, to me it is like being reunited with an old friend.

We are at an age when my wife Nancy thinks we need to “get our affairs in order,” meaning I should through all my junk and get rid of 80 percent of it.  “You sure do not want to leave this mess for our kids, do you?” she will ask. 

In an earlier column, I once described myself as a champion “saver,” not a “hoarder.”  As a journalist, well, you just need to keep track of all your records and all that stuff that once upon a time provided fodder for your writing.

I actually attempted to reduce my hoardings. It amounted to just over 300 bankers’ boxes full of mainly paper. 

There were boxes of stuff relating to the Wyoming Travel Commission when I was a member of that important body from 1989 to 1993.  There are also boxes of early stuff concerned with the founding of Wyoming Catholic College back at the turn of the century.

My service on the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission resulted in boxes of reports and engineering studies of all the airports in the state.

There are RFP (requests for proposals) from times when we owned an advertising agency that was constantly bidding on contracts.

The boxes full of old copies of Wyoming State Journal, Yellowstone Journal, Wyoming Visitor Magazine, The Real America Magazine and many more were almost countless. Most of those got recycled.

And the list goes on. I pared those boxes down to about 80, which I still plan to go through some time soon.  Count on it.

Getting back one more time to storage units, one of the most amusing shows on TV is where buyers bid on abandoned storage units and then cash in on all the goodies that they find.

         Once I am gone, it would not surprise me if Nancy takes bids on my storage buildings as a way to dispose of all my “stuff,” once and for all.