Category Archives: Interesting people

What’s Become of the American Dream?

American Dream

Peggy Noonan writes a wonderful piece in the Wall Street Journal. Click  “What’s Become of the American Dream?” to read the article.

Much in Noonan’s piece brought me back to the memoirs of Sam Jankovich which I have just finished editing and publishing.

A couple of excerpts from Noonan …

“ … The American dream is the belief, held by generation after generation since our beginning and reanimated over the decades by waves of immigrants, that here you can start from anywhere and become anything. In America you can rise to the heights no matter where and in what circumstances you began. You can go from the bottom to the top.  … “

The picture at the top is the last page of the memoir, and shows one such person who has gone “from the bottom to the top” in the literal sense of from a mile deep mine shaft to presenting a national championship game ball to the President of the United States.

Noonan further writes:

“ … The American dream was about aspiration and the possibility that, with dedication and focus, it could be fulfilled. But the American dream was not about material things—houses, cars, a guarantee of future increase. That’s the construction we put on it now. It’s wrong. A big house could be the product of the dream, if that’s what you wanted, but the house itself was not the dream. You could, acting on your vision of the dream, read, learn, hold a modest job and rent a home, but at town council meetings you could stand, lead with wisdom and knowledge, and become a figure of local respect. Maybe the respect was your dream.  … “

Click on the book cover below and take a look at Sam’s story.

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          (Click on the cover above)

As Noonan further writes:

“ … You can give a dozen examples, and perhaps you are one, of Americans who turned a brilliant system into a lived-out triumph. … “

And I do know of a number other examples.

 

Don Johnson – April 2017

Make Your Bed!

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(Click above to read the review)

I’ve been making our bed almost daily since somewhere near when Adm. McRaven first gave his speech back in 2014. I like to remember that I started this habit shortly before that now famous speech, but am willing to admit that the Admiral was most likely my motivator. After all, he is the admiral and me a lowly enlisted guy.

In any case, read this review, and better yet read the book. Who knows, perhaps you will start making your bed as well.

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From the Wall Street Journal review of the book … 

Reset Your Life in an Hour

www.wsj.com |

Never give up. Always maintain optimism. We’ve all heard these lessons before—but not from the man who led the bin Laden mission. John Nagl reviews “Make Your Bed” by William H. McRaven.

Navy Seal trainees lock arms in the Pacific during Hell Week. Photo: Getty Images

By

John Nagl

April 3, 2017

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald was completely wrong when he suggested “there are no second acts in American lives.” If America stands for anything, it is reinvention, renewal and second chances. Take the Navy SEAL who oversaw the most important manhunt in history and rose to command all of U.S. Special Operations Forces. What did he do for an encore? Only give the most successful college graduation speech in history—at his alma mater, the University of Texas, wearing Navy dress whites.

In “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life . . . and Maybe the World,” retired Adm. William H. McRaven admits that he was nervous before the address in May 2014. He was afraid that contemporary college students wouldn’t welcome a military man, even one who had once been, just like them, a slightly hung-over Austin senior eager to graduate and get on with life. They loved his speech, and word spread. It has been viewed more than 10 million times online, and Mr. McRaven has expanded the talk into a little book that should be read by every leader in America.

The motto of the University of Texas is “What starts here changes the world.” Mr. McRaven’s book provides instruction on doing 10 little things that aren’t little at all. His first suggestion is to make your bed every morning, because when you accomplish one thing early in the day, you’ll be motivated to achieve more—even if you aren’t having the quality of your work tested by a Navy chief petty officer with a quarter.

If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle, he goes on, because you can’t accomplish much on your own. And always measure a person by the size of his heart, not by his physical size, skin color, creed or anything else. Tommy Norris, the last SEAL to earn the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, was nearly booted out of SEAL training for being “too small, too thin, and not strong enough.” He proved a giant among men when he infiltrated deep behind enemy lines on successive nights to rescue downed airmen.

Some of the lessons won’t make perfect sense at first. “If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.” A sugar cookie is a wet SEAL trainee who has rolled himself in sand as punishment for some infraction of the rules—or for no reason at all, purely at the whim of the instructor. Life isn’t fair is Mr. McRaven’s point, and that’s no reason to cry. Keep going, even if there’s sand in every crevice of your body.

Embrace your failures, because every life has them, and what you learn will make you stronger. Dare greatly, because life is a struggle, and without challenges you’ll never know the limits of the possible. Stand up to the bullies, whether they are sharks circling you as you swim (sharks literally circle you in SEAL training during the deep-water swims) or Saddam Hussein. The latter was detained under Mr. McRaven’s watch for 30 days after his capture, and the SEAL firmly broke the deposed dictator’s self-confidence. Dig deep and rise to the occasion when all seems lost, whether working underwater in absolute darkness or responding to the deaths of those you lead in combat.

Mr. McRaven believes that good leaders are optimists even in the darkest times and make their teams believe in a brighter day. This is one of the best lessons of the book, illustrated by a story about Marine Gen. John Kelly, the current secretary of Homeland Security. Mr. Kelly’s son Robert was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010, and when a Special Forces helicopter was shot down killing 38 in Afghanistan in 2011, he was the right man to comfort the families. “More than any other visitor that day,” writes Mr. McRaven, “Kelly’s words resonated with every parent, every wife, every brother and sister, and every friend.” He had lived their pain and could give them hope.

Make Your Bed

By William H. McRaven
Grand Central, 130 pages, $18

Finally, never, ever quit. One hundred and fifty SEAL candidates began Basic Underwater Demolition School with Mr. McRaven in 1978; 33 graduated. As tough as these survivors were, even stronger was an Army Ranger named Adam Bates, who lost both of his legs to a land mine in Afghanistan but a year later was standing tall in his dress uniform on prosthetic legs and challenging his Ranger buddies to a pull-up contest. If Ranger Bates wouldn’t quit, which of us has an excuse?

These are not complicated lessons; we’ve all heard them before. But we haven’t heard them from the man who led the bin Laden mission. And we haven’t had them illustrated so memorably with stories from SEAL training, universally regarded as the most difficult course in the U.S. armed forces, or from a 35-year career leading men in combat.

Eight months after giving the talk that spurred this book, Mr. McRaven became the chancellor of the University of Texas System, overseeing 14 institutions with more than 200,000 students. There he has continued to demonstrate the courage, wisdom and spirit of service that he extols in “Make Your Bed.” In January, he released a statement decrying President Trump’s executive order on immigration, stating “that the talent, energy, and ideas flowing into the United States of America . . . from countries around the world are among our greatest strengths. The men and women who show up at our shores and our doors—ready to study, work, and participate—make us stronger, smarter, more competitive.” Reading that statement makes one hope for a third act in Mr. McRaven’s life, one that would affect the largest number of Americans.

“Make Your Bed” is a book you can read in an hour. It is a book to inspire your children and grandchildren to become everything that they can. It is a book to discuss with your executive leadership team as a spur to meeting shared goals. Most of all, it is a book that will leave you with tears in your eyes as you ask yourself: How does this nation find men and women like Tommy Norris and Adam Bates and William McRaven, who willingly risk their lives and their limbs to keep us safe and to protect our way of life?

Follow their example. Dare greatly. Don’t ever give up. And make your bed!

Mr. Nagl is the headmaster of the Haverford School. A retired Army officer, he is the author of “Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War.”

Appeared in the Apr. 04, 2017, print edition as ‘Reset Your Life In an Hour.’

 

The Man In The Box

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I’ve just finished editing and publishing the memoirs of a remarkable man — Sam Jankovich.

Sam told me today that he feels bad because I am spending so much time on this project.  And this is what I told him:

Don’t feel bad Sam. I look at this project as a blessing. There are so many stories out there – we all have them. Many  pass through this world … people close to us …  and all we have of them is a box full of old photos in a closet– if that. I would love to know more of my dad, an immigrant from Norway who came to this country at age 19, along with a younger brother  17,  and friends from the old farm country of Norway.  Most settled in Butte and Spokane, but little is known of their life, either back in the “old country” or here in the US in those days.

What did my dad & mom think of FDR, Hitler, Stalin – the great depression – World War II? How did they learn English, What was it like in the early days in a brand new country?  Was he one of those dreaded “liberals” or “conservatives” Don’t really know.

So when someone like yourself comes into my life like you, with a compelling and interesting life, I’m all ears and eyes. You are of that “greatest generation,” and I want to know more – and I want others to know. You are a man of great character and I’ve learned from your life.

Yea – I’ve missed a few soap operas and movies along the way, perhaps missed a few golf rounds (I don’t golf). But I’ve gained a dear friend in the process.

So thank you for being a blessing to me. Thank you for letting me peer into your life – sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, place to place.

Your Typoist,

Don

Sent from Mail for Windows 10

From: Sam Jankovich
Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2017 6:05 PM
To:
Don Johnson
Subject:

Thanks for the call I feel so badly you are putting so much time into this project. I will get you names of key people tomorrow then on Monday. Most of the people at WSzU have passed. Thamkd

#RESIST

(Note: matt in a comment, and in a not so subtle way, reminded me that it’s not just the military #resisters who have accomplished great things in the life of American liberty. I have added some examples below: abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, right to life and the labor movement. Perhaps I’ve left out a few.  Is the  ‘pussy hat’  movement on a par in advancing liberty in America? You decide.)

_________________

Perhaps the oldest and most effective #RESIST movement in world history is the Christian movement. I speak particularly of the Christian Missionary movement.  Dating back to the Apostles like Paul, #RESISTing not with violence, marches and the sort, but with presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a way out of the slavery sin, and ultimately in centuries to come, the abolition of real physical slavery in many parts of the world.

The folks shown below are pushing back and #RESISTing much oppression in the world – the oppression of hunger, disease, slavery and poverty.  And, they are doing this on a long term daily basis.

As Paul said “ There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That is to say all are equal in God’s eyes. Slavery as an accepted cultural and governmental policy has been eliminated throughout much of the world thanks to the efforts of such Christians as William Wilberforce, a member of the British Parliament in the 18th century,  and the Abolitionist #RESISTers in the United States during the 19th century. However, slavery is still prevalent in much of the world with an estimated 45,000,000 slaves  throughout the world today.

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So I repeat here what I say at the end of this piece – a bit of advice. Aim your protests in words and ways that stand shoulder to shoulder beside our founding fathers who gave us the privilege of being among that 4-5% living in freedom.  

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”   Ronald Reagan

Be among those who keep us from falling into that 95-96% that President Reagan warned about.

Match up what the Apostle Paul said “ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  with what our American founders said “We the People … “

____________________

Now I continue with my original post:

To all you brave ‘pussy hat’ wearing patriots, let me show you a few patriots who joined a resistance movement against real enemy threats when it really counted.

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And there are other n0n-military #resisters from the past addressing  consequential American policies and laws that were contrary to “ … all men are created equal …”  Thanks to these #resisters, those policies and laws have been corrected in law and in the Constitution, although not necessarily in the hearts and minds of everyone.

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civil rights march

 

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And then there is the labor movement.

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strike2

 

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A reminder, or maybe a news flash to some, about those #Resisters you see above …

These folks #resisted true tyrants, true fascists, true Communists   during that terrible time we look back on as the 20th century. Those Communists some of you seem to pine and long over … they killed something on the order of 100 million people, most of them their own fellow citizens.

The descendants of those folks you see above,  … our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters … our friends — stepping up in their own #Resist movement represent something on the order of 1 or 2 percent of our population. Their purpose in #Resisting? To protect you and me in todays still dangerous world.

You may not realize or appreciate, but of the 100 to 110 billion people that have ever lived on this earth, anywhere and at any time, only a small sliver of perhaps some 4 to 5% have ever lived in what we today enjoy as a free society.  Further, most of those 4-5%  have lived in this United States of America, or those nations who have modeled their national political life after the American model of “We the People …

I for one am immensely grateful for those in our past and to those now serving in our military … the #Resistance. As a US Navy slogan puts it … “A Global Force For Good”

___________________

Women's_March_on_Washington_(32593123745)10 Actions _ 100 Days - Action 5_ Reflect & Resist

I said it as a young 20 year old sailor in 1964, and I’ll say it again now.

“I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

And I don’t agree with much of what is said in the “resisting” rhetoric on display, and certainly not in the many extra/anti-Constitutional methods employed, but I do support your Constitutional right to say your piece and assemble and petition our government.  

A final bit of advice. Aim your protests in words and ways that stand shoulder to shoulder beside our founding fathers who gave us the privilege of being among that 4-5% living in freedom.  

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”   Ronald Reagan

Be among those who keep us from falling into that 95-96% that President Reagan warned about.

 

Don Johnson  — March 2017

Phone Calls I Don’t Like To Make

DiAndGeneBeckstrom

Perhaps it’s my age.

In recent years I’ve been accumulating some new friends, like Gene Beckstrom above.

I met Gene a few short years ago at a Navy ship reunion in 2013. Gene was a WW-II Navy veteran who served from 1943-46 on one of those small destroyers – they call them “tin cans” because that’s kind of how they are built. Fast but fragile when under attack by enemy ships or a howling sea.  But the young men aboard were as tough as steel.

Then in 1946 Gene joined the Army, and in June 1950 his unit was called to the Pusan Perimeter to stave off the North Korean invasion of South Korea. Gene was  a Combat Engineer and fought that brutal war up and down the Korean peninsula.

Gene served 20 years in the Army, including a short stint in Vietnam.

On retirement Gene went back to school and became a Baptist pastor serving the northern Minnesota border region where he and his wife started 19 ministries over a 25 year span.

You can’t help but fall in love with these guys … these guys from that “greatest generation.” They saved freedom in the world by pushing back … by resisting  the tyrannies of their day.  Pushing back and resoundly defeating Fascism, Nazism and Communism.

I put Gene on my call list and would call him now and then. Around Christmas time I got my phone out to call a few of these old friends. I knew that one of those times I would dial and there would be no answer.

As I picked up my phone, Gene’s was the first number. I knew and was thinking it at the time I dialed “one of these times I would call and Gene wouldn’t be there.”

These are the Phone Calls I Don’t Like To Make.

SamThomas1SamThomas2

Sam Thomas served on the USS Porterfield DD-682 with Gene Beckstrom through those many sea battles of the South Pacific. I met Sam at that 2013 ship reunion.

Sam, as far as I can tell was the founder of the Balch/Porterfield reunion association and had attended 40 straight reunions to 2015. He called me a month or so prior to the 2016 reunion and told me his body just wouldn’t allow him to make 41.

I talked with Sam just after learning of Gene’s passing late in 2016, and then again just a week or two prior to his passing in January 2017.  A real gentleman … a friend and a shipmate although we served on Porterfield two decades apart.

These are the Phone Calls I Don’t Like To Make.

Bitter-sweet friendships. Sweet in knowing them … bitter in knowing the friendship would be short.

Don Johnson – March 2017

Sam Jankovich–A Butte Kid Does Well

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“ … I worked in the Leonard mine which was the turning point of my life. I was put in a tunnel and was scared to death. I thought for certain I would not get out alive. I came home and told Patty that if I had to work in the mine we were going to starve. … “

How did this young man, a hard rock miner from Butte Montana, rise from the depths of a mine tunnel to one day stand beside two Presidents and among two National Championship college football teams? From a dirty and dangerous mine to stand beside Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde and coaches of the caliber of Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson? How did this young man rise from that dark, cold mine shaft to become Chief executive Officer of the New England patriots? How did this man expand a football stadium in Pullman Washington from 24,000 to 39,000 seats – with no cost to the tax payer?

Sam Jankovich came to the surface of the Leonard mine and rose to the top of his chosen profession of athletics. From state championship teams in Butte — to assistant coaching at universities in Montana and Washington — to Athletic Director at Washington State and the University of Miami – to CEO of the Patriots. All along the way earning induction into the Halls of Fame of these institutions.

As the editor of Sam’s memoirs I learned the answers to these questions. Sentence by sentence – paragraph by paragraph – page by page – place to place. I found the answers in words like ‘character’, ‘loyalty’, ‘quality’ and ‘consistency’ bubbling up from the pages. I began to see the character of the man as golden threads woven through the fabric of his life and career. Part of the fabric and yet distinctly visible.

The story of Sam Jankovich is in these pages, but it is not a story of “I”. Rather, it seems subsumed and surrounded by the many stories of the “others” of Sam’s life. You will run across constantly recurring phrases as “… a wonderful man” “ … a wonderful person” “… a dear friend”, “a wonderful woman”

Sam Jankovich is one of the “old timers” I’ve become acquainted or reacquainted with in recent years. Others, along with their stories, have come to me from my US Navy past — some from that “Greatest Generation” of World War II, Korea, the Cold War and Vietnam. One of my Navy shipmates, and a friend, is a refugee from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and a three tour Vietnam veteran. Another is a Navy veteran of those many World War II sea-battles in the South Pacific — followed by infantry combat in that very brutal Korean War.

These folks who have lived such consequential lives, and have left behind recollections of their lives, deserve to be remembered. That is why I have become passionate in doing what I can to further those remembrances.

I hope you enjoy the story of one such consequential life – the life of Sam Jankovich.

 

(Click on the book cover below to find Sam)

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Don Johnson – typoist and editor of Sam Jankovich

I Wouldn’t Have Done It That Way

It’s Christmas time again — OH GREAT!! All that Jesus stuff and all.

Ya know King of Kings … savior of the world … Oh little town of Beth… all the glitz and glamor … GIVE ME A BREAK!!!

But have you ever heard about the birth and life of this man called Jesus? I mean the backwoodsy place where he was born, his sordid family history, what his childhood might have been like … and more?

Take a listen to this message and be prepared to hear about the man who would and did and does identify with all of us … no matter our station in life and no matter how lowly we may think of our self.

Click on the image below and then view the sermon — “I wouldn’t have done it that way” to get a glimpse of the man we call Jesus.

http://blackrock.org/im-new/sermons/i-wouldnt-have-done-it-that-way/

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