In the morning before the rain came, I did some tractor work on our five acres, planting new life.
As I pause on my seventy-first birthday to look back upon my life, I wish there was some way that I could communicate to all West Pointers, past and future, how richly blessed my life has been, and how much of that richness includes the lessons that I learned at West Point.
To say that my life has been fulfilled would be an understatement. I have accomplished every major life dream that I have ever had, with the exception of two, and I have partial accomplishment of both of those. Most importantly, I know that I am loved, and that I have given a great deal of love. I have Suzi, and four magnificent adult children, all four of whom are happily married, have good jobs, own their own homes, and all have at least one beautiful child. I have seven grandchildren and one more on the way. For an old father and grandfather, there is no greater blessing than this.
Later in the day, I worked on my latest book, which is important for me to finish before the end of my life, because it's mainly for the benefit of one of my grandchildren. By the way, I already have eight published books, and I know that at least two of them have had a positive impact upon the world.
I still have an active law practice. I also find great joy in teaching two Business Law courses at the local college. I sneak important life lessons for my students into the course material, and that gives me great joy.
At seventy-one, I still have dreams about West Point from time to time. I still miss my company classmates. I still hear the distant drums.
I ran for public office three times. Lost the election every time. But learned amazing lessons about relationship to community that I'm not sure that a military brat like me could have learned any other way. I'm glad that I ran. And I'm glad that I had an influence upon my community and upon my Country.
Here is the thing that I wish that every West Pointer could know: as far as my particular class of magnificent cadets goes, I was just a cadet of average, or perhaps even less than average ability. I did excel in a few things, like military leadership and athletics. But in academics, I barely made it through my plebe year, I was a goat in the goats and engineers football game. And I graduated near the bottom of my West Point class.
Interesting that what I learned at West Point was enough so that later, I graduated number two in my law school class at one of the toughest law schools in the Country. Maybe it was what I learned about discipline.
Of course, I had an incredible amount of help with law school. When I first got to law school, feeling way out of my league, and very worried, one of my West Point Company G-2 Classmates, Phil Lower, was a year or two ahead of me in the same law school. It was Phil who showed me how to study the law, how to write a good law school exam, and how to understand what was needed to succeed in law school. He was so generous. It was the same kind of generosity that I received from the brilliant upperclassman in my company who tutored me through my first set of calculus exams in my plebe year, when I was in serious danger of failing.
I learned many wonderful life lessons at West Point, but generosity was one of the sweetest of those lessons. And I have done my best to give generosity back into the world in accordance with that which I have received. And in large part because of my doing that, I have had an astoundingly happy and fulfilling life.
We sign off in the Class of 1971 with "PD", which is short for our class motto, "Professionally Done."