Inspiration from Charles Wesley

Westminster Presbyterian Church
Westminster Presbyterian Church

Especially moving at this morning’s worship service at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church were these words of Charles Wesley in the anthem, “Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I Go:”

  • “Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go, my daily labor to pursue; thee, only thee, resolved to know in all I think or speak or do.
  • The task thy wisdom hath assigned, O let me cheerfully fulfill; in all my works thy presence find and prove thy good and perfect will.
  • Preserve me from my calling’s snare and hide my simple heart above the thorns of choking care, the gilded baits of worldly love.
  • Thee may I set at my right hand whose eyes my inmost substance see, and labor on at thy command and offer all my works to thee.
  • Give me to bear thy easy yoke, and every moment watch and pray, and still to things eternal look,
  • And hasten to thy glorious day; for thee delightfully employ whate’er thy bounteous grace hath given.
  • And run my course with even joy, and closely walk with thee to heaven.”
Rev. Charles Wesley
Rev. Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley (1707-1788) was an English Anglican clergyman and a leader of its Methodism movement that subsequently became the independent Methodist Church. He wrote many hymns for the church. He was the son of Samuel Wesley, an Anglican clergyman and poet, and the younger brother of John Wesley, also an Anglican clergyman and a co-leader of the Methodism movement.

Both Wesley brothers were graduates of Oxford University’s Christ Church College, where in the early 1960’s I attended lectures and saw their portraits in the College’s beautiful dining hall.

Many years later I  was walking near St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London and saw the Aldersgate Flame sculpture marking the spot where John Wesley on May 24, 1738, “felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

I should also mention a more direct and personal connection with Methodism. While in high school in the small Iowa town of Perry, I was a member of the local Methodist Church and active in its youth choir and MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship). I fondly recall our church being visited by five college students on a Youth Caravan to bolster our MYF and the caring and reserved pastoring by Rev. Arlie Krussell.

Howard Helvey
Howard Helvey

The music for the anthem was a Scottish melody arranged by Howard Helvey. Born in 1968, he is a composer, arranger and pianist and also serves as the organist and choirmaster of Calvery Episcopal Church of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Gratitude I

It is so easy to credit all of your successes to your own talents and hard work. I know that I too often do that.

Lately, however, I am pausing to acknowledge the many blessings in my life.

My mother and father, Marian Frances Brown and Ward Glenn Krohnke, were directly responsible for endowing me with good genes. They also were loving and nurturing, especially in my early years, and supporting my many activities through college and beyond. Although of modest financial circumstances, my parents were able to afford many of the creature comforts of American middle class life as I was growing up. I did not have to work to provide financial support for the family although in junior and senior high school I had part-time jobs to earn spending money and saving for college. My parents and I were in good health as I grew up with no major illnesses or accidents. I am grateful.

The public schools in my small Iowa home town of Perry did not provide many of the curricular and extra-curricular activities of private schools or large, prosperous suburban school districts in the rest of the country. Yet I had many excellent teachers who did not let me coast through school. The teacher I remember most fondly for this nurturing and challenging was Emma Hepker, who taught speech and English Literature. I also participated in speech contests, football, baseball, track and concert and marching band playing the e-flat alto saxophone. I often focused on the limitations of growing up in this small town far away from where things were really happening. But I can now see that there were benefits from this protective environment. I am grateful.

Grinnell College, the next stop on my educational journey, was challenging and enriching. My major was history with a lot of political science and economics. The professors were excellent, especially Joe Wall, Alan Jones, Samuel Barron, Richard Westfall and George Drake in history, Harold Fletcher in political science and Philip Thomas and John Dawson in economics. As a student at a small college I had the opportunity to participate in many activities, including intercollegiate baseball and football and student government. I am grateful.

In the midst of my Grinnell experience, I had one semester at American University on the Washington Semester Program. The focus was seminars and meetings with politicians, government officials and others as we learned about American government in our nation’s capitol. Professor Louis Loeb was the excellent leader of our group. Each of us also did independent research for a paper. My topic was the participation of political interest groups in the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of contempt of Congress cases, mostly coming from the House Un-American Activities Committee, which I thought itself was un-American. I spent a lot of time in the Supreme Court Library reading briefs of the parties and of amici curiae (friends of the court), usually the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Association of University Professors, and then comparing their arguments with the Court’s decisions. This was also the first time I had lived in a major city, and I thoroughly enjoyed its many cultural attraction. I am grateful.

After Grinnell, I had the tremendous privilege and honor of being a student for two years at the University of Oxford. There I studied or, as they say, “read” Philosophy, Politics and Economics. During the three eight-week terms of the academic year, each week I read suggested readings on two topics or issues and prepared essays for two tutorials, usually by myself, but sometimes with one other student. The tutors, especially John Sargent and Roger Opie in economics and Michael Hinton in philosophy, were warm and encouraging while pressing me onward. During the terms you could also attend university-wide lectures in the subjects while over the vacations or “vacs” you were expected to continue your readings in the three fields. At the end of my two years, I had university-wide examinations or “Schools” as they were given in a building called “The Examination Schools.” There were six required examinations (two each in the three disciplines) plus two optional subjects (mine were public finance and currency and credit). Each examination was three hours long, and you had to answer four questions from a printed list of about 12 questions. Your answers were then read and graded by a university-wide committee, and your overall grade or results were posted on the Oxford bulletin boards and published in the London Times. I am grateful.

I then returned to the U.S. for three years at the University of Chicago Law School. Whereas there was great student independence at Oxford, Chicago like most law schools had large classes with daily assignments, usually with professors grilling the students with questions about the cases or statutes we were studying. At the end of the semester there was the familiar practice of the course’s professor giving the final examinations. There were great professors at Chicago: Harry Kalven, Walter Blum, Francis Allen, David Currie, Philip Kurland, Phil Neal, Bernard Meltzer, Soia Mentschikoff and Kenneth Dam to name a few. I am grateful.

In 1966 I commenced practicing law with the Wall Street firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, probably the preeminent law firm in New York City. In my four years there as a junior associate, I worked on many interesting cases, usually with the “grunt” work. The senior lawyers for whom I worked helped me to “learn the ropes” of practicing law. Jack Hupper and Tom Barr were the most significant in that regard. I am grateful.

In 1970 my family and I moved to Minneapolis where I commenced what turned out to be a 31-year career with the law firm of Faegre & Benson (now Faegre Baker Daniels). Here too I worked with excellent lawyers who helped me develop my legal skills. I think especially of John French, Norman Carpenter, Larry Brown and Jim Loken; Jim is now a Judge of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. I am grateful.

After my retirement from Faegre in 2001, Professor David Weissbrodt at the University of Minnesota Law School asked me to help teach the international human rights course. I accepted the offer and did so for nine years (2002-10). I learned much more about this field of law and met many interesting students and faculty. I am grateful.

For all of these blessings, I give thanks to God and to those named and unnamed individuals who helped me along the way.

Perryite Laments Misuse of His Hometown by Michelle Bachmann

I grew up in Perry, Iowa. I know Perry, Iowa.[1] And Michelle Bachmann is no Perryite.

Last week she chose my hometown to sign a pledge to construct a fence on the entire U.S.-Mexico border and to criticize Texas Governor Rick Perry’s immigration policies or actions. She said she chose to do this in this Iowa town because its population is now 32% Hispanic due to a meat-packing plant in the town and because it just happens to have the same name as her Republican rival.[2]

When I was growing up in the town in the 1950’s there were no Hispanics and very few black people. It was a very plain “white bread” place. But it was not a town of bigots. It has produced many people who now live in the town and many different parts of the U.S. and the rest of the world and who quietly contribute to making the world a better place.

Mrs. Bachmann, quit spreading your views in Perry, Iowa and elsewhere! I am happy your campaign fundraising is falling off. Soon, I hope, you will be forced to exit the national stage.


[1]  Post: Growing Up in Small Town Iowa (Aug. 23, 2011).

[2]  Glover, Michelle Bachmann Pledges Border Fence with Mexico, Blasts Rick Perry Over Immigration, www. huffingtonpost (Oct. 15, 2011)(dateline: Perry, Iowa); Gabriel, For Bachmann, a Bid to Reconnect in Iowa, N.Y. Times (Oct. 17, 2011)(dateline: Perry, Iowa).

 

 

Growing Up in a Small Iowa Town

In 1949 my parents and I moved to my Dad’s home town of Perry, Iowa– 6,000 population only 40 miles northwest of Des Moines. My Dad bought an interest in the Perry Granite Works. My Mother soon thereafter started working as an assistant librarian at the town’s Carnegie Library and later became its Head Librarian.

I finished my last two years of elementary school in Perry followed by six years of junior and senior high school. Although there were not many optional courses in the schools, I did have math through trigonometry, physics, chemistry, speech, American and English literature, world history and social studies. I also took typing and at least one shop class. (The only foreign language was Latin, which I did not take because I was confident I would go to nearby Iowa State University to become an engineer and have no need for the language and because I was scared of Latin.) I had some excellent teachers; the ones I especially recall are Emma Hepker, Charles Bennett, Elsa Hay, Gayle Junkin, David Evans and Leonard Rossman.

I always did well in school and finished as the 4.00 valedictorian of my high school class of 62 members and as a member of the National Honor Society. I was a finalist for a National Merit Scholarship and National Honorary Society Scholarship. (Close, but no cigar.) The local Elks Club named my best friend and me “The Most Valuable Students” of our class, and he and I were the town’s representative at Hawkeye Boys State where I was elected Secretary of the mock Iowa Senate.

I was active in the Speech Club and served as its president my senior year. I won top honors in state contests in radio speaking and extemporaneous speaking. (There was no debate program.)

I lettered in football my junior and senior years. I played offensive and defensive end even though I was not very big (155 lbs.), tall (5’10”), fast or strong. One of my favorite football stories is about tackling the star running back on the team from Winterset (John Wayne’s hometown); I did not tackle low like you are supposed to do; instead I tackled him straight up; he was carried him off the field on a stretcher while I put my helmet back on and continued playing. The captain of the team my senior year was my best friend, who played center at 135 pounds. (A medical problem prevented my playing my freshman and sophomore years.)

I also lettered in track as a member of relay teams, and in the summer I played shortstop or second base on a local town baseball team. The “Perry Wildcats” we were called. After finishing high school, I managed the team one summer.

Another extracurricular activity was concert and marching band. I played the alto saxophone and occasionally was a soloist in concerts and state music contest.

Playing the tenor saxophone with me in the band was Norman Lewiston, who was a year ahead of me and a tall, socially awkward, farm boy. He, however, excelled in the sciences and was the valedictorian of his class. Later he became a respected physician and Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. After he died in 1991, each of his three wives discovered the existence of the other two. This real-life drama was made into a movie–The Man with Three Wives–starring Beau Bridges as Norman. The concluding scene in the movie has one of the wives returning to the farm just east of Perry and throwing Norman’s ashes to the wind.[1]

 

Perry Methodist Church

The local Methodist Church was another center of activity. I was in the Youth Choir and a member of Methodist Youth Fellowship, and its president my senior year. I fondly remember when our church was visited by five college students on what they called a Youth Caravan to assist the MYF programming. The senior pastor was Rev. Arlie Krussell, who was reserved in what seemed like an English manner; he urged me to go into the ministry.

In junior high, I had a newspaper route for The Des Moines Register. Later for several summers I detasseled seed corn in the area. I also worked as a sales clerk at a local men’s clothing store and did all sorts of jobs at my Father’s monument store. After I had a driver’s license, I drove the Perry Granite Works truck to local cemeteries to deliver and often install the monuments. I also learned how to sandblast the names and dates of birth and death of the deceased into the granite stones.

On Saturday nights my friends and I frequently would “shoot the drag,” i.e., drive in one of our cars up and down the few main streets of the town. We also had pork tenderloin sandwiches at “Sam and Chuck’s” restaurant at the east end of town or a “Maid-Rite” sloppy-joe hamburger at the town’s only franchise operation. (We had no pizza restaurant. One had to drive to Des Moines to get this delicacy.)

There were many aspects to life in this small town that were enjoyable. I seized the many opportunities it offered.

I was interested in politics back then. For example, The Des Moines Register reported that a high school teacher in northern Iowa had been fired for assigning certain books to his students. My letter to the editor protesting his dismissal was published in the same newspaper. Soon thereafter I started receiving letters and materials from the Young Communist League in the U.S.S.R.

I was growing up during the presidencies of Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. In the Fall of my senior year of high school I moderated a school assembly about the 1956 presidential election between Eisenhower/Nixon and Stevenson/Kefauver. As was true in Iowa and the U.S. as a whole, the Republican candidates won by a large margin in our mock election.

The Cold War overshadowed my high school years. The Korean Conflict ended in 1953 after “Ike” Eisenhower had pledged in his first campaign to go to Korea to end the war. Just before I entered high school, Joseph Stalin died, and Nikita Krushchev became the First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed for transmitting U.S. atomic secrets to the U.S.S.R. J. Robert Oppenheimer was charged with possible treason. There was open-air testing of atomic and hydrogen bombs by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. The Soviets crushed revolts in Poland and Hungary. The first nuclear-powered submarine and the first satellite–Sputnik–were launched.

In the U.S. civil rights issues were prominent. In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court issued its school desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In 1956 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., then 27 years old, organized a boycott of public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama while in Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus challenged the Federal Government over school desegregation in Little Rock.

It is perhaps difficult to appreciate now that television was new in these years. I remember when my parents bought our first small, black-and-white TV set. The first World Series I watched was the 1950 Yankees-Phillies match with Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Whitey Ford of the Bronx Bombers and Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts and Jim Konstanty of the Phillies. I also recall watching news of the Army-McCarthy Hearings of 1954 when the Boston lawyer, Joseph Welch, punctured McCarthy’s big ego.

Elvis Presley burst onto the national stage with such hits as “Love Me Tender,” “Hound Dog,” “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Jailhouse Rock.” I remember watching Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show, when the TV cameras were not allowed to focus on his shaking pelvis. Little did we know at the time that we were witnessing the start of an American cultural phenomenon.

In this and other ways, television was just starting to break down the sense of social isolation I felt growing up as an only child in a small town in Iowa, far away from where things were really happening–Washington, D.C. and New York City. Europe and the rest of the world were even farther away, places that I never thought I would visit some day. Iowa, of course, was (and still is) primarily an agricultural state, which did not have much status in the larger world. Nor did my Dad’s business. I did not want to be trapped into taking over this business although this was never mentioned as something expected of me. All of this produced in me a sense of being an outsider. This sense of isolation also helped motivate me to work hard at school as my way to escape this small town and its life.[2]


[1] Paddock, Doctor Led Three Lives with Three Wives: Polygamy: Stanford Professor never divorced and kept households with each of the women. Truth emerged after his death in August, L.A. Times (Oct. 14, 1991); The Man With Three Wives, http://www.fandango.com/themanwiththreewives_v467704/plotsummary.

[2] I already have mentioned my visits to eastern universities in the summer before my senior year of high school to explore the possibility of going there for college before I decided to go to Grinnell College. (Post: Selecting a College (Aug. 10, 2011).)