Summertime: 90 Degrees Today

Second day of summer. Have to start watering the yard.  The flowers are blooming.  Lots of color.

A red poppy.


Peony in full bloom.

Late blooming azalea.

Blueberry bush ready to start picking. Net to keep bird freeloaders away.

A late Easter Lilly.


Branch of a white Kousa dogwood-flowers come after leaves are out.

Memorial Day 2023-Words in War’s Time

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, every day has been a “Memorial Day “ for a family somewhere in that country.

Four days ago Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a surprise commencement address to graduates of Johns Hopkins University by a live video link.

His country is in a war for its freedom.  Yet he took time to speak to 10,00 students and families of an American university’s graduating class.

The following are short excerpts from his ten minute speech in English.  They offer insight for how he views his leadership role.  These are words of discernment and character.

To the Johns Hopkins University Graduating Class of 2023:

Time is of the essence, and it is that essence that I would like to talk about today. One of the most common truisms on Earth is the advice to value, or at least not waste time. Why has it become so widespread?

Every person eventually realizes that time is the most valuable resource on the planet, not oil or uranium, not lithium or anything else, but time. Time.

The very flow of time convinces us of this. Some people realize this sooner, and these are the lucky ones. Others realize it too late when they lose someone or something. People cannot avoid it. This is just a matter of time. . .

Will you be able not to waste this time of your life? This topic seems trivial, but these are very, very difficult questions for every person. How you answer them is how you live. And while it is still possible to find new deposits of oil or lithium, and if in the future humanity can start mining resources in space, it is still purely science fiction to live longer than has been given. . .

Of course, I do not wish anyone to feel like they are in my shoes, and it’s impossible to give a manual on how to go through life so as not to waste its time.

However, one piece of advice always works. You have to know exactly why you need today and how you want your tomorrows to look like. You have to know this when you are a politician and have to achieve a certain goal for your country. You have to know this when you are a soldier and you have to defend your position so that the whole country is protected.

You have to know this when you just have to go through life. Sometimes, however, when you are young and when you are a student, you still need to waste some time. What is life without it? But only sometimes, and when no one else depends on you.

And I’m certain you, as your forefathers, will continue to lead the free world. And this century will be our century, a century where freedom, innovation, and democratic values reign. A century where tyrannies that repress their own and seek to enslave their neighbors will vanish from us once and for all.

But all of our tomorrows, and the tomorrows of our children and grandchildren, depend on each of our todays. On each of our todays.”  END of speech.

A Prophecy

From the Book of Haggai:  “The glory of this latter house  shall be greater than of the former. . .and in this place will I give peace.”

We  can pray that this is Ukraine’s destiny on this day of memories of lives lost in past and present wars.  Dona Nobis Pacem


Credit Union Leaders and Bravery-A Rare Combination

What does it mean to be brave?   Many people consider bravery an act of courage, often in the face of physical  danger.

At some point almost all credit union leaders will confront financial, personnel and political challenges.  Facing up to these, in most cases, is just part of the job.  Cooperative bravery I believe entails a very different character.

Aristotle believed that bravery was the highest of all virtues because it guaranteed all the others.  “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self. You will never do anything in this world without courage.”

Following the “Path of Least Resistance”

Bravery is rarely cited in conjunction with credit union activities.  For cooperative culture is based on  relationships.  Differences of opinion, whether major or minor, are resolved by following the path of least resistance.

That path in awkward situations may entail quietly resigning from  a position of responsibility.  Other times one may voice dissent but not formally oppose in deference to the “majority” view.

In cooperatives, it just makes life easier to get along, by going along.

Two Examples of Bravery

Courage can be especially important at critical decision points in an organization’s direction.  It is a “call” that can motivate after one’s formal professional role has ended.  A person responds, drawing from their life’s experiences and values, to a summons that others do not feel.

Two individuals of unusual bravery are retired CEO’s that took public and extended efforts to oppose the decisions of their successors.

These two people are David Keffer who retired from Cornerstone FCU in 2014  and Steve Post who retired from Vermont State Employees (VSE) in 2013.  In their executive roles. Dave was CEO for thirty-three years and Steve for twenty-four.

Their successor CEO’s were in their responsibility for two and six years respectively before initiating actions with their boards to end their credit unions’ independence.

Both retired CEO’s sought out family, former directors and officers, longtime members and community organizations to oppose the effort to cancel their credit unions’ charters.  Both organizations had served and earned the loyalty of over  three generations of members

The Vermont State Employees example is described in several posts written at the end of 2022.  The first describes the closest vote ever in a merger contest.  The follow up stories highlight the issues involved.

Votes Counted: Closes Election Ever

The Tragedy of the Commons: The End of a Movement?

If George Bailey were a Credit Union Member

The VSE Merger:  Will “Potters” Take Over the Movement?


The outcome of the Cornerstone merger contest in 2017 can be read here: Credit Unions As  a “Cornerstone” Of Freedom

This blog includes a link to The Committee for Cornerstone Indpendence, a Facebook page which contains a running record including videos from members opposing the merger. The vote took place  less than four weeks from the mailing of the member notice following NCUA rules at that time.

Both men and many of their supporters had devoted decades of their personal and professional lives to these local cooperatives.  The institutions successfully served their members through multiple economic cycles and business innovations.  As noted in the articles, both institutions were leaders in their communities achieving financial success whatever measure of performance one used.

What Bravery Looks Like

Both former CEO’s efforts to prevent the mergers by urging members to vote NO, lost.  One on a margin of less than 1% of votes cast.  At Cornerstone, the mail in ballots were in favor even though over two-thirds of members voted against at the required members’ meeting.

Why single out these retired individuals  as “brave” in openly opposing the merger plans of their immediate successors?

All of the odds for defeating the merger were stacked against them.  The current credit union rulers control all the financial resources, the members’ media channels and enticed employees  with future promises to support their plans.  They even claim to have received the regulator’s blessing.

The time to mobilize opposition before Cornerstone’s vote was very limited. In VSE’s situation the debate extended over several months.  The merger opponents had only their personal not institutional resources to draw upon.

Still working professional colleagues would stay distant at best, or be critical of their taking a stand abut the credit union “in retirement.”

So what motivated them to  to speak out, to organize and ask their fellow members reject these proposals?

Both men strongly believed the merger’s rhetorical statements misled members about any possible future benefits.  From their professional perspective, they understood that ending the charters was not in the members’ best interests.

The members received no merger benefit.  Their generations of loyalty and accumulated resources passed totally to the control of a firm with a different business plan and leaders with no connection to the existing credit union.  Or even a role in creating the accumulated wealth.

They saw the trust and goodwill of the members being taken advantage of. There was no immediate gain except for the leaders, who initiated the change.

Bravery: a Latent Capability

In life we will sooner or later encounter a situation where bravery is required.  We may risk reputation and resources to do what we believe is right.

These moments are rarely scripted, let alone anticipated.  There may not even be time to think about all the implications of taking a stand. Reaction can be as much intuitive as logical.

This “call” can arise from a lifetime of practiced belief. Or from witnessing the bravery of others responding to another of life’s ever unfolding equity challenges.

The motivation  emerges from one’s deepest beliefs, spoken or not.  It is the feeling that, “while ships are safe when in harbor, that is not why they were built.”

These two men took a stand when they perceived the values of the credit union members they served to be at a moment of maximum danger.  They were right.

Their point of view was formed from serving  members honorably for decades, not for just the length of a first employment contract.

Success In a Loss?

But they lost, so what kind of a “brave” example is this?   By circumstance bravery often requires confronting  superior power, a majority public opinion or even accepted protocols of behavior.

By opposing the merger plans, these individuals pointed to values much more vital than arguments for scale.  They believed that members’ best interests should be criteria for all decisions. Management’s ambitions are not the purpose of a credit union—that is the cooperative difference versus for profit options.

There is growing awareness that events such as these mergers are compromising the future of the movement and members’ trust.

These examples of principled opposition will inspire others.  Those who are now silent in the face of happenings with which they do not agree may take a stand: directors, employees, retirees or even those in regulatory roles.

What is the advantage of a cooperative charter if its supporters are not willing to pursue their democratic duty to speak up?

This capability is a learned skill, not one found in any person’s position description.

David Keffer and Steve Post retired from their jobs, not their principles.

Their standing up for their life’s work by opposing these mergers may be the cooperative example for which they will be most honored in years to come.



A Bit of Humor

With all the daily news about pending crisis– debt ceilings, immigration reform, banking failures, and numerous other government responsibilities– I believe it is time for some perspective.

Two engineers were standing at the base of a flagpole, looking at its top. A woman walked by and asked what they were doing
“We’re supposed to find the height of this flagpole,” said Steve, “but we don’t have a ladder.”

The woman took pliers from her purse, loosened a couple of bolts, and laid the pole down on the ground. Then she took a tape measure from her purse, took a measurement, announced, “21 feet,” and walked away.

One engineer shook his head and laughed, “A lot of good that does us. We ask for the height and she gives us the length!”

Both engineers have since quit their  jobs and gone into government.



A Weekend With Gershwin and Broadway

Dress rehearsal today.  Concert on Saturday afternoon.

Selections from State Fair, Desert Song, Oklahoma, Carousel, and a Gershwin medley.

Another op’in, another show.


My favorite  is the title song from Oklahoma.  A perfect way to inspire your day.


A High School Senior on Money Management

The MD/DC CU Foundation’s annual scholarship contest submissions were up 38% in 2023.  They give first hand insight into how this coming generation thinks about their money management challenges.

Leigh Philibosian, Director of the Foundation said 146 videos, 55 essays and 19 photos were submitted.  Each is a unique insight into the habits and thoughts of over 200  high school and college bound students.

An especially  candid and insightful one-minute video about money management and peer pressure is from the high school senior’s entry below.

This is a member the credit union community should prize!


What Would a “Prophet” Say to Credit Unions Today?

What were credit unions organized to do and to be?

Answering that never-ending question can be expressed as a vision or mission statement.  Sometimes the answer is a labelled a “calling.”  How does a coop know if it is fulfilling its destiny?

The Prophet’s Role

“The work of prophets is to warn, to warn people of the inevitable consequences of their foolish or immoral actions. It will be the end of the world as you know it, the prophets say, unless you rethink your current assumptions, values, and priorities, unless you become ready to change your way of life. Usually, the people don’t listen. “  (Adapted from Brian McLaren, “Weeping and Lamentation”)

April is Earth Month.  Tomorrow is EarthDay. One of the most well known prophets of our planet’s future is profiled in this documentary.


Prophets warn us, but many times few listen; when the inevitable consequences come, that is how a movement can be reborn.  Or else absorbed into the status quo.

Is there anyone with this gift in your credit union?  In the movement?   How would we recognize them?  Or are they just seen as trouble-makers?





American Pastimes:  Baseball and Credit Unions

The culture of credit unions-locally founded, community centered, volunteer led by committed fans-mirrors  the passion for baseball across America.

Recently I published the story of Day Air Credit Union’s support for the Dayton Dragons minor league franchise.  The team has the longest running consecutive sellouts of any professional sports team in America.

Credit unions are involved in the sport across the country.  From sponsorships of local Little Leagues to  university teams to minor league affiliations up to PenFed’s  support for the Washington Nationals, baseball and credit unions are natural allies.

Recently a baseball player at Springfield High (Illinois) where I graduated decades ago, wrote his thoughts on baseball’s lessons for life for the student newspaper, The Senator.  The author, Seth Impson, seems an excellent player based on his self description.

His thoughts about the sport show why baseball is often called The Game of Life.

Anyone who knows me knows I live for the game of baseball. There’s nothing better than the smell of pine tar and the sound of a ball hitting the bat. Nothing better than feeling the wind in your face as you round third base. Nothing better than dirt and dust flying everywhere as you slide into home. But it is more than just a game; baseball has taught me a lot about life.

  1. If it’s close, swing the bat.

Too many times in life fear keeps us from trying something new or different. We let opportunities pass us by because we’re afraid we might fail. Then later we wish we would have gone for it. In baseball, if a pitch is close, you have to take a chance and swing. It’s the same way in life– it’s better to give something your best shot and risk failure than to stand there looking while the perfect opportunity flies by.

  1. You’re only as good as the guys behind you.

I had a lot of success pitching last year. I struck out 79 guys, walked 17 and only gave up 54 hits. But I threw 65 innings. I faced 264 batters. Do the math- the guys on the field behind me made plays and got 114 guys out. Over 100 times, a batter hit the pitch I threw to him and someone else on my team made a play. Only 16 of those 264 players scored runs against us. Without those guys on the field with me, my season would not have been anything special. In life, surround yourself with people who have your back and will make those plays when you most need them.

  1. Practice makes better.

No, that’s not a mistake. I didn’t mean to say “practice makes perfect.” The fact is it doesn’t. No one can ever be perfect. There is always room for improvement. But if you put in the work, you will get better. Work each and every day to come further than you were the day before and bettering yourself. The goal of life is to make yourself a better person than you were the day before, baseball is the same way.  You will see growth.

  1. Don’t let them see you sweat.

There are moments in a baseball game where you find yourself under intense pressure. When your team is down by one with a runner on third and two outs and you’re up to bat. When you are on the mound about to face the best hitter in the conference. Whatever it is, you can’t let the other guys know you’re stressed. You can’t let someone else get in your head. Take a deep breath and focus on the task you need to accomplish.

  1. Failure builds character.

Baseball is a game of failure. In the MLB, a batting average of .300 or higher is considered good. That means a player gets a hit 3 out of every 10 tries. That also means 7 out of 10 times, that player gets out. On Tuesday I flew out, struck out and walked. I didn’t get a single hit. But the next day I hit two triples and a homerun.

In baseball, you will fail. Life is the same way. You just can’t let failure stop you from getting up and trying again, because the next day things might go your way and you’ll find yourself right where you want to be. This builds persistence and in every tough, successful person there are characteristics that sets them apart. Baseball brings out these certain things, builds them up and creates strong character. 


An Observation from a Chronicler of American History

Ken Burns: History has never repeated itself. There’s not been a single event that’s happened again.

To be able to perceive larger patterns, that’s our work in life. Why am I here? What is my purpose here? What is the meaning of life? These are the essential questions, but we’re distracted by all of these grievances.

Human nature is always the same. Greed and generosity, puritanism and prurience, virtue and vice, they’re always there. And they’re not just between you and another person. They’re within you and within me.