Randy Evans's blog

Many could be honored who aren’t traitors

The sun was drooping close to the tree line as the day wound down in southern Pennsylvania eight years ago.

A retired U.S. Army officer, now a historian, led a group of business people from across the nation – I was one of them – onto the hallowed ground there in Gettysburg. The national cemetery was our final stop on an afternoon-long, on-the-scene lecture about the great Civil War battle and the leadership lessons it teaches.

We had walked the fields and high ground where Union and Confederate forces squared off 149 years earlier. There were places with names like Pickett’s Charge, Little Round Top and the Peach Orchard.

As the day drew to a close, we gathered where President Abraham Lincoln stood four months after the battle to dedicate the cemetery. A total of 3,512 Union soldiers rest there.

Why are we tinkering with voting laws?

There have not been a lot of bright spots since coronavirus began sickening Iowans.

So far, 685 people have died in our state from the virus, and another 26,000 have been infected. Unemployment in Iowa is in the double digits. We have already begun hearing of business owners throwing in the towel and closing permanently.

But one thing has gone phenomenally well during the pandemic, and that was the primary election on June 2.

Which leads to this question: Why did the Iowa Legislature decide last week to tinker with the election laws in the closing hours before adjourning for the year? The changes amount to little more than a solution in search of a problem.

Public needs to see for itself how police act

There’s a quiz today.

How would the tragic death of George Floyd have been perceived if the encounter occurred on a deserted side street in the middle of the night, rather than on a busy street in a business area in broad daylight?

How would our understanding of the events have been different if there were no citizens around to record the scene on their cell phones and the only descriptions were the ones police officers provided?

What if the only visual record was on the body cameras worn by the officers?

The cell phone video is uncomfortable to watch. But viewers around the world have been transported right there cub-side in Minneapolis as a police officer, with his hands in his pockets, calming sits with a knee across Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while the life is forced out of the 46-year-old man.

In Iowa, the answers to my questions are troubling, too, unfortunately.

The benefit that comes from perspective

The shackles could not hold us. The Evanses cast them aside last week and traveled to Bloomfield and Cedar Rapids to visit our parents.

There are few social distancing concerns when you are standing quietly in a cemetery with your spouse, and your thoughts.

Every time I make the trip to Bloomfield and stop at the neatly tended expanse up the hill from the Fox River, there are many topics I wish I could chat about with Mom and Pop. Most would deal with family – what Sue and I have been up to, our two daughters, and how much we wish Mom and Pop could have the pleasure of knowing these delightful young women.

Last week, I found myself wishing I could talk about the coronavirus epidemic that has left everyone’s lives topsy-turvy.

Most of all, I wanted to ask Pop about the deadly 1918 influenza pandemic that he lived through. He was 9 years old when it struck.

Coronavirus secrecy erodes the public’s confidence

The relationship between government and the governed is a delicate arrangement, even in the best of times.

Government wants us to pay our taxes. It wants us to obey its laws and directives. Citizens, in turn, expect certain things from government, things like good schools, parks, law enforcement and protection of the public health and safety.

Trust and accountability are key elements in this arrangement between government and the governed.

It’s time to rethink Iowa’s business incentives

The coronavirus crisis has exposed the financial vulnerabilities of countless Iowa businesses.

Whether we like it or not, it will be touch-and-go to see how many come through this intact, how many will end up as shadows of their former selves, and how many will disappear.

It’s implausible that businesses will pick right up where they left off two months ago and proceed as if this were just an extended power outage.

That’s why our state needs to have its leaders – Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals, middle-of-the-roaders, big-city folks, small-town and rural residents – sit down for in-depth, comprehensive discussions about the way state government uses its economic assistance to help businesses.

Bail out U.S. Postal Service before cruise lines

It’s quiz time.

What arm of the federal government has the most contact with ordinary Americans, people like you and me?

Is it the Internal Revenue Service? Social Security Administration? The Food and Drug Administration? Or the Department of Agriculture?

Nope. Not that one. Not that one, either. None of those.

Amazing heroes in the fight against coronavirus

One of my memories, one that had been tucked away back where the cobwebs congregate, is from that day in 2004 when the oldest Evans daughter graduated from Saint Louis University.

The graduates crowded onto the arena floor for the commencement ceremony. They were grouped by their areas of study – business, education, arts and sciences, law, nursing, medicine, etc.

As each group of graduates was announced, those students rose and moved forward to receive their diplomas. When it came time for the School of Nursing, parental pride enveloped me over Sara’s achievement.

But I wasn’t expecting what happened next: As the nurses stood, another group of students stood at the same time, too, and began cheering. The cheerleaders were the soon-to-be-graduates of the School of Medicine – a new generation of physicians.

No guarantee leadership roles will produce leaders

Leadership is an elusive quality.

When we think of leaders, we often list people in leadership roles. They are the boss; they make the decisions.

But in reality, having a leadership role does not necessarily make those people true leaders. Someone once explained the distinction this way: “Actions, not words, are the ultimate results of leadership.”

There should not be a price tag to vote

Iowans take considerable pleasure in enumerating the various ways our state stands apart from the other 49 states --- beyond our endangered first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

For many years, we pointed with pride to the fact that Iowa’s high school graduation rate was tops in the United States.

We like to remind friends from other states that Iowa farmers produce more corn, hogs and eggs than farmers anywhere else.

Sports fans beamed over the University of Iowa wrestling team’s success from 1978 to 1986, when the Hawkeyes won the NCAA title a record nine consecutive times. That is a longer string of NCAA team championships than any other Division 1 university in any other sport.

But there’s another category where Iowa stands atop the 50 states, and this one should embarrass us instead of filling us with pride.


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