Posts Tagged ‘Capitol Hill’

In the Star Wars three-quel, Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader famously tells Luke Skywalker:  “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side” as a statement of finality and admission to the grim hold Emperor Palpatine had upon Vader’s life.  Fortunately, we know that all changed shortly thereafter.    Think for a moment on the power of those two lives within that fictional universe.  Darth Vader: innocent; chosen; hopeful; hoped in to bring balance to the Force and Justice to the Galaxy as one of the greatest Jedi Knights; powerful; eager; reckless; a Hero of humble beginnings; too self-aware; arrogant; prideful; discontent; susceptible; a deceiver and deceived; fallen; enslaved; instrument of tyranny; destroyer of millions; redeemed.   Luke Skywalker:   innocent; chosen; hopeful; hoped in to bring balance to the Force and Justice to the Galaxy; powerful; eager; reckless; a Hero of humble beginnings; humbled; learned; self-sacrificing; truthful; caring of friends and family; champion over evil; agent of redemption.  Two hyperspace lanes diverged in a star system…and Luke Skywalker took the one less navigated through.  Two lives, with such an effect on an entire galaxy and a far reaching legacy that bled over into (at least) the next generation.

Phil Coulson, Agent of the Strategic Homeland Intelligence Enforcement and Logistics Division (SHIELD), and supporting character in the Iron Man films and, more importantly, Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.    One man. No special abilities. A greater hero than the Avengers combined…because he combined them.  He believed in The Avengers, the heroes, when they didn’t believe in themselves.  His death served as “The Push” that was needed to coalesce the Avengers into the Family of Heroes the world needed them to be in order to defeat Loki and the Chitauri invasion.   Coulson knew a push was going to be needed and was at peace with and willing to have his death be that catalyst.  His sacrifice saved New York City – and the world – more than Iron Man’s willingness to fly the alien bomb into space.

This is all thought-provoking and inspirational pondering;  the type of fictional stories that inspire and spur on humanity; giving us hope the world will continue to spin on.  Such inspirational stories in real life are rarely like this and they involve homeless men, a wake, and telephone poles even less.  Nevertheless, one such story does involve a homeless man, another a wake, and yet another, a telephone pole of sorts.

Peter Bis lived on a bench near Union Station in Washington, DC.  Peter Bis was an institution on Capitol Hill. Peter Bis always referred to himself in the third-person.  Known by many on Capitol Hill as a friendly homeless guy who talked to everyone and actually remembered you, he recently passed away.  There’s actually a memorial spot under the tree near the bench he used to sleep on where people have been leaving flowers and messages (which I recently visited).  From interns to congressional power-players everyone knew him and often chatted with him.  I used to see him all the time when I was an intern with the Heritage Foundation seven years ago, as his “Sheldonian Spot” – long before there was a Sheldon Cooper – was less than a hundred feet from the front door of my intern housing that Heritage provided.  While saddened at his passing and the loss of this quirky institution of a man, I didn’t really grasp the extent that was Peter Bis until I realized that articles were written about him, in memorium, by National Review, The Washington Post, National Journal, and The Huffington Post (linking to a article in Roll Call).  The area that many consider to the the most powerful square footage in the world – as far as power, politics, and influence goes – has mourned the loss of a homeless man; a single life who spent most of his days on a park bench.  That’s inspiration.

A dear friend of mine will sometimes tell the tale of something that happened at his father’s wake years ago.  A young man arrived at the wake, one my friend had never seen before.  He slowly approached the casket and just stood there for what seemed an eternity.  Standing there, this younger man broke; the dam burst and the emotional flood water swept forth with great intensity.  My friend watched this both intrigued and mystified.  As the young man turned around and walked back down the aisle my friend asked him: “how did you know my father that it would produce such a reaction?”  The younger man explained:  “I didn’t have a Dad growing up and your father was the only man I ever knew who took time for me, who talked to me like a man, like a son, who invested in me; I’ve never forgotten that”   Therein was a life to emulate.

Telephone polls aren’t considered to be inspirational either but I happen to know one that is, it’s at Lake Ann Camp and I climbed it…and then jumped off.  Even though I’ve already told the story, it’s told from my point of view.  It isn’t told from the viewpoints of any of the thirty-plus people who watched it happen.  Recently one of the Reborne Rangers from Alpha Week 2012, Maggie Syme, posted a  picture to Facebook of what the scene looked like before my climb of that dastardly telephone pole.  The caption she included with the photo said “The most inspirational moment of my life; Thank you, Aaron Welty”  I saw  that photo – with that caption – and I was speechless.  Yes, I conquered The Leap.  Yes, it was hard – seeming near impossible at moments – but I’d been through tougher things; things I’d even talked about earlier that week.  In being taken so aback my this, I thought, and even said, “it’s not like I saved NYC from an alien invasion like The Avengers did.”  Later, Maggie told me that she cried long and hard after seeing me make that climb and leap because it had impacted her that much.  I’ll never forget, Katie Decker, another Ranger, leaning over my exhausted body as I lay face down on the ground, telling me “you just changed my life”.  At the end of the week, Josiah Wyse, whose incredible story I’ve also already  relayed, told me that there were two moments that week where I left him without words: one was bequeathing the lightsaber, the other was this climb.

This was a huge “lollipop moment” for some; a moment that was much more significant for them then it was for the one doing it, and it wasn’t a walk in the park for me at all.

Mind your surroundings, be aware of the power and impact of your life; be an inspiration to others and invest in them.

Reborn Rangers praying before I began my climb.

Capitol Hill is not an easy place to plant oneself.  The hours can be arduous and the scenarios frustrating.  It is in this nexus of power and ideology that staffers find themselves.  A lot of time can be spent working hard to sow ideas, meet objectives, fix problems, and fight injustices – with no guarantee that a resolution will come or if/when it does you will be there to see the sowing turn to reaping.  It is in this environment that the long view of events must be taken and the long game played, worrying not about who gets the credit or when the victory comes, but just working to ensure that outcome.

However, there are those rare times when the sowing turns to reaping during your time; today was one such day, and there hasn’t been a day like this for awhile.  In October of 2008, a hospital in my Home Congressional District in Michigan came to my boss and I asking for our help.  This hospital was contesting  that they had erred in a Family Medical residency program that the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Studies (CMS) had helped them get off the ground in 2004 to serve disadvantaged populations in Michigan.  I didn’t know anything about their plight then, but I learned a lot.   In short, if it was determined that this hospital had erred, the residency program would have to shut down and the funding from CMS paid back (and it wasn’t a small amount of money).  Over the next three years various attempts were made politically and legislatively to persuade CMS to admit there was no error on the part of this hospital; all of these attempts failed.  Late last year, the hospital took their case before a special review board hoping for a favorable decision.  In January of this year the review board ruled in their favor.  It’s important to note that the decision of this review board is non-binding, CMS does not have to comply with this decision if they do not wish to and 85%-90% of the time CMS does not.

Two weeks ago, after being involved in securing some congressional support for a letter being sent to the Acting Director of CMS regarding this issue, I worked to set up a call between my office and the Acting Director so that my boss could talk with the director.  Later that day I was told this call could not take place because of a special legal rule that prevented the Director from talking about the situation with this hospital while CMS was in the process of deciding to review the case or not to; if CMS decides to review the case, then the ruling of the review board is discarded.  A ruling on this case was not expected till early March.  At that point our efforts had reached a dead end and all options were exhausted.  I wrote one of the Sr. Execs at the hospital to let them know what was happening and that I felt there was little option left but to pray for a miracle – knowing full well that miracles are possible because I am a living example of that truth. So we began to pray (as did others, I later was told).

Today, all of that changed when I got a voice-mail to return the call of a individual highly placed within CMS.  I knew it had to be important if this individual was giving me a personal cell phone number to reach them.  During the call, I was told that CMS would NOT pursue the review of the hospital’s case, thus allowing the favorable ruling of the review board to stand.  I couldn’t believe what I had heard.  I was so shocked that my next words were “Are you serious, right now?” to which the answer was yes.  I asked a few more questions to make sure I understood things correctly and didn’t mishear or misinterpret something and hung up the phone.  Then I sat there, overwhelmed, and almost cried.  Did I mention that this was the hospital I was born in?  Almost thirty years ago, when things were dark and much seemed lost someone at this hospital stepped in to fight for me when others didn’t think I had a chance.  Almost 30 years later, I got to return the favor.

What problem are you the solution to?

This isn’t the first crazy thing I’ve prayed for and seen answered in spectacular fashion.  Before now, I’ve not really told the tale on the genesis moment for the FENX appearing on NBC Nightly News in September 2010.  It actually began two nights before I met Sheila Sears and her crew from the BBC.  It began one night in secret inside my apartment. During summer ’09 I was leading a small group of Capitol Hill staffers and interns from my church though a curriculum the church designed. One particular week, the subject of the study was prayer. At one point the study asked it’s readers to think and pray about something that they wanted to see God do in their life and sphere of influence, so I answered the first thing that came to mind “Lord, do something totally awesome with the FENX, you gave my Dad the skills to build it now use it to glorify Yourself”. I can’t tell you that I was serious about what I prayed, I just prayed what came. Sometimes we come up with these ideas and pray about them, wondering if it’s something God is really interested in. What I discovered was that God WAS interested in this idea, seriously, and I didn’t see it coming; I met the BBC crew two days later and was talking with the NBC producer a week after that (and readers of this blog know the rest of the tale).

What prayers of others are you the answer to?

Answer these two questions and you can begin to chase your destiny to a degree you never imagined.

“Now to Him who is able to exceedingly more than we can ask or think…” Eph. 3:20

Riding towards eternity,

Aaron

Life so far has been full of many crazy (some even fantastic – in the older sense of the word) adventures. As much as this shouldn’t surprise me considering I read things like Dune, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings – and thoroughly enjoy the TRON universe – many times it does. Worth is one of the greatest things humanity struggles with (both internally and externally; self worth and the worth of another) and I sometimes wonder if I am worthy of the adventure I find myself on. From a proper perspective of humility in relation to the Creator and Master of the universe, I’m not – but rather blessed to be on said journey.

Greatest amongst the recent adventures is obviously The FENX Project. I was reminded of this a few nights ago when I had dinner with Carl Sears and his wife Sheila. Carl is the producer behind the NBC News story on Dad, The FENX and I and his wife is the one who helped “discover” us on that late summer night in 2009 when I was driving home from the Capitol and her camera crew spied something coming toward them which they considered to possibly be a UFO, and in a sense the FENX was – in being an unidentifiable object flying past them. (To my friends to who secretly wonder if I’m really from somewhere else, here’s your shot but I am sorry to disappoint.) At dinner we shared memories of that night in July and the surrounding circumstances when it came to working on the NBC project together, such wonderful people. I shared with them a number of unlikely stories involving places like the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Capitol Hill, and reactions from Members of Congress. It occurred to me, as it has many times, that I don’t lead a regular life – even if it seems so normal to me. (I’ve the Creator and my family to thank for that.)

Carl and Sheila opened the door for me to something much bigger than I thought, helped me take my first step into a larger world – as a crazy old man once said. The few opportunities I’ve had to tell the saga of my own life and the FENX Project have been amazing. I’ve been fortunate to be able to tell it over radio waves and in front of the camera and I recently went in front of cameras again to tell the whole tale on an Emmy award winning TV show focusing on issues from a pro-life perspective. We talked about quality of life for individuals who from birth have had physical challenges and long term medical conditions and that quality of life is possible. My own story is proof, I am living breathing proof that pre-judgments made by medical professionals are not always accurate, for one cannot medically assess the human spirit and the drive to persevere which resides within. What’s more: when the Master of the Universe enters into such an equation to ignite the path of destiny within someone He took the time to knit together, all bets are off. It’s why every life matters, why those who are perceived to be “less” by society aren’t – because they have been crafted and gifted differently. I had fleeting moments growing up wishing I could play sports like my younger brother did because I wanted the experience, but also because I wanted to be like everyone else. Sometimes it’s hard to lay down the sword and admit a pursuit like that isn’t the best use of the time, talents, and energy you’d been given – in the end I ended up on Capitol Hill and that desire to be like others and not myself has long faded.

A friend of mine – and fellow fan of the Galaxy Far Far Away – recently told me he thinks that my time in front of a camera with Facing Life Head On is something I was destined to do. Don’t know if he’s right or not, but he probably is.

Some inspire others though their actions, others inspire people by their very existence – because the world thinks they shouldn’t, yet they do; shouldn’t be, yet they are.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron