Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 is a wrap...

"We're going to have a good time and share a few laughs" was all I was told in advance about a recent day-long Dale Carnegie-style seminar I was to attend.  That, however, was not a forecast of why I should give up a day for it, or what it would be about.  But it proved true - and worth it.

The same could have been said about 2013.  It came and went with a lot of whimsical decisions, some good times and a laugh or two.

Perhaps the highlight: This summer our good friends Dan and Laurie Briggs and their kids went to Europe and we decided we couldn't miss the chance to meet them in Paris, and fulfill one of Caroline's dreams. And, we would stay in a flat across the street from the Louvre.  And, of course, would follow Caroline's lead to La Tour Eiffel.  Which is how we wound up in this completely ridiculous photo of the troupe capped in berets, 1100 feet above my comfort zone (at about the same white knuckle height for static line parachuting out of a plane).  The trip was a two week whirlwind of all the stuff kids are supposed to see vacationing in Paris, more museums than patience allows and a stunning number of broken milk glasses.

Caroline (11) caught her stride this year at Exploris Middle School, an intimate academic environment steeped in experiential learning.  Every week includes a hands-on component at NC museums or the like in downtown Raleigh.  Two weeks ago, we joined a pilgrimage to Pocosin National Wildlife Refuge outside Plymouth for a closeup visit with migratory birds, river otters and over a dozen bears (oh my!).  It is a measure of success when the chief disappointment was wolf tracks... but no wolf encounter.  Guess we'll have to go back.  Caroline otherwise continues to revel in art and animals -- and is a proud parent in her own right: to Dasher, the chinchilla.  In the spirit of catching a stride, Caroline has taken up the family pass-time: thumbs up from our new runner!

Will (10) played another season of CASL soccer before turning his attention to Scouting.  He seems to be getting a lot of fellowship out of the experience, is plugging away on activity badges and has been dubbed "squirrel" (which is truly an honorific) -- I, on the other hand, have been overcome with waves of nostalgia remembering all of the incantations and recitations.  Will is also plugging away at Wiley Elementary, clearly also enjoying fellowship there (and a few classes).  Among his friends is other-Will (a/k/a "Will D").  Thanks to a visit to Will D's house one Friday afternoon, when we're in Raleigh, we now live across the street from he and his family... and every morning, Will C and Will D can walk to school together (images of Norman Rockwell...)

The adults keep doing adult things: Elizabeth has grown the NC New Teacher Support Program -- now consisting of over 1200 first year teachers, paired with over 40 master teacher/mentors.  The Program is delivering real, demonstrable success in some of North Carolina's most challenged schools.  But it remains to be seen whether the State's current leadership will continue it after this year.  She continues to run.  And run.  And run.

Professionally, I continue to practice law and am particularly proud of the incredible efforts of the folks at WasteZero, which is partnering with municipalities all over the US, cutting trash and creating the most effective recycling incentives in the country.  In the Army Reserves, I transferred to the 134th Legal Operations Detachment, reconnecting with many long-time friends and meeting some great new soldiers.

Finally, in two fits of whimsy around my 40th birthday this summer, I found a cheap sailboat and a twenty-five year old Jeep to haul it.  Perhaps in the Spring, Liz will agree to get in the boat.  And, the kids will agree to stay in it when we're in the middle of the lake (thanks life jackets).

And, while we've expressed our fair share of disgust at a lot of ugly politics this year- in Raleigh and Washington, we continue to believe in the power of public service to improve the lives of people.  And we continue to add to the community woodpile in quiet and meaningful ways.

The new year will certainly bring many long days, and a fair share of challenges, but we'll continue to be sustained as a family by having had "a good time and sharing a few laughs" in 2013.  We hope the same for you and yours -- and we look forward to what comes next.     -Cal

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Closing Argument: The Choice for Veterans and Military Families

For the past six weeks, I have been traveling North Carolina talking to folks about what the President has done for veterans, military families and our nation's security.  Our "Veterans for Obama" group concludes with this Op-Ed:

Beneath the uniform worn by every member of our nation’s armed forces lies a unique story. That is the beauty and strength of our military:  it allows Americans from all walks of life to serve their country honorably and rise through the ranks without regard to their status in society.

As members of North Carolina’s Veterans and Military Families for Obama Leadership Council, we represent different personal backgrounds, different branches of the military, and different generations of service. Of all the issues that have been debated in this campaign, there are few on which we all agree. But on November 6, we stand united in calling on our fellow veterans and military families to send President Barack Obama back to the Oval Office for a second tour of duty as our Commander-in-Chief.

Over the past four years, this President has demonstrated he possesses the qualities it takes to be an effective leader. He has kept his word to those who wear our nation’s uniform abroad, and he has kept his promises to them when they return home, recognizing that our support for them cannot end when the conflicts of the day fade from the headlines.

For our troops serving overseas, the President kept his promise to end the war in Iraq. He’s bringing the war in Afghanistan to a responsible end. And Osama bin Laden can no longer threaten the United States.

Just as importantly, he has also kept his faith with the latest generation of heroes as they return home to Fayetteville and other military communities across the country.  The President believes that no one who has fought our enemies abroad should have to fight for a job at home, so he introduced tax credits that encourage businesses to hire returning veterans and improved training programs. He also proposed a Veterans Job Corps that would put up to 20,000 veterans to work protecting their communities and preserving our natural resources.

The President has implemented and improved the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which helped nearly 16,000 North Carolina veterans pay for a college education last year. Of course, the President knows that it’s not just service members who sacrifice to keep America safe; their families also bear the burden. That’s why the new G.I. Bill allows veterans to transfer their benefits to spouses and children.

The President also believes that anyone who has fought for America deserves access to the best health care our nation can provide, for wounds both visible and invisible. On the President’s watch, the VA has expanded eligibility for benefits, streamlined the claims process, and hired 3,500 new mental health professionals.

Now, Romney is proposing a similar approach for the entire country. Last Veterans’ Day, Romney suggested turning VA medical care into a voucher program, and the Romney-Ryan budget could cut the VA by nearly 20 percent. That’s not the kind of support we need or expect.

On November 6, the choice for North Carolina’s veterans and military families is clear. We should keep moving forward with a strong and steady Commander-in-Chief who understands our concerns and has had our backs since the day he took office. That Commander-in-Chief is President Obama.

Former State Sen. Cal Cunningham of Lexington is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom

State Rep. Grier Martin of Raleigh is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan

State Sen. Eric Mansfield of Fayetteville is a veteran of Operation Allied Force in Kosovo

Mayor Chris Rey of Spring Lake is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom

City Councilman Randy Stagner of Raleigh is  a veteran of Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia and Operation Iraqi Freedom

City Councilwoman Val Applewhite of Fayetteville is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force

Rye Barcott of Charlotte is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the author of “It Happened on the Way to War”

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Message from Our Family: Amendment One


Dear Friends,

Amendment One won’t solve a single one of the challenges facing our State. And on May 8th, we have a chance to vote NO.

Rather than educating our children, repairing our economy or preparing our State to compete in a 21st Century workforce, this is radical attempt to amend our State Constitution.

They say it is about protecting marriage – but that’s not true. In their haste to write discrimination into the North Carolina Constitution, Amendment One has real, unintended consequences for families.

Please take a look at this video message from Elizabeth and I on why we oppose Amendment One and join the effort to defeat it.

Amendment One undermines health care and prescription benefits for children and committed couples. It undermines domestic violence laws. And, it makes it harder to recruit jobs to our State.

That’s why diverse groups ranging from the faith community, to business leaders, to advocates for victims of domestic violence, to the NAACP are speaking out against Amendment One. Please join this effort.

It is OK to wrestle in your heart and with your faith about issues of marriage, civil unions and partnerships.

But writing discrimination into our State Constitution is just plain wrong.

North Carolina has a proud history of overcoming these divisive debates. We never shut our schools during the Civil Rights Era. Growing up in North Carolina, we were taught not to discriminate against our fellow citizens.

Stand with us and donate $10 to the Coalition to Protect ALL North Carolina families.

Then, on May 8th, vote to Protect ALL North Carolina families. Vote NO on Amendment One.


Cal and Elizabeth Cunningham

Monday, January 30, 2012

There will be another day...

Over the last few days, Elizabeth and I have been grateful for the encouragement of friends, family, volunteers, donors and so many whom we've come to know. The warmth and depth of that encouragement makes my decision not to enter a campaign especially hard. Our love for this State and concern for her future makes it even more difficult still.

However, Elizabeth and I did not plan for a campaign this year. After careful reflection, I've concluded we cannot balance our existing professional, financial and family commitments with the full time demands of a statewide campaign at this late hour. The only responsible decision under present circumstances is not to run.

We will continue to be actively involved in the Democratic Party, in promoting good policies for North Carolina and in supporting strong candidates with bold ideas in their own bids for office this year. I am confident if we elect good people this fall that North Carolina's best days are ahead.