Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking back on 2011. Turning forward to 2012.

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day. - Edith Lovejoy Pierce

The passing of another year is accompanied by an even more difficult time staying in touch with friends, especially after meeting so many wonderful people in the Senate campaign. We've even had a time getting out Christmas cards. So, as our family closes the book on 2011, I thought I'd take a minute to share a little about what we've been up to - and a few pictures.

Perhaps because we spent some of the last year apart (Afghanistan) and put a lot of miles on our cars (splitting time between Raleigh and Lexington), we realized again the importance of making family time. For us, whenever possible, that means the beach. No particular beach. Just sand and ocean. When I grow up, Elizabeth is going to get me a place. It might require tent poles. But there'll be salt air.

Caroline (going on 10 in a few weeks) continues her love of animals – we’re pretty sure we have a budding veterinarian and attendee of the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Tragically, this also means she’s learned the Wolfpack hand-sign and attended her first game at the RBC Center. This is very, very hard for a couple of die-hard UNC parents. Very hard. But at least it isn’t Duke.

Will (8) is all boy – restless, quizzical, energetic and willing to debate all instructions. When I was in 3rd grade, similar qualities usually got reflected on the “conduct” section of my report card. After one run of bad conduct – he wasn’t listening to his teacher, he wasn’t listening to his parents – we called in reinforcements. During an event we hosted at the house for Governor Perdue’s reelection campaign, Will and the Governor had a little talk. The picture says it all.

“Dear Governor Perdue, I promise not to talk in reading groups. Sincerely, William Henry Cunningham”.

Earlier in 2011, Elizabeth returned to her career in education policy and began working with the State Board of Education on “Race to the Top”. Through RttT, North Carolina has been awarded a $400 million competitive grant to spur public school innovation and continue our State’s school improvement efforts. Elizabeth has enjoyed reconnecting with colleagues from her days at the Education Cabinet and UNC.

As mentioned, I spent part of the year in Afghanistan with the Army working on the “Village Stability Operations” that are a key part of the plan to transfer security responsibilities to Afghans and wind down our heavy troop presence in that country. (You can read more lower down in the blog). Earlier in the year was spent back and forth from Fort Bragg with Special Forces Command working on legal issues emerging as the US copes with the transformational “Arab Spring”.

When not "playing Army", I've been back in the private practice of law, almost exclusively handling civil litigation. You can check out the website: Call me if you need a lawyer. I hope you don't (need a lawyer).

Much of the legal work I did in 2011 involved representing a team of developers (led by a high school friend) who are working on a cutting-edge, mixed-use, “smart growth” real estate project in Durham called "751 South": It looks like much of the first part of 2012 will be dedicated to moving the project towards approval, as well.

Of course, we continue to be deeply involved in Democratic Party politics. Elizabeth has been putting in the hours with a terrific group of women at Lillian’s List, to recruit pro-choice Democratic women to run for the General Assembly. I have been doing some surrogate work for the Obama campaign (and will do much more as we get closer to the Convention and fall campaign), supporting some candidates running in municipal races and speaking to party groups around the State.

If there's any resolution in the Cunningham household (other than another round of P90X, Insanity or a marathon) it is to look back at the end of 2012 and see we've made more time with friends. We hope you will look to the blank pages of the coming year as your own opportunity to write a new and fulfilling story... and include at least a mention of electing good Democrats in November.