Faith in Action Blog
At its meeting on Monday, the City Council of Troy, Michigan, appointed a new member to its ranks — Paul McCown, a graduate of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2010.
A native of Troy (population: 83,000) with a longstanding interest in politics, Mr. McCown has served on the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals for the last three years. In 2015 he ran for the City Council in a competitive race, but came up short. A year later, however, a sitting member resigned, and the remaining members of the council undertook a comprehensive selection process to fill the vacancy. That process culminated in Mr. McCown’s coming before the Council for a public interview on September 19, which can be seen in the video below:
By meeting’s end, the Council voted to appoint Mr. McCown, who promptly took his oath and immediately began voting on city matters. His term will continue until next November, at which point he will be up for election.
Yet governance is only a part-time job for Mr. McCown, who, by day, is the CFO and executive vice president of Dataspeed, Inc., an engineering firm that specializes in the design and construction of autonomous cars and mobile robots. The 30-person firm has partnered with a wide range of clients including Ford, General Dynamics, and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. “Our staff consists entirely of engineers except for a bookkeeper and then me,” he laughs. “So I have oversight and responsibility for finance, accounting, HR, marketing, pretty much all departments except for engineering.”
After graduating from the College in 2010, Mr. McCown earned a master’s degree in economics and American politics at Pepperdine University and then returned to Michigan, where he held several positions in the financial sector before joining Dataspeed. Yet it is not his advanced degree, but his liberal education, he says, that has most prepared him for a career in finance.
“The formulas that I write and the models that I build, all of them are underpinned by logical thinking. You have to understand which pieces of the puzzle need to go where, what comes first, what comes later, if/then statements, all that kind of thing,” he explains. “Practicing deductive reasoning, thinking it, breathing it, drinking it the way we do at Thomas Aquinas College — that was really a game-changer for me.”
In addition to his work as a public official and a corporate executive, Mr. McCown is, first and foremost, a husband and father, having wed classmate Jacinta (Alarcon ’10) in 2012. The couple has two sons, Paul Jr. (3) and James (1½), and due to arrive next February is the family’s first daughter, Rosie, named for the McCowns’ late classmate Rosie Grimm (’10).
Members of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, including Vice President for Legal Affairs Katie Short (’80, left) and President Paul Blewett (’85, right)
In a Riverside, California, courtroom last week, a legal team led by two Thomas Aquinas College graduates delivered a blow to the state’s new assisted-suicide law.
Attorneys from the Life Legal Defense Foundation — whose vice president for legal affairs is Katie Short (’80) and whose president is Paul Blewett (’85) — sought an injunction against California’s End of Life Option Act, which went into effect in June. The attorneys argued that granting doctors the power to help kill their patients deprives sick and vulnerable Californians of the constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.
Although Life Legal did not obtain its sought-after injunction, it achieved an important victory nonetheless. In his ruling, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia granted that the six physicians and the nationwide medical group that Life Legal represents have standing to challenge the law, and that their case is “ripe” — that is, the End of Life Option Act may cause actual (not just hypothetical) harm to those it affects. As a result, Judge Ottolia rejected the state’s attempt to block Life Legal’s lawsuit, thereby allowing the challenge of this unjust law to continue.
Please pray for Mrs. Short, Mr. Blewett, Life Legal, and their continued success!
Patrick Cross (’14), self-portrait
This blog recently featured an illustrated tribute to martyred French priest Rev. Jacques Hamel, penned by alumnus cartoonist Patrick Cross (’14). The work is one of several cartoons that Mr. Cross — who is, by day, a counselor in the College’s Admissions office — has drawn in recent months as he launches a career in editorial cartooning. Already, his efforts have borne some success: Mr. Cross produces cartoons weekly for CatholicVote.org, as well as occasionally for GlennBeck.com.
“I’ve always been interested in politics, and I’ve always been interested in art,” Mr. Cross reflects. “But it was my parents who first suggested that I combine the two loves together in editorial cartooning.”
The idea began to take root during his Senior Year, when College Governor Berni Neal spoke at an on-campus career panel. Upon learning about Mr. Cross’ professional interests, Mrs. Neal revealed that she was friends with Michael Ramirez — the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, formerly of the Los Angeles Times — and offered to arrange a meeting. “Ramirez was my favorite cartoonist growing up,” recalls Mr. Cross. “I went down to see him at the end of my Senior Year. We talked for about an hour and a half. That really put a fire in my belly.”
Mr. Cross began publishing his cartoons on his website and a Facebook page in January, and soon his work began generating attention. His goal, he says, is to produce cartoons that succeed on a variety of levels. “There are many layers,” he says. “You can have something that is funny in a slapstick sort of way. But some readers are looking for more.” Here, he adds, one sees the value and versatility of a classical education. “If you have an education that shows you how to identify principles, causes, effects, and prior causes, then you can do much better work.”
Patriotism infuses Mr. Cross’ art — a patriotism, he says, that has been with him all his life, but which deepened during his time at the College. “I’ve always loved the American founding. I’ve always believed in the principles of the country. But what my education at TAC really did, especially Junior Year, is show me why I believed in those things. In reading the Federalist Papers, the founders, and Abraham Lincoln — all in the context Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics, which we were studying in philosophy — I was able to locate the American experiment, or the American founding, in the context of the Western tradition. I came to a better understanding of why self-governance is good, why a government that promotes political prudence is such a gift, and also how we must not take any of it for granted.”
Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly Back in December, the state of Washington’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) implemented a ruling on gender identity, making it permissible for the state’s residents to enter either men’s or women’s restrooms and locker rooms purely on the basis of “gender identification,” and irrespective of biology. Now an effort is under way to repeal that ruling and create safe restroom and changing areas for all Washingtonians. Leading that effort is a graduate and governor of Thomas Aquinas College, Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly.
In her capacity as the founding president of the Washington Women’s Network, Mrs. Connelly is working to collect the requisite 246,372 signatures to put state initiative I-1515 on the November ballot. If approved by the voters, I-1515 would allow for the restoration of sexually segregated bathrooms and locker rooms in public and private institutions, and require them in public schools. The measure would also ensure reasonable accommodations for public-school children who are not comfortable using the boys’ or girls’ facilities.
“There are schools opening up the bathrooms and the showers (to everyone), which is absolutely unacceptable,” Mrs. Connelly recently told Tacoma’s News-Tribune. “They’re all required to do it by the HRC mandate.” The campaign to overturn the mandate, she says, is about common-sense protection. “We want to protect transgender kids. … We want to protect boys. We want to protect girls. It feels like that overly broad HRC mandate does not do that.”
In support of the campaign, Mrs. Connelly recently appeared on the My Catholic Faith podcast with Dr. Thomas Curran, director of Trinity Formation Resources. “Inclusiveness means women and children, too,” she told Dr. Curran. “Women and children have a human right to be safe and to have privacy and to have dignity, just as every single person does.”
As of last week, the Yes on I-1515 campaign had collected 200,000 of the 246,372 signatures it needs to get the initiative on the ballot. The deadline is tomorrow, July 8. Please pray for Mrs. Connelly and her efforts!
Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)“Most of us have a profound appreciation for our mothers that transcends description,” begins Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05) in a new essay, timed for Mother’s Day, in The Public Discourse. An assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, Dr. Seagrave then proceeds to consider the current state of motherhood in terms of social and public policy.
Americans’ affection for their mothers, he observes, does not translate into an appreciation for motherhood itself, particularly the stay-at-home variety. “As long as full-time motherhood does not produce some immediate economic benefit, economic and social pressures will continue to effectively foreclose this choice for many women,” he writes. “If it matters that women have a genuine choice in their own pursuit of happiness, this is a serious problem. It becomes even more serious when we consider that fully 84 percent of women don’t think it’s best for their children for them to work full-time outside the home. Women have indeed been empowered to work outside the home, but in many cases and in many unforeseen ways, they also have been forced to do so against their wishes.”
So, as his Mother’s Day gift to moms elsewhere, Dr. Seagrave proposes “a significant tax deduction for households with a full-time parent … on the order of 150 percent of the mean individual income.” That may not seem as charming as a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates, but, “such a deduction would provide women with a less constrained choice between being a full-time mother and pursuing work outside the home. It would also signal the value that society should place on the inestimable contribution of motherhood.”
And, on Mothers’ Day in particular, what could be more worthwhile than that? “Motherhood is a more important task for society than any other private occupation or public service,” Dr. Seagrave concludes. “No woman who would choose full-time motherhood should be unduly constrained by economic or social pressures to give up her all-important vocation.
Meghan Duke (’08) and Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys (Photos: Dana Rene Bowler)
Wednesday morning, while the United States Supreme Court held oral arguments in the case that the College and 34 co-plaintiffs have filed against the HHS Contraceptive Mandate, Women Speak for Themselves organized a rally outside the Court. Among the speakers at the rally were two alumnae of the College, Meghan Duke (’08) and Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys.
A former managing editor of First Things who is now a writer in The Catholic University of America’s Office of Marketing and Communications, Miss Duke spoke about her time volunteering for the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have become the focal point of the national debate on religious freedom. Mrs. Claeys, who is chairman of the Washington, D.C., Board of Regents, spoke about the importance of the Catholic faith to the College and pressed the key points in the College’s case. The full text of her remarks is available via the College’s website.
Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)In honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Services, Dr. Adam Seagrave (’05) has penned a thoughtful piece for The Public Discourse about the role of the national parks — and Nature more broadly — in the American political tradition. “Over the past 400 years, we Americans have had a very different relationship with nature than the Europeans have,” writes Dr. Seagrave, “and this relationship has powerfully informed what is best in our political culture and public discourse.”
An assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, Dr. Seagrave is the author of The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law and editor of Liberty and Equality: The American Conversation. A regular contributor to The Public Discourse, Dr. Seagrave observes, “It was because of Americans’ early and unique experience with ‘Nature’ that they came to embrace Locke’s political philosophy in the eighteenth century, with its emphasis on the importance of natural rights and the natural law for politics.” Yet as the country became further removed “from this original experience of nature, through the passage of time and the development of artificial civilization and culture, the original meaning and political significance of nature progressively began to be forgotten. … By the early twentieth century, we were ready to ‘progress’ beyond the founders’ and Lincoln’s ideas, which now seemed naïve, about the political relevance of a grand and significant ‘Nature.’”
By restoring our awe, or reverence, for nature, Dr. Seagrave concludes, the National Parks play a vital role in helping Americans to “connect — or rather reconnect — with something important and distinctive about our national heritage.”
The full article I available via The Public Discourse.
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- Alumnus Reviews Fellow Grad’s New Book (2015)
- College’s Latest Alumni Author (2014)
- Two Class of 2005 Authors in The Public Discourse (2013)
- What Pro-Lifers Can Learn from Frederick Douglass (2013)
- Recent Reads by Alumni Authors (2012)
David DaleidenOn January 25 a Texas grand jury indicted David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization that exposed Planned Parenthood’s program of fetal organ-harvesting. Prosecutors in Harris County filed charges against the two documentarians, alleging that they tampered with a governmental record by using fake IDs to gain access to Planned Parenthood. Prosecutors further charged Mr. Daleiden with attempting to purchase or sell human organs as part of his sting operation against the abortion giant.
In the days since, Catholic scholars and attorneys have been divided over the ethics of CMP’s undercover operations as well as the justice of the charges against Ms. Merritt and Mr. Daleiden. Among those who have weighed in are two alumni of the College — faithful Catholics, committed champions of the unborn, and practicing attorneys, both — who have presented thoughtful perspectives.
Tim Cantu (’10)Writing for the Catholic legal blog The Campion, Tim Cantu (’10) argues that the indictments are, even if unfortunate, legally sound and just. “David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt are charged with crimes of which they are almost certainly guilty. Were their intentions noble? Yes. Was it in service of a good cause? Yes. But to a prosecutor, one charged with carrying out the law instead of making it, that does not and cannot matter,” Mr. Cantu observes. Appealing to the example of St. Thomas More, he notes, “The ends do not justify the means; if we wish to defy a just law, we must accept the consequences of that choice under the law. The law exists not only as a sword against the wicked; it is also our shield, and by misusing or disregarding it we weaken that shield at our peril.”
Katie Short (’80)Meanwhile, Katie Short (’80), co-founder and vice president of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which is defending Mr. Daleiden in three civil suits, has found fault with the grand jury’s reasoning. “The tampering charge, which is a felony offense, is for the use of a California identification in order to enter the Planned Parenthood clinic for the purpose of investigation,” Mrs. Short tells LifeNews.com. Yet Texas law “provides a defense where the false information has ‘no effect on the government’s purpose for requiring the governmental record,’” she continues — and the purpose of the law in question is to prevent minors from purchasing alcohol, not to shield Planned Parenthood from undercover investigation.
Moreover, a press release issued by Mrs. Short’s Life Legal Defense Foundation contends that the law against attempting to purchase or sell body parts has been, at the very least, unevenly applied. “Daleiden was … charged with human organ trafficking, a misdemeanor charge, for allegedly offering to purchase fetal body parts from Planned Parenthood,” the statement reads. “Inexplicably, Planned Parenthood was not charged with the corresponding crime of offering to sell human organs.”
That disparity, Mr. Cantu acknowledges, may hint “that this was a politically motivated indictment designed to punish Daleiden and Merritt for having the wrong cause,” although the “mere existence of the indictment does not establish that.” Still, he adds in a footnote, “There is a good counterargument that this is a case ripe for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, and [the district attorney] should drop these charges.”
Viewers of the Super Bowl may remember the lighthearted Doritos ad about the unborn baby who, at his or her ultrasound appointment, develops a craving for the bag of nacho-cheese chips that Dad is eating nearby. (See video, above.) The 30-second clip, which was the most shared ad from this year’s game, drew chuckles from most Americans — except for the pro-abortion scolds at NARAL. The ad, the pro-abortion lobby complained on its Twitter feed, employed the “antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses.”
Katrina Trinko (’09)Writing for the Daily Signal, Katrina Trinko (’09) observes that NARAL, its humorlessness notwithstanding, may be on to something. No, the ad is not political, as NARAL suggests it is, but it does reflect a cultural reality that the pro-abortion lobby surely dreads.
“Moms and dads are now developing relationships with their children long before the due date, sometimes even announcing both name and sex to friends and family before the baby is born,” writes Miss Trinko, the Daily Signal’s managing editor and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors. “And that’s what’s frightening to NARAL and other pro-abortion advocates. … [The] increasing awareness that these unborn babies are growing and developing does raise questions about current abortion policy in the United States.”
The Doritos Super Bowl ad, Miss Trinko concludes, was effective not because it engaged in political advocacy, but “because it resonated—and that should terrify pro-abortion advocates.”
A number of alumni and their families joined the College’s Washington, D.C., Board of Regents to brave the snow for the national March for Life on January, 22 — the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Among those marching were Maggie Wynn (’80), Paul White (’95), Nora (Maher ’96) and Rory Nugent (’97), James Layne (’08), Cristina Schardt (’14), and Abby Quinan (’14). In the above photo, the group stands before the United States Supreme Court building at the end of the March.