Category Archives: Personal Reflections

Robb Elementary School, Highland Park, and Other Mass Shootings: Let’s Talk about Young Males and Semi-Automatic Weapons

Nearly every mass shooting in the U.S. includes three main factors, the first two of which no one seems to want to talk about.

  1. The shooter is male.
  2. The shooter is under 25-years-old
  3. The weapon is a semi-automatic.

Why don’t we talk about the fact that the Highland Park shooter, along with so many others before him, was a male under age 25?

Last week, in an article on The Good Men Project website, I proposed banning sales of semi-automatic weapons to males under 25-years-old. Obviously, this guidance still holds.

Below I’ve pasted a couple excerpts from The Good Men Project article. For the whole thing, go to: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/age-to-own-guns-should-be-25-not-21-heres-why-kpkn/

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Why target age 25? Because brain and developmental research indicates that male brains have greater variability in structure and development and may not be completely mature until age 25. After age 25, males become less impulsive and more capable of moral decision-making. Automobile insurance companies recognize this truth with hefty rate reductions after males turn 25. In addition, due to American socialization pressures around masculinity, older boys and young men are especially reactive to threats to their perceived manhood. These reactions often include acts of violence designed to restore a sense of masculine honor.

Anyone paying attention knows young American males are not doing well. They’re lost. They’re angry. They’re confused. They have few constructive rituals to help them become men. Manhood may be overrated and outdated, but boys need to strive for something. Becoming a man is a tried and true tradition that’s hard to escape—if only because the media pushes it so hard. Boys need to man-up, but what does that even mean? Join the military? Smoke cigars? Take stupid risks? Watch American football? Hunt? Fish? Play violent video games? Retreat to a “man cave,” Join the Proud Boys? Grow beards? Deny COVID? Fight? Have sex? Get revenge? Never apologize or show weakness? Demean women and gays? Buy an AR-15?

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We need to address the emotional and psychological well-being of boys and young men. We also need to stop allowing them access to semi-automatic weapons.

To access the full article, click here: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/age-to-own-guns-should-be-25-not-21-heres-why-kpkn/

New Article on Firearms, Young Males, and Mass Shootings

Here’s a link to an article published today on the Good Men Project site. In the article, I make the case for (a) restricting semi-automatic weapon sales to males over 25, (b) focusing on healthier psychosocial-emotional development for boys and young males, and (c) how it’s reasonable to ask people to make sacrifices for their country.

If you have interest in this area, check it out.

The Trumpian Power Scramble

The Trumpian Power Scramble is a high-fat, low protein breakfast that leaves you feeling full of yourself. Consume at your own risk.

The precise origin and attribution of “. . . absolute power corrupts absolutely” is unclear. The quote may have originated with Lord Acton. However, the idea that power corrupts is a robust concept with long and old roots, including a fascinating poem from Muzahidul Reza of Bangladesh about a saint and a rat.

Knowledge is ever-evolving. The concept that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” needs updating. Instead of absolute power corrupting absolutely, I’m proposing: Fantasies of absolute power corrupt absolutely.

No one has absolute power—except perhaps for fleeting moments when megalomaniacs are actively squishing the perceived bugs beneath their shoes. But people can easily imagine absolute power—or at least increased power. When it comes to corruption, the biggest problem involves power fantasies, not reality.

The thought, image, fantasy, belief, or cognition of absolute power is what moves people toward corruption and solipsistic self-interest. For example, the power-based belief, “I’m the f-ing President” might even inspire someone to reach for the neck of a secret service agent. It’s possible.

With the January 6 hearings happening, we’re learning a lot about power, corruption, and fantasies of absolute power. Trump is our prototype. He didn’t have absolute power, but he imagined himself with absolute power. . . and we know what he would have let happen to Mike Pence had he owned such power.

Checks, balances, and honor in governance are beautiful things for countering corruption. As I write this, I think of Liz Cheney, her January 6 testimony, and her words, “there will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.” Although I detest most of Ms. Cheney’s political positions, I am in awe of her steadfast conviction to calling out deeply corrupt power.  

What surprises me most is that so many media outlets are acting surprised at Trump’s pathological efforts to remain president. His behaviors were very predictable . . . and until enough republicans or judges or people on the street hold him accountable, he will continue to coerce—directly or indirectly—people into dancing to his absolute power fantasies.

The driving force behind Trump’s behavior is relatively straightforward. I wrote about it in Slate Magazine back on August 30, 2018. Trump is a particularly talented man who also happens to have a particularly disturbing personality. My article, titled, “Trump Will Never Give Up” describes behaviors linked to his personality. Below, I’ve included several excerpts from that 2018 article, because these statements still fit better than anything else I’ve seen.

Also, I apologize for this redundancy. But sometimes to understand what’s happening, we need to hear it again and again and again.

Trump’s personality is what the renowned psychologist, Theodore Millon, called “The Aggrandizing-Devious-Antisocial Personality.” This personality is commonly referred to as “Antisocial Personality” but when it occurs in a person with Trump’s talents and wealth, just calling it antisocial personality doesn’t suffice. So, let’s use the whole phrase: The Aggrandizing-Devious-Antisocial Personality.

Excerpts from the August 2018 article follow:

Millon summarized these personalities as “driven by a need to . . . achieve superiority.” They act “to counter expectation of derogation and disloyalty at the hands of others,” and do this by “actively engaging in clever, duplicitous, or illegal behaviors in which they seek to exploit others for self-gain.” Sound familiar?

Blaming Others for Shirked Obligations. Antisocial personalities “frequently fail to meet or intentionally negate obligations of a marital, parental, employment, or financial nature.” When negative outcomes arise, Trump will be inclined to blame external forces or subordinates. This is the equivalent of a personal philosophy in direct opposition to President Harry Truman’s, “The buck stops here.” Holding Trump responsible for his behaviors has been, is, and will be extremely challenging.

Pathological Lying. Millon wrote, “Untroubled by guilt and loyalty, they develop a talent for pathological lying. Unconstrained by honesty and truth, they weave impressive talks of competency and reliability. Many . . . become skillful swindlers and imposters.”

Declarations of Innocence. During times of trouble, antisocial personality types employ an innocence strategy. “When . . . caught in obvious and repeated lies and dishonesties, many will affect an air of total innocence, claiming without a trace of shame that they have been unfairly accused.”

Empathy Deficits. Antisocial personalities are devoid of empathy and compassion. Millon called this “A wide-ranging deficit in social charitability, in human compassion, and in personal remorse and sensitivity.” He added that “many have a seeming disdain for human compassion.” Going forward, Trump’s efforts to display empathy or sustain charitable behaviors will sound and feel much less genuine than his glowing statements about himself or his aggressive attacks on his detractors.

Counterattacks. Millon noted that antisocial personalities are hyper-alert to criticism. He “sees himself as the victim, an indignant bystander subjected to unjust persecution and hostility” feeling “free to counterattack and gain restitution and vindication.” For Trump, the urge to counterattack appears irresistible. He often uses a favorite attack or counterattack strategy among antisocials—projecting their own malicious ideas and behaviors onto others through name-calling and accusations of illegal (or crooked) behavior. Trump’s pattern of lashing out at others will only continue to escalate.

Moral Emptiness. Antisocial personalities have no ethical or moral compass. As Millon described, they “are contemptuous of conventional ethics and values” and “right and wrong are irrelevant abstractions.” Antisocials may feign religiosity—when it suits their purpose. But the moral litmus test will always involve whether they stand to gain from a particular behavior, policy, or government action.

Clinicians have observed that some individuals with antisocial personalities burn out. Over time, negative family and legal consequences take a toll, prompting antisocials to conform to social and legal expectations. However, as in Trump’s case, when antisocial personalities wield power, burning out is unlikely. Power provides leverage to evade personal responsibility for financial maleficence and sexual indiscretions. Antisocial personalities who have the upper hand will increase their reckless, impulsive, and self-aggrandizing behaviors in an effort to extend their ever-expanding need for power and control. 

Because antisocial personalities don’t change on their own and don’t respond well to interventions, containment is the default management strategy. Without firm, unwavering limits, deception, law-breaking, greed, manipulation, and malevolent behaviors will increase. An antisocial person in a position to self-pardon or self-regulate is a recipe for disaster. Containment must be forceful and uncompromising, because if an antisocial personality locates a crack or loophole, he will exploit it. Staff interventions, comprehensive law enforcement, and judicial systems that mandate accountability must be in place.

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The January 6 hearings are only one piece in the puzzle of pressure needed to keep Trump and his Aggrandizing-Devious-Antisocial Personality at bay. Now is the time when many of his followers are scrambling to gain power or safety. We need wide-ranging consequences for Trump, as well as his power scrambling minions and wannabes. Trump’s existence and success have emboldened many, arousing power fantasies around the world—especially among others who resonate with his vengeful victim identity.

Remember, it’s not just that real power corrupts, it’s also the power fantasies, because they fester up from underlying insecurity and push otherwise relatively powerless people to engage in power grabs and horrific acts.  

This is why the rule of law and consequences for breaking the rule of law are essential. We need to push back megalomania fantasies with reality. Trump, others with antisocial personality tendencies, and his followers need firm consequences for their illegal behaviors. Let’s hope the January 6th committee hearings inspire the Department of Justice toward action, consequences, and justice. If not, insurrection behaviors in Trump and others will only escalate.

Grief 201: Max and Paula’s Memorial in Vancouver

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Yesterday we held a memorial for my parents at the Spaghetti Factory in Vancouver, WA. If you didn’t make it, don’t feel bad, because I got COVID, gave it to Rita, and so we didn’t make it either. We did get to Zoom into part of the event that involved sharing thoughts and memories of my parents (Max and Paula Sommers).

A big thanks to my sisters, Gayle Klein and Peggy Lotz, for organizing. Additional big thanks to everyone who attended. From a Zoom distance, it looked like a pretty fabulous time. To the people who spoke . . . thank you! I loved listening to your memories.

At the memorial I got to speak for a few minutes via Zoom. Below I’ve pasted a script that I was generally working from.

Three Things We Learned from My Parents

One thing most of us share about loss and grief that’s especially hard, is all the triggering. Every day and sometimes several times an hour, things happen that remind me of my parents. When I cook, I often think of my mom. I didn’t realize how hard it is to do what she did every day. Each morning Gayle, Peggy, and I were greeted with breakfast. Every evening there was dinner. Every meal was an event. For special meals my mom got out the famous “lace tablecloth.” The only conflicts that arose in the Sommers’ family meal routine came if someone tried to sit in “Gayle’s spot.” We all quickly learned to NEVER do that😊.

After my dad died nearly everything triggered memories of him. One simple, painful, and joyful memory was triggered by eating cold cereal in a bowl. As I finished my first bowl of cereal after his death, and only milk was left in the bowl, I had a flashback of what my dad liked to do in that situation. Because my mom considered it “uncouth” to drink the remaining milk from the cereal bowl, my dad would look up, point out the window, and say, “What’s that?” By the time we looked back at him he was grinning; the milk in his bowl was not so mysteriously gone.

My mom loved sending and giving greeting cards. She signed them, “Love Always.” That, among many other fabulous qualities, was her signature gift. Together, my parents created a home where love, connection, and support were present. Everyone was welcome. One afternoon when I was home from college I saw her cleaning up from having coffee. I asked, “Who was over for coffee?”

She said, “Mario came over.” Mario was the Gay, Black teenager from up the street. Being insensitive and curious, I asked, “Why did Mario come over?” She said, “He had things to talk about.”

My mom never told me any details about her conversations with Mario. Being a Gay, Black teen in a predominately White, heterosexual suburb, I don’t know and can only imagine the pain and turmoil he needed to talk about. What I do know is he found the right person to talk with. My mother listened with her heart.

My dad was equally accepting. I can only recall him being mad at me once in my life. Once. He didn’t yell; he didn’t hit; he coached me in sport and in life and modeled integrity in all things. I will never recover from losing him and our unique shared memories. Never.

Our parents were different in many ways. My mom was Catholic. My dad was Jewish. My mom loved musicals. Just the other day while at a dinner party, I broke out with “Singing in the Rain” in her honor. My dad loved comedies. Barney Miller, Cheers, Seinfeld . . . and of course, Get Smart. His love for Get Smart inspired my sister Peggy to briefly imagine that she might be an undercover detective with a sixth finger.

Three big values I learned from my parents.

  1. Work hard
  2. Love always
  3. Have fun

I have a 45 second video clip of them to share. It’s from almost 19 years ago. They were 67 and 64 years-old. Two things as introduction. On birthdays, my parents always called and sang Happy Birthday. They liked to leave voice messages. Sometimes we’d have to hang up so they could call back and leave the message. They really weren’t very good at singing and would sometimes stop and start and be off-key. They also loved to watch movies together. In the video (linked below), they’re singing Happy Birthday to Rita (for a video I made for Rita’s 50th birthday) and then they began replicating a scene from the movie, Bandits, when Billy Bob Thornton “loses the beat.”

Thanks for coming to the memorial.

Be sure to work hard, love always, and have fun.

What To Do About Bad News? Organize, Sublimate, and Repeat

This week, like last week, is saturated with bad news. As if racism, the pandemic, Ukraine, Buffalo, and Uvalde weren’t bad enough, this week we have the Supreme Court ruling on cases in stark opposition to public opinion.

When bad news strikes—especially bad news that feels beyond our control—it’s easy to feel helpless and hopeless. In response to my own helplessness (which feels even worse because I just tested positive for COVID-ugh), I’m reminded of Joe Hill’s old motto and song, “Don’t mourn. Organize!” To that, I’ll add that we should use the best of all the psychoanalytic defense mechanisms (sublimation) and channel our anger into constructive activities.

One lesson from politics over the past 30 years is: “Stay on message, repeat the message, and say it again and again until the message becomes truth.” Some of us have been reluctant to do this because we already have a good case and so why should we say it again? Besides, there are so many issues to address, it seems important to move on. . . which is why I’ve decided to linger a bit with my Superintendent message before I move on to firearms and private healthcare decisions.

Thanks for all the comments on and support for last week’s Missoulian Op-Ed piece on how our current Montana State Superintendent of Schools is a clear and present danger to Montana schoolchildren. Most of the feedback I received was positive, including many references to my phrase describing Superintendent Arntzen as having “Voldemortian-level malevolence.” Among other outcomes, this phrasing caused a pronunciation debate. Is it pronounced “Vold-uh-mort-ee-an” or “Volduh-morshan?” Although I prefer the former, I can see the case for the latter. Either way, I’m happy to report that if you Google Arntzen and Voldemortian-level malevolence you can find the article.

One person commenting on the Missoulian website suggested I should be put on the next list of the 101 most dangerous academics. If speaking up for children and school counselors makes me dangerous, count me in.

The big question about Superintendent Arntzen, firearms, private healthcare decisions and other world events is: What to do? Coming up with constructive activities for channeling our anger is difficult. The good news is that some responses to the Op-Ed included great recommendations for next steps, and so I’m posting them here. I’m leaving the names off, but if you read your content, feel free to claim it.

One reader wrote:

There are 2 Interim [Legislative] Committees that have meetings this summer & fall, and would respond to public outcry on this, especially from districts of Committee members. Dan Salomon (R) is on Education, from Ronan, and has been good on mental health, Medicaid expansion; worth talking to him directly about how to bring pressure. Education met today, June 14 (nothing like this on their agenda), will meet again Sept. 12-13. Children, Families, Health & Human Services is meeting twice this month, again in August, another good pressure point. Danny Tennebaum from Missoula is on it.

If anyone reading this has other ideas on how to advocate for School Counselors and Librarians and push back against Arntzen’s recommendations, please let me (us) know.

To close, another Op-Ed reader shared the following with me as an example of the Superintendent’s incoherence.

This is the Montana State Superintendent of Schools speaking at a federal meeting on school safety:

It is not so much what’s inside the plan because we are very unique. But to say that the plan needs to be revitalized every year. And then, it is not housed at the state level. It is housed within them. So it is their responsibility. Again, I come back to liability, responsibility flowing together. But in Montana, it is a belief. It’s very important for teachers as well. They are in the buildings. This is their livelihood. This is something that their children, their charges, regardless of what age of student that they have within their classrooms. Professional development on mental health is extremely important. We have Montana Hope as an initiative where we are working within the capacity that we have in very rural Montana who do not have social workers, who do not have counselors, psychologists at all, trying to employ something that a classroom teacher might be able to recognize. So to recognize what is happening in schools right now is very important to allow education to flow. Hardening buildings is a topic in Montana. But making sure that we have a quality teacher there that understands the capacity that they can, wherever they are located in Montana, is extremely important. Anything that we can do to instill that that teacher holds that child at that moment of wherever that child is, whatever that child comes into that school with or into that classroom with, to recognize that I think is extremely important. That’s where education is. We’re not growing children like we used to in Montana. They’re very precious resources to us. Professional development.

This is not the voice we want heading up OPI.

Why I Wrote Another Op-Ed Piece on State Superintendent of Schools Elsie Arntzen

Tomorrow morning (6/15/22) I’ll have an Opinion piece published in the Missoulian, and possibly statewide in Lee Newspapers. The piece is extremely critical of the Montana Superintendent of Public Schools, Elsie Arntzen.

Update: Here’s the link to the article: https://missoulian.com/opinion/columnists/john-sommers-flanagan-a-clear-and-present-danger/article_9018bcfa-7277-548c-a218-436b52cabb7e.html

I don’t like being publicly critical of anyone, so I thought I should clarify why I’m criticizing the Superintendent.

Recently, Superintendent Arntzen recommended eliminating school counselor “ratios” in Montana public schools. Montana state statute currently requires that schools employ one school counselor for every 400 students. If you know the work of school counselors, you know that facilitating the academic, career, and personal and social development for 400 students is no easy task. Nationally, the recommendation is for a 250 to 1 ratio.

In the midst of the worst youth mental health crisis ever, the Superintendent is recommending fewer requirements for school counselors in public schools.

As someone who has been involved in the training of school counselors in Montana since 1993, I can say without reservation that people who dedicate their lives to being school counselors are some of the best people in Montana. They’re smart, compassionate, dedicated to improving children’s lives, and support the academic success of all students. They’re also, along with school psychologists, the most informed and capable school mental health professionals in schools. School counselors are masters level professionals with extensive training in how to support children’s mental health.  

If you support school counselors, I hope you’ll go online, find my opinion piece and share it widely . . . especially if you live or work in Montana. I’ll post the link tomorrow. We need to push back against the Superintendent’s efforts to devalue children’s mental health and potentially reduce their access to school counselors.

Thanks for joining me in the effort to maintain school counselors in schools and to support the mental health and well-being of school counselors.

Teaching Group Counseling

I forgot how much I love teaching group counseling.

Maybe I forgot because I haven’t taught Group Counseling at the University of Montana since 2017. Whatever the reason, last week, I remembered.

I remembered because I got to provide a group-oriented counseling training to seven very cool program managers and staff of the Big Sky Youth Empowerment program in Bozeman. We started with a structured question and answer opening, followed with a self-reflective debrief, and then re-started with a different version of the same opening so we could engage in a second self-reflective debrief. I’ve used this opening several times when teaching group; it’s getting better every time.

I love the experiential part where I get to flit back and forth between process facilitator and contributor. I love the opportunity to quote Irvin Yalom about the “self-reflective loop” and “The group leader is the norm-setter and role model.” Then I love getting to quote Yalom again, “Cohesion is the attraction of the group for its members.”  And again, “I have a dilemma . . .” Boom. When teaching group counseling, the Yalom quotes never stop!

Groups are about individuals and groups and individuals’ learning from the power of groups. I get to learn and re-learn about strong openings, monopolizers, closing for consolidation, and the natural temptation of everyone in the group to fix other group members’ problems—and the need for group facilitators to tightly manage the problem-solving process. We get to “go vertical” and back out through linking and then “go horizontal.”

Tomorrow I head back to Bozeman for more training with the fabulous BYEP staff. Part of the day we’ll focus on specific group facilitation techniques, which reminded me of a handout I created back in 2017. The handout lists and provides examples for 18 different group counseling techniques/strategies. For anyone interested, the group techniques handout is here:

I hope you’re all having a great Memorial Day and engaging in something that feels like just the right amount of meaningful or remembrance for you on this important holiday when we recognize individuals who made huge sacrifices for the sake of the greater and common good of the group.

All my best,

John

Max

Max in 1945

People who write obituaries use small words to describe big lives. I recently wrote one for my father, but could only capture a shred of the immensely positive, honest, kind, generous, and loving man, husband, and father he was. The words I have to describe him and his life are terribly insufficient. Nevertheless, below is the long form of our family’s obituary for Max Richard Sommers.

Max Richard Sommers, 95, passed away on May 1, 2022. Max was born on August 18, 1926 in Portland, OR, to Fern Langdon and Sam Sommers. If the past can be judged by the future, August 18, 1926 was an amazing day. Max attended school in Portland, graduating from Benson Tech in 1944, and attending one semester at the University of Portland, before joining the army and serving, partly in Korea, from August 1945 to January, 1947.

In 1949, along with his wife Paula, Max started a business called “City Shade Company” in downtown Vancouver, Washington. Max was more dedicated to his customers than he was to making money. He took great pride in and responsibility for the window coverings and awnings he installed. He watched the local weather with such intensity that we all believed he wished he had become a meteorologist. He did love watching the weather, but he was also watching for storms. Although he could have made substantial money on repairs, when strong winds were forecast, Max hopped in his van and drove frantically around Vancouver securing awnings he had installed. Max and Paula owned and operated City Shade for over 44 years.

Max lived life with passion. He loved fastpitch softball, golf, bowling, pinball, gin, cribbage, and poker. He loved nearly all competitive games, and never let his children win. If any of us happened to beat him in cards, we might have to stay up as long as it took for Max to win and regain the family card-playing crown. Max also loved watching sports, especially Oregon State Beaver football and Seattle Mariner baseball. A few days after nearly dying from a heart attack, Max hosted a raucous group of men in his hospital room to watch the Beavers beat the “evil” Ducks in the Civil War.

Max was simple, yet complex and adaptive. Hard work and honesty were his deepest values. He taught his children to “Never lie” and that you should never claim to be “sick” unless you can’t get out of bed. Max lived his values, getting out of bed every day and getting to work. Most mornings, he met some configuration of his best friends, Ed, Milt, Willie, Diz, and Bob for breakfast in downtown Vancouver at Spic n’ Span restaurant. Most weeks, he put in six workdays, but scheduled work around his children’s activities, Thursday afternoon golf at Green Meadows, and Paula. There was only one 3-day family vacation each year, over Labor Day weekend at Long Beach Washington, where Max loved to fish and dig for clams.

Max’s first love—above all else—was Paula. They overcame religious differences (she was Catholic, he was Jewish), forging a stable and loving marriage that lasted 70 years (until Paula died in August, 2020). After 40 years of marriage, Max finally donned a pair of shorts and headed out on his first real vacation, a cruise with Paula. Together, they went on several more cruises, returning with stories of great food and great fun. In addition to the sports page, Max suddenly started reading novels, biographies, and occasional nonfiction. He had many favorite books, including Seabiscuit and The Brothers K. Despite his Jewish roots, Max lived the quotation from Father Theodore Hesburgh, former president of Notre Dame, who said, “The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.”

Max loved Paula for better and for worse. When Paula began having memory problems, Max quit golfing to stay home. When she began asking him the same question 30 times a day, he repeatedly answered her with great patience, explaining, “She doesn’t mean to forget, so how can I be annoyed with her.” Max’s capacity to adapt to life’s challenges continued . . . after his heart attack, after colon cancer surgery, after a double bypass, after breaking his hip, and after a stroke. When Max—a man who had thrived on physical activity and competition—had been bedridden for over three years he still maintained his cheerful and kind disposition. Even in the end, when asked by his children, “How are you doing dad?” he struggled to awaken and would then say, “Good” and grin. Max was so wonderful that his caregivers quickly came to love him. One caregiver took to calling him “the Brother of Jesus.”

Max is survived by his children, Gayle Klein (Terry), Peggy Lotz (Dan), and John Sommers-Flanagan (Rita); and grandchildren, Chelsea Bodnar, Jason Lotz, Patrick Klein, Aaron Lotz, Rylee Sommers-Flanagan, and Stephen Klein. Max is also survived by nine great-grandchildren along with many nieces and nephews. Max was preceded in death by his parents and sisters, Geraldine Goldberg and Barbara Smith.

Our family would like to thank Noble AFH for providing Max with loving care over the last year. Memorial plans will be announced at a later date. In lieu of donations, Max would like you to get up, work hard, be honest, treat everyone with love and kindness, and enjoy a strawberry shake. If you have memories of Max you would like to share, sprinkle them here or anywhere you like . . . including his old Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007868177628

In case you want to see a video of Max and Paula Sommers – compliments of Blue Shield of Oregon and Gayle Klein: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yUspNiCBdw&t=2s

Happy Graduation 2022

And then there were more counselors . . .

This Saturday, graduation ceremonies were held in college towns across the United States. Every year, I’m stunned and humbled by the event here at the University of Montana. Even more, I’m struck by the incredible commitment so many students, young and old, have made to learning, growing, and making the world a better place. I know many college campuses have fallen on lean times, but when it comes to learning and fulfilling intellectual and career potentials, there’s really nothing like colleges and universities.  

Our department planned a small informal post-commencement 1pm event with minimal light snacks in an outdoor plaza adjacent to a large auditorium. TBH, after about 1:05pm, I’m not sure what happened. Maybe it was post-shut down enthusiasm, but students, parents, friends, families, supervisors, and adjunct faculty started pouring in at an unexpected rate. Before anyone could take control, the masses had flowed into the large auditorium (that ordinarily has to be specially reserved) and taken seats, as if a formal event was about to begin. Other than having a few positive comments about each graduate, we (the faculty), had no formal event planned. With about 200 people gathered expectantly in an unreserved and likely “off limits” venue, the faculty briefly conferred, and made a simple and short plan for the festivities.

As they have been for the past 2+ years, our counseling graduates were amazing. Along with their guests, they whooped and hollered and clapped for each other throughout. The 50 minute spontaneous event was, IMHO, the most fun, genuine, warm, and fuzzy feeling graduation event ever.

As a first-generation college student who started out as an athlete at a community college and experienced an intellectual and personal transformation, I have an irrationally passionate love for all colleges and universities. Although colleges and universities are always imperfect, the goal and process of intellectual development as a purposeful life activity is phenomenal. I am grateful to play my small role at the of the University of Montana.

Happy graduation day to everyone. If you haven’t experienced an intellectual developmental epiphany yet, I’m hoping there’s one in your future. If you’ve already had one, I wish you many more. Education is the road to our better selves.