Annual Thanksgiving Reflections 2017

I will stop doing these annual reflections as soon as I stop having things to give thanks for, which is to say, never.  But even if all I had left in the tank was “regular” thanks – just sort of vanilla, bland, barely-breathing thanks – I would cut it off.  However, my cup overfloweth yet again this year with profound thanksgiving – abundant thanksgiving – and once again it becomes an early morning pleasure of my heart to share the vast reasons for such.

2017 was a truly amazing year, creating experiences and memories I will never forget and providing ample opportunity for growth and flourishing.  In each category of my life – from family, to work, to “extra-curricular” activities – 2017 was a remarkable year, begging for reflections of Thanksgiving.

Our family is growing up, as I guess is prone to happen when members get older.  My little baby, who is the cutest and funniest little boy I have ever seen, is nowhere near a baby any more, but even at age seven, Graham is as precious as he has ever been, and seems to still be holding on to the ancient notion of a kid really liking his daddy.  He loves basketball, loves baseball, and loves watching football with me.  Did I mention he hates losing?  He is no slacker with the lego sets.  And no matter how much he complains about walking around New York City, he is a little trooper.  I adore that kid as much as any daddy could ever adore their own offspring.  My daughter, Sadie, is now ten years old, and well on her way to twenty, and she continues to hold tight to a smile that lights up an entire room.  She is a terrific student, a competitive little fireball, and a dancing machine.  She may think she is growing up, but I have other plans for her.  Okay, not really.  But she is darling, and she is my baby girl, always and forever.  Mitchell will be 13 in a couple months, and has the technology knowledge, skill, and drive of a 23-year old.  He makes his mom and I laugh constantly, because he is actually clever and funny – and we are in awe of him daily.  I have the added bonus of seeing myself in his obsessive personality on a daily basis, but he possesses a genuinely sweet heart and a truly robust mind, and I give thanks for him as I do my entire family.

Joleen continues to be my helpmate, lifemate, and soulmate.  She remains one of the most sincere and wonderful people I have ever met, so earnestly deserving of a joyful and peaceful life, and so sacrificial in how she approaches her family and friends.  We took the kids to New York City most of the summer this year, giving me the chance to work from my company’s new office there, and giving the family the chance to experience the world’s greatest city.  If people only knew how Joleen tackled this opportunity, and what she did to make this one of the greatest experiences of our kids lives …  She has an incredibly productive capacity in her (so do I), but she has the heart and warmth of one of the world’s most genuine people (I do not).  I am in daily thanksgiving for my bride, and always will be.

My wealth management business grew in ways that defy even my own dreams this year, and my ongoing passion for running what I want to be the greatest wealth management business in the country (defined by the quality of experience we deliver our clients) continues to burn bright.  I am now surrounded by three other partners in the business (Brian, Kimberlee, and Don), and a team of people across each department that represent the finest in client-centric advisory work, operations, service, communications, and investment acumen.  The business growth has been a sight to behold, and I don’t belittle the success we have enjoyed in terms of all the normal measurable metrics (assets, revenues, earnings, etc.), but far more amazing to me than any of that is how much I believe we have grown in our competence, the quality of our work, our resourcefulness, and our capacity to serve clients.  This is no job for any of us; this is our calling.  And I do not wake up at 3:45am each and every day because I have to, but because I get to.  And that crazy little drive deep inside one’s soul that pushes them to be the best they can be professionally – that ambition, but also that aspiration – is just as real and potent and present in me now as it was nearly 20 years ago.  Thanksgiving abounds at The Bahnsen Group.

2017 enabled me to both find a publisher for my first book, but also to write that same first book, and to frankly really enjoy doing so.  My devotion to understanding the causes of the financial crisis goes back nine years now, but to put pen to paper about the crisis and the larger cultural shortcomings underpinning it (and so much else in our society), was a thrill for me creating ample Thanksgiving.  My agent and editor (DJ Snell and Bill Blankschaen) first believed in the project.  Then my publisher (Anthony Ziccardi and Post Hill Press) did the same.  The incomparable David French, who has himself been identifying the breakdowns in our society for years, and offering delicious and embracing prescriptions each step of the way – all character-driven – contributed a Foreword, guaranteeing there would be something worth reading in the book.  And now we wait for the February release, knowing that I have a good chance of releasing a book that manages to alienate every possible reading demographic (THAT would be a success!).

I remain deeply entrenched in a few extra-curricular projects, each one of which transcends what most people mean by extra-curricular or project.  With Pacifica Christian High School, we purchased the building across the street from our present campus this year (from Kobe Bryant, no less), assuring a long term home for our school and a campus corridor that will be a multi-generational home to teach kids to think and live well.  The administration, faculty, and board are co-laborers in the cause, and are doing what most needs to be done in the entire cause of a free and virtuous society – creating the values and foundations in young people necessary for them to live the good life.  There is no cause I care about if I don’t first care about that one.

National Review continues to be the vessel of conservatism most serious about civil discourse, cogent thought, and an ideology of freedom.  The patriots who keep the lights on at National Review are unparalleled thought leaders and visionaries and heirs of the 20th century’s most remarkable intellect, Bill Buckley.  The sacrifice and commitment evident inside their halls each and every day is stunning, and I am so grateful to be a small part of what this organization is doing, and so excited for what the future will hold.  Long past the time that angry and reactionary politics rule the day, there will be a beacon of thoughtful and needed leadership in the ideas that form a free society.  And I do not have a doubt in my mind that that thoughtfulness and leadership will come from National Review, as it always has.  I am so grateful this Thanksgiving for the legacy of Bill Buckley (a living legacy if there ever was one), but also for the friendship of the remarkable Jack Fowler (look up “gem of a human being” in the dictionary if you want to see his picture), the diligence of the board and staff, and the example of the fellows and writers, all of whomn give me hope that our movement is going to survive and then thrive through these somewhat bizarre days in which we live.

King’s College is a new edition to my commitments, but one that has unbelievable capacity to create huge impact on the world around us.  Higher education with a commitment to first things is important enough, but to offer such in the mecca of downtown Manhattan, the world’s greatest and most important city, is not to be taken lightly.  I believe God will smile upon King’s for decades and generations to come, and that the leverage created for Kingdom work out of this effort will be completely remarkable.  I am thankful for my new friend, Dr. Greg Thornbury and his delightful wife, Dr. Kimberly Thornbury.  And I am thankful to be getting to know the board that I have newly joined, filled with patriots and lovers of all things Kuyper.  In all of my extra-curricular endeavors, my focus is on that ownership claim – every square inch.

For a few years now I have worked with a small organization doing big things in California called the California Policy Center.  A couple of the founders there are good friends of mine, in some cases clients, and in all cases folks who I know and think very highly of.  But a little over a year ago they hired a new president by the name of Will Swaim, and this year I have gotten to know Will quite well.  Will immediately had going for him the fact that he was a Trojan, but in the skeptical column was the fact that, well, he was a former Communist.  Conservatives often use that word to describe all liberals, which is kind of stupid of you think about it, because only 50% of liberals are probably Communist, but in Will’s case, he was like the real deal – super duper Marxist.  And then, as the great Irving Kristol said, he got “mugged by reality.”  Exasperated by the failure to produce promised utopia, and disgusted by the realities of human nature fully present in the leftist worldview, Will began a conversion out of the dark side, and found a political worldview rooted in high regard for human dignity.  I have said before that some of my favorite Christians were not raised as such, but found the Lord the hard way; well, some of my favorite conservatives used to be Marxists.  And Will is one of them.  I had the pleasure of being at Acton University with him this summer, and saw in his face session-by-session the value he placed on anthropology in forming his political and economic worldview.  I am grateful for Will as a person, and the friend he has become (we do a podcast together every week for National Review), but I am grateful for what Will represents as well – someone who actually cares about the impact an economic or political worldview has on people, particular people, real people, and has sought to find a cohesive viewpoint well into his adult years because he values the dignity of mankind, and has seen the failure of those systems promising utopia.  I have met plenty of people in my life with what they consider to the be the mind of a conservative; I get to meet very few with the heart of one.  Will is such a man.

It has been fifteen years now of fighting the good fight in the desert of politics that is California with my friends from the Lincoln Club.  John Warner has become a friend and advocate, and the entire club is filled with good people of diverse styles and personalities, but really a place where friendships are cultivated and passions stirred.  Great friends, and great memories, so much cause for Thanksgiving.

I love both of my brothers, Mike-Dogg, and Jonathan, from the core of my being, and thank God they are both in my life.  I enjoy extended family that feels like they are nuclear family we get along so well (Uncle Brad and Aunt Vicki, cousin Monica, her stud of a husband, Colin, their three children, and not to mention Jo’s sister Joco, “Uncle” Todd, and their four kids).  I love my cousin, Dana, who I get to stay in touch with thanks to the miracle of Facebook.  And I have the memories of my late father and my late grandparents, which never leave me for a day.

The friend list gets a few new members each year, but never loses a member.  I don’t believe in the cessation of friendships, and I am blessed with people in my life who see it the same way I do.  From my best man many moons ago, Darin, to the Viva hombres I do Vegas with every year for March Madness, to my soul brothers Eric, Aaron, and Luis, to my New York meal-mates, Brian and Paul, to the CCL crew of Andrew, Jeff, and Brian, to those who fill my cup constantly (Somers, LarryK, and, Jason Carson), I just say thank you, thank you, and thank you.  I say that to the many friends I am not listing, too.  My life is full because of the friendships that fill my heart, and I thank you all for your undying love and support.

I continue to thank God for sunsets, sunrises, fairway views, mountain views, back bay views, city light views, Hudson River views, and all aspects of creation views.  My life is enhanced in profound ways by all of the above, and it does not cease to amaze me that from our apartment in NYC to our villa in the desert to the house we call home in Newport, we just open our eyes and see God’s grace all around us.  But apart from the majesty and serenity of views, I continue to thank God for music, for Chinese food, for good books, for cuff links, for college football, for college basketball, for good comedy, for medium rare rib-eyes, for treadmills, for sleeping kiddos, for hot tubs, for long walks, for ice cream, for modern finance, for Uber, for Doordash, for laughing kiddos, for the Palmilla, for coffee, and for good biographies.  Nothing in my life is too big or too small to not warrant Thanksgiving.

It is a day to give thanks, as is each and every other day.  In gratitude we find the perspective that we must find – that God has created us with dignity, to be co-creators with Him, and has given to us the daily chance to breathe deep His breath, and taste and see that He is good.  So today, I celebrate such tasting.  And I will soon symbolically live that out with the tasting of a turkey that I brined last night.

Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.