Front Lines

March 24, 2003
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The world is different today. What seemed monumental before is now rendered petty.

War does that to a nation and its people.

So, whether a dove or a hawk, whether an activist or a pacifist, now is a time for personal beliefs to be set aside for the common good.

That's pretty much the message political leaders are sending from both sides of the aisle as tanks and aircraft roll into Iraq.

Political rhetoric, which as been honed to a science in Lansing and Washington, and all points between, for once looks like it's coming from a single mouth.

State Rep. Glenn Steil Jr., R-Cascade Township, said the passage of HR 31, supporting the military and pledging the commitment of the Legislature to public policies that will advance the nation's efforts against terrorism and threats to liberty, is a no-brainer.

"It has always been important to support our military, for they are the men and women that work daily to defend our rights of 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' that we often take for granted," he said. "It is now crucial that we support our troops and encourage them in their efforts to help keep us safe and free."

The state's Democrats share a similar view.

"As citizens of Michigan and the United States are again engaged in actively protecting us from terrorism at home and abroad, the Michigan Democratic Party wants to reaffirm our full support for the brave men and women in our military who are even now putting their lives on the line to protect us," said a party statement. "We are deeply grateful for their service and willingness to sacrifice, and we want them to know that wherever they serve and whatever their task, they and their families are uppermost in our thoughts and prayers.

"Our hope is that this conflict will be swift and victorious, with minimal casualties to our troops and innocent civilians, and that we can soon return our focus as a nation and a state to the needs of domestic prosperity, security and justice."

  • Will that prosperity bounce back quickly? Will ending the "will we or won't we" uncertainty by going to war buoy the economy?

Not likely, said one Western Michigan University expert, who contends that a military conflict in Iraq would bring its own damaging uncertainties, likely keeping the economy in its current state of anemic growth.

"It appears that much of the money spent in post-war Iraq will go to benefit the Iraqi economy, not ours," said J. Kevin Corder, associate professor of political science at WMU. "Domestically, there will be unease about what the post-war occupation of Iraq will look like, not to mention uncertainty about energy prices, the nuclear threat in North Korea and the possibility of additional terrorist accts in the United States.

"None of those elements bode well for an increase in consumer confidence or business capital spending, which are essential for a full recovery."

He pointed out that the current fiscal stimuli and interest rate cuts don't appear to be working right now, either.

"We're doing everything we can, and nothing is pulling the economy out of its slump," Corder said. "War will only exacerbate the problem."

  • One man's war with substance abuse may soon be coming to a bookstore near you. Many Grand Rapidians are familiar with the man, but maybe not his history.

Verne Barry, who founded Faith Inc. in Grand Rapids and served as chairman of the Downtown Development Authority, among many other civic duties, now can add "author" to his resume. His recollections, penned with the help of local writer MarcLongstreet, read like a how-to manual of how not to lead one's life.

Or at least that's the beginning of the work. Underlying that is a wonderful message that most Grand Rapidians will enjoy.

"Above all, this is a story about faith. It's about the faith that kept me going when I was homeless, when I was an alcoholic, and when I survived illnesses that I was not expect to survive," Barry writes. "It's about keeping Faith Inc. going at times when it looked like it had little chance to survive. And it's about having faith in people that are written off by most of society.

"I also hope that by telling my story more of the up-and-comers in the sun will notice the down-and-outers in the shadows and understand their needs. More of us can reach out not just to lend a dime but to offer a hand up. We can even throw a lifeline to pull them aboard the life we all enjoy."

Barry knows from whence he speaks.

At least twice in the past three years, he has been in the hospital with little hope of leaving it again. He's also persevered through a leg being amputated twice — once below the knee and then, later, up to the hip.

But Barry's success story is inspiring, both from a personal standpoint and a business angle.

He now is working with national alliances to bring the Faith Inc. principals, with a boost from President George Bush's faith-based initiatives, to similar operations across the country.

It just goes to show you what a little Faith will do.

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration's faith has been placed in none other than AnneSchieber, WOOD TV8 Marketwatch anchor/producer, who has been named 2002 Small Business Journalist of the Year.

Schieber was nominated by the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center, a partner program of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

According to a statement from the SBTDC, "Schieber's role began four years ago when WOOD-TV asked her to create, develop and present business segments for its top-rated morning newscast. She does all her own producing, researching and writing, as well as booking all guests and guiding small business coverage throughout the day. In addition, Schieber provides field reports on small business for the station's other newscasts."           

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