Nancy Grimes Has Good News

The week’s good news: February 13, 2020

Siba the poodle.

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images


104-year-old World War II vet receives more than 70,000 valentines

This will be William White’s 104th Valentine’s Day, and it’s shaping up to be the best one yet. White is a World War II veteran who lives in an assisted living facility in Stockton, California. A retired major, he received a Purple Heart after being injured at Iwo Jima. One of White’s neighbors wanted to honor his service, and put up a request on social media, asking people to send White valentines. The goal was to hit 100, but with one day to go before Valentine’s Day, White has received more than 70,000 cards. “It’s just too fantastic,” White told Reuters. Cards have come in from all 50 states, as well as abroad. Because there are so many letters, White’s family and several volunteers are taking turns opening the cards and reading the messages to him. White never really celebrated Valentine’s Day before, and said this experience has left him “sort of speechless.” [Reuters]


New York City deli gives customers free food when they solve math problems

Ahmed Alwan of the Lucky Candy deli in New York City is making math sweeter. Alwan is a cashier at his father’s Bronx deli, and two weeks ago, the 20-year-old college student began quizzing customers, telling them if they solved a simple math problem, he would give them five seconds to grab anything they wanted from the store, free of charge. He knows that many of his customers struggle to afford their rent and utilities, and told CNN, “All l I wanted to do was help people, but I wanted to make it fun.” Alwan shares videos of his customers on TikTok and Instagram, and says it’s “a way to entertain and educate people in need while putting a smile on their face, too.” Alwan pays for all of the items he gives away, as well as the fruit, muffins, and coffee he distributes to homeless people in the area. [CNN]


Siba becomes the 1st standard poodle in nearly 30 years to win Best in Show at Westminster Dog Show

Siba, a 3-year-old standard poodle, was the big winner Tuesday night at the 144th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, with the judges naming her Best in Show. A whippet named Bourbon came in second. “She’s just a great dog,” Siba’s co-owner, Connie Unger, told USA Today. “She loves the showing, she’s in her element when she’s being shown. She’s really an all-around great dog.” It was a major night for the breed, as this was just the fifth time a standard poodle has been crowned Best in Show, with the previous wins in 1935, 1958, 1973, and 1991. Siba’s handler, Chrystal Clas, said the poodle would celebrate by eating some chicken. [USA Today]


Rome’s ‘Chef of the Poor’ feeds the homeless across the city

A homeless man approached Dino Impagliazzo at a train station in Rome 15 years ago, asking for money to buy a sandwich. While standing there, Impagliazzo had an epiphany. “I realized that perhaps instead of buying one sandwich, making some sandwiches for him and for the friends who were there would be better, and thus began our adventure,” he told Reuters. Impagliazzo, 90, started a group called RomAmoR, with the goal of feeding as many homeless people as possible. They started by making sandwiches out of his house, and now use a professional kitchen to prepare hot meals. Three days a week, Impagliazzo and 300 volunteers distribute food outside of train stations and in St. Peter’s Square, and on the other four days, they cook. Impagliazzo, known across Italy as the “Chef of the Poor,” said he strives to “involve more and more people so that Rome becomes a city where people can love each other.” [Reuters]


courtesy National Geographic

Conservationists discover descendants of tortoise species thought to be extinct

While on an expedition in the Galápagos Islands, conservationists made several incredible discoveries — including finding descendants of a tortoise species believed to be extinct. In 2012, a tortoise named Lonesome George, estimated to be 100 years old, died. He was the last known member of the Chelonoidis abingdonii subspecies, which inhabited Pinta Island. On a recent journey around the Galápagos Islands, researchers from Galapagos Conservancy found a female tortoise at Isabela Island’s Wolf Volcano who is a partial relative of Lonesome George. This is “a story of hope,” Galapagos Conservancy President Johannah Barry told NBC News. Humans have moved tortoises from different islands, and there could be additional hybrid tortoises with Pinta Island lineage in other areas of the Galápagos. The researchers also found 18 additional females and 11 male tortoises from Wolf Volcano that are partially related to another species from Floreana Island thought to be extinct. They are now being evaluated at a breeding center. [NBC News]

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Nancy Grimes: Your resume needs to get to the point

Get your resume to the point.


Over the past 20 years, I’ve reviewedthousands of resumes, and despite the vast amount of information available on how to write one, only a shockingly small amount of people do it well.

The most impressive resumes concisely and compellingly illustrate one major message: “This is how I made things better for the companies I worked for.” But the one section that gets in the way of this objective is … well, the “objective” — those few words up at the very top, meant to capture the entirety of a candidate’s career ambitions. Instead, they don’t really say anything at all.

It’s highly outdated and unnecessary. And yet, I still get so many resumes that have one. While it might sound harsh, 90% of the time, I refuse to read through resumes that include an objective.

No objectives, please

Virtually every objective I’ve read has either been too broad or too short, never just right. To say that you’re “seeking a challenging team leadership position” might be true, but it still reveals nothing about what you can do for a prospective employer.

Here are some extreme examples from the Hall of Shame that illustrate why you need to eliminate the objective:

  • San Jose, Calif.-based cybersecurity professional (working remotely, but willing to travel) seeking a CSO role managing a global team of like-minded, talented professionals.
  • Senior-level executive looking to be hired as your next CFO.
  • Looking for an opportunity to make a difference and change the world.

The first one is oddly specific and sounds more like a list of demands than genuine interest in the company. The second is just too “in your face,” while the last objective sounds overly presumptuous.

To say that you’re ‘seeking a challenging team leadership position’ might be true, but it still says nothing about what you can do for a prospective employer.

Gary Burnison/  CEO, KORN FERRY

In general, an objective distracts the hiring manager from focusing on what benefits you bring to the table. It can also make you seem pigeonholed and ruin your chances of being considered for other great opportunities and open positions (because the hiring manager will assume they may be too different from your stated objective).

What you need to focus on depends on your experience

If you’re a job seeker with only few years of experience, a “headline” is a quick way to make an impact. The headline appears below your name, address and other contact information. Here are a few great examples:

  • Award-winning graphic designer
  • Marketing associate with experience running online and social media campaigns
  • Communications manager for fast-growing Fortune 500 company
  • Biochemical engineer with nanotechnology expertise

For mid-level professionals with several years of experience, valuable technical skills and expertise that directly relates to the contribution they will make to their next employer, a “summary” will suffice.

A solid summary might look something like this: “Financial executive with extensive experience building and leading teams. Areas of expertise include: Strategic planning, business process reengineering, SEC reporting and governance…”

Hiring managers hardly spend any time looking at your resume (their first glance lasts about six seconds) if it doesn’t immediately deliver what they’re looking for. So it’s important to use what little amount of space you have wisely.


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Nancy Grimes Knows Goals

Reevaluating Success When Annual Goals Aren’t Met

As the year begins, businesses will take time to review the goals set the previous year and analyze how they fared. They will have the opportunity to look back on the recent 12 months to celebrate their greatest achievements. And while taking an inventory of what went right is important for office morale, it’s also imperative to appreciate the full weight of what went wrong. As leaders, when we fall short of what we set out to accomplish, it can be demoralizing for our teams. But if you embrace the opportunity failure offers, it could be the catalyst you need to reevaluate success and push toward future goals.
Learning from Failure
Learning and growing from failure can be a success in itself. By analyzing where your company fell short in specific areas, you can begin to dive into the nitty gritty of the shortcoming. When analyzing a missed quota, unfulfilled plan, or just a plain mistake, ask these questions:

  • How far away were we from reaching the goal?
  • What are the factors that held us back?
  • Did we have all the information needed to create the right goal?
  • Was the goal reachable / was it the right goal?

Answering these questions will help start the journey into learning from past failures and reevaluating success within your company.

Embracing the Baseline

To create focused goals, it’s important to look at the past to determine where you want to go in the future. Understanding a baseline of performance is fundamental to strive for growth and production. Regardless whether you reached your goal or not, you now have 12 months of data to help your company build a baseline. Some companies create recurring annual goals that simply change in percentage (e.g. in year one, increase customer satisfaction to 90%. In year two, increase to 93%, etc.) Baselines are great for goals like these because you can see if your actions affected the goal, as well as how to measure specific data points within the goal. Embrace your baseline and look toward the future.

Being Held Back

Whenever you set out to accomplish something that others either can’t or aren’t willing to strive for, there will be obstacles that hinder your path to success. These factors that hold us back from achieving success can blindside us or they can be calculated variables we plan for. Once you see that a goal won’t be met, meet with your team to find out why the organization fell short. Examine all factors that are known (e.g. market demand, economic conditions, etc.) and look into the factors that blindsided your company this year. While there are several factors we can’t control, there are those we can begin to look out for in the future and plan to either avoid or overcome in the new year. Take a hard look at your goals and answer the difficult question: why did we fall short? Being honest with the “why” will help you achieve the “what” moving forward.

Obtaining the Right Information

When betting on yourself, it’s nice to have all the cards. When you know all the information, it’s not a gamble, it’s a calculated risk and reward scenario. When creating annual goals, follow a structured and calculated formula. One of these, and the most popular goal-setting formula is the S.M.A.R.T. goal.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

Some aspects of this formula require specific information to fully flesh out a goal. Knowing where you have been, where you are, and where you want to go can help when creating these types of goals. Understanding your baseline will help answer some of these; however, gathering all the data, information, and organizational desires will also help exponentially. If your company failed to reach a desired outcome, determine whether you had all the cards when making the goal in the first place. If not, make it a priority for future goals.

Creating the Right Goal

Finally, the most important question to ask yourself is simple: was the goal achievable in the first place? Was it even the right goal for our company at the time? Not all goals are created equal, and though it is important to be aggressively optimistic and strive for greatness, it’s OK to accept the fact that a specific goal isn’t right for your organization at this time. The factors, obstacles, data points, and baseline all work together to determine how much energy and talent it will take to reach a certain level of success. If these elements make it unrealistic to fulfill a plan, then it wasn’t the right plan for your organization in the first place. Creating the perfect goal for your team means having something that will push your team, rallying them toward a finish line that they can strive to cross, while also putting plans in place to finish the race strong. If this isn’t possible, it may not be the right goal for your team.

While some believe success is black and white, and is measured in wins and losses, it’s important to understand that you can find ways to reevaluate by learning from your failures and putting plans in place to pursue excellence in the future. If you didn’t get where you wanted to go this year, remember, there’s always next year. And if you learn from what went wrong, you can strive for success in the future.

What do you do when an annual goal isn’t met? How do you ensure your team makes the necessary adjustments to strive for future success? Let us know in the comments section below!


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Nancy Grimes has 4 Popular Business Trends to Look Out For in 2020

4 Popular Business Trends to Look Out For in 2020

Choncé Maddox

Since societal norms are always evolving, businesses need to keep up with this as well. You’ve probably seen huge companies go out of business or fall out of favor with their customers before.

Sometimes it can seem scary since these huge businesses often have tons of resources. Regardless of the size of your business, it’s important to always stay on top of the new trends and be willing to adapt.

Check out these popular business trends to look out for in 2020.

Mobile B2C Communication

Capturing your target audience’s attention has often been all about targeting them with SEO tactics or gaining their email addresses. While these methods still work well, you should also consider mobile communication with your customers and prospects.

I’m talking about using social media and even utilizing texts. Instead of just marketing to customers on your Facebook page, you can even get in their direct messages with your ads, promotions and resources now.

Don’t forget about texting programs. Yes, in addition to doing sales calls and follow-ups, you can also opt to text prospects or ask them to text you to receive a resource or discount your business offers. People’s email inboxes might be full but they are always checking their phones for texts.

Word of Mouth Referrals and Reviews

Word of mouth referrals and reviews have always been popular but they are even more important now. Consumers are aware of all the scams and “fake news” that’s out there which makes them even more skeptical.

Before buying a product or trying a service, they want to know that other people have used it and have good things to say. This is why it’s best to do a soft launch of your products in your community and offer it to a test group so they can provide reviews and testimonials.

Continued eCommerce Domination

We’ve seen so many brick and mortar businesses (both large and small) go under in previous years. This is due to the rising popularity of eCommerce and digital stores.

Let’s face it, most people are shopping online. That means you have to keep that in mind when selling products in your business. Offer an online component or start selling online so first to see how it goes.

Growing Gig Economy

The gig economy may have played a huge role in the development of your business but it will continue to be a leading trend in coming years. If your small business can’t afford to hire employees right now, be sure to take advantage of the gig economy and offer remote work options to save money.


Keeping up with popular business trends is a great way to keep your business fresh and always evolving. Everyone has their own unique way of adapting to the latest industry trends so consider your business goals and preferences first.

Then, see where you can fit some of these ideas and concepts in.


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Immediate Need in Philadelphia: Senior Associate Corporate M&A Attorney


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Send resumes to

The Fall and Resurrection of the American Chestnut

The Epic Saga of the American Chestnut

Chelsea Green

The breeding program at the Lockwood, Connecticut, Agricultural Experi- ment Station run by Dr. Sandra Anagnostakis. This program includes species from all over the world and extends through many di erent plant- ings. This particular planting is a mix of American chestnut and Ozark chinquapin and also includes genetics of Japanese and Henry chestnut.

The American chestnut may well be the greatest and most useful forest tree to ever grow on this Earth. Its decline is considered by many ecologists to be one of the greatest ecological disasters to strike the US since European contact. But how did  it happen? And are we on track to bring back this amazing tree?

The following excerpt is from Trees of Power by Akiva Silver. It has been adapted for the web.

It is hard for us today to understand what was lost because we did not witness it.

Imagine working in your yard and noticing an apple tree with wilted leaves. A few weeks later, the tree dies. You’re sad about this and tell a friend, who tells you that they had the same thing happen. Then you hear it from lots of people. It’s on the news. Apple trees are dying, orchards are wiped out, wild trees disappear. No one knows what to do. Before you know it there are no cider barns, no crisp fruits to sink your teeth into, no apple blossoms in the spring, no fruit in the supermarket. How would you feel? As the years go on, you might try to explain to young people what an apple tasted like, what it felt like to bite into apples; you might describe the trees’ gnarly growth habits or the smell of cider in the barn or the taste of applesauce. They would never understand. The apple tree would be gone and life would go on. Other trees would be there, but none would be the apple. This is basically what happened to the American chestnut. The chestnut was no less loved or used than apples are today. It was a tree with full cultural, economic, and wild significance. We are the people who were born after its loss. All we have are the stories and a handful of pictures to go by.

Chestnuts at Hemlock Grove Farm, West Danby, New York. These trees were planted by Brian Caldwell, who has been planting and selecting productive, blight-resistant trees for the past 40-plus years. Several of Brian’s trees originate from the plantings at Sleeping Giant State Park.Castanea dentata dominated the eastern US, making up roughly one-fourth of the trees in its range. This is a huge percentage, considering the diversity found in the eastern deciduous forests. Even maples, oaks, and ash are not that common.

American chestnut trunks were massive, often 10 feet or more in diameter, with canopies reaching 130 feet in the air.

These arrow-straight, towering trunks were made of high-quality, rot-resistant timber. The wood was used for barn beams, house framing, furniture, telegraph poles, fence posts, paper pulp, caskets, and cradles. There is no wood so versatile as American chestnut. It has the durability of black locust, the straight grain and splittability of ash; it’s as stable and easy to work as pine, and very fast growing.

The wood value alone would have made the American chestnut a highly valuable tree. Adding the dependable crops of nuts makes this tree stand alone in its excellence. The wildlife value of American chestnut was unparalleled, as nuts could fill the forest floor more than a foot deep in some years. Along with wildlife, people also ate wild American chestnuts. They grazed their animals under these magnanimous giants during the fall and gathered nuts by hand. Chestnuts were collected in great quantities throughout the Appalachian Mountains, and roasted and sold on the streets of towns like Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Train-car loads were filled with this wild crop. Today many families find financial relief with their end-of-year tax credit. Back then people found their Christmas bonus in the form of selling what chestnuts they could gather in the mountains.

The American chestnut was a keystone species in the ecology of the Appalachians.

It was culturally fixed in the minds of Americans, and used widely. Tanneries cranked out leather that was processed with the tannins of chestnut bark, paper mills pulped the wood, railroad companies laid track with timbers, people built barns and houses, fences, and chairs. They ate the nuts raw and roasted every fall. And then it all crashed.

In 1904 chestnut blight, Cryphonectria parasitica, was discovered in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. From there it spread like a wildfire, consuming trees and turning forests of green into silvery gray ghost woods. Within just 25 years an estimated four billion trees died. An entire ecology, an entire culture, was wiped out. While the trees were dying, the US Forest Service advised people to have all their chestnuts logged. Believing there was no hope, they told folks to get some lumber out of it while they still could. We will never know how many resistant trees were killed in this shortsighted practice. Sadly, this mindset persists today, as foresters commonly advise landowners to log all their ash and hemlock trees before the coming crash.The forest left behind by Arthur Graves at Sleeping Giant State Park, in Connecticut. All the trees in this photo are mixed species of chestnut.

Cryphonectria parasitica is a fungus whose spores spread by wind. Its origins lie in Asia, where trees there have co-evolved with the fungus. When Japanese chestnut seedlings were brought over to the US for people’s gardens, no one noticed that these seemingly healthy trees carried the blight with them. The American chestnut had never encountered this fungus and so had almost zero resistance. People scrambled to save the chestnut tree in vain, employing all sorts of strange strategies over the next several decades before giving up for the most part.

There were some really wonderful early attempts at saving the American chestnut, notably the work of Arthur Graves. He planted several thousand seeds of anything he could get his hands on, including every species of chestnut from around the world. He crossed every species and then crossed the resulting hybrids. Many of his trees are still alive and maintained to this day at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station by the committed and innovative work of Dr. Sandra Anagnostakis. Graves was never able to find the winning combination of a true timber-type tree and full blight resistance—though he found many trees that came close. The work of Graves and Anagnostakis continues today. Dr. Anagnostakis continues to plant trees, make controlled crosses, and spread hypovirulence. Today the Connecticut Agricultural Station and Sleeping Giant State Park are home to the largest repository of chestnut genetics in the world.

Other attempts at saving the American chestnut included cutting out all the trees in a large swath of land across Pennsylvania to act as a kind of rebreak. The budget for this project was enormous but could not keep up with the winds that carried blight spores. In the 1950s, when nuclear power was at the height of popularity, people irradiated nuts to hopefully invoke a mutation. Of course, this failed miserably.

As the years wore on, and generations passed, interest in the chestnut grew less and less. The American chestnut became a legend, with little practical hope of recovery. That is, until two visionary men in the 1970s, Dr. Charles Burnham and Phil Rutter, came up with a plan. It was simple enough: Cross American trees with resistant Chinese trees. The resultant seedlings would then be backcrossed with American trees again and again until they had a tree that would behave like the American chestnut of ancient forests. The tree they worked to create would have fifteen-sixteenths American genetics. This would take several generations of crosses. Dr. Burnham knew he would never live to see the full breeding program to its completion, but he started it nevertheless as a selfless act. This was the beginning of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF).

TACF would go on to plant thousands and thousands of seeds from multiple lines of genetics. For every tree they leave to grow, hundreds are cut down in this rigorous and highly organized breeding program. Today TACF has trees that are fifteen-sixteenths American and display both timber form and blight resistance. These trees are being planted experimentally in parks, at private homes, at institutions, and in reforestation efforts.

Many folks continue to plant and grow 100 percent pure American trees as well as hybrids. American chestnut seed is available through TACF state chapters. The trees grow quickly. They typically live for 15 years before succumbing to blight. In this time they produce small crops of nuts and excellent pole wood. Since the blight cannot kill the root system, the trees sprout back after the blight knocks them down. They can be kept going indefinitely in a coppice system. Growing American chestnuts from seed also expands the genetics of this magnificent species.

The Shelton family in Tennessee pose in front of a blight-killed American chestnut (1920). Photo courtesy of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park LibraryThere are other programs in action today. The American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation grows only 100 percent pure American chestnuts. They maintain trees that exhibit resistance through grafting and seed collection.

SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, along with the New York chapter of TACF, is genetically engineering blight-resistant chestnuts. They have introduced a wheat gene to resist the fungus. The trees are currently not released for public planting pending government approval. This program is considered by some native-plant enthusiasts to be superior to the traditional breeding program of TACF because the trees are less “contaminated” with Chinese genetics. However, it’s interesting to note that Chinese chestnut and American chestnut share most of each other’s genes; the hybrids that TACF grows are actually over 99 percent genetically American chestnut.

The story of the American chestnut is far from over.

Today we can grow resistant hybrids or pure American trees. We can bring this species back into our parks, homes, and wildlands. There really is no reason not to. Millions and millions of people live in the range of the American chestnut. If just 1 percent of them chose to plant a few trees, we’d have a lot of chestnut trees around.

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Nancy Grimes with a reminder: Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world on December 3, 2019 and every day.

It was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past seven years, this idea has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

One of the best ways to get involved is in your own community. We’ve created a directory to help you find organizations, events, and ways to give back in your own community.


The Second Amendment

Repeal The Second Amendment? That’s Not So Simple. Here’s What It Would Take

“The Second Amendment.”

If you’ve lived in America, you’ve heard those words spoken with feeling.

The feeling may have been forceful, even vehement.

“Why? The Second Amendment, that’s why.”

The same words can be heard uttered in bitterness, as if in blame.

“Why? The Second Amendment, that’s why.”

Or then again, with reverence, an invocation of the sacred — rather like “the Second Coming.”

Talk of gun rights and gun control is back on full boil after 17 people were killed in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, so the conversation turns to the Second Amendment quickly and often.

We are talking, of course, about the Second Amendment to U.S. Constitution, in the Bill of Rights.

It reads in full:

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Simple. And not simple. Assuming it means just what it says, just what does it actually say?

Scholars have parsed the words, and courts and lawyers have argued over their meaning. Historians have debated what was meant by “well-regulated militia” back in 1789.

Some say the framers only meant to protect well-organized militias in the respective states, forerunners of today’s National Guard. Others say the framers also intended to shield the guns of individuals, the weapons they would use if those militias were called upon to fight.

Heller brings some clarity

To some extent, the issue was clarified, if not settled, by the Heller decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008. The 5-4 decision held that the Second Amendment meant individuals had an inherent right to own guns for lawful purposes.

Heller applied that standard to overturn a ban on privately held handguns, enacted in the District of Columbia. But the same basic reasoning has also been used to defend the private ownership of AR-15-type rifles such as the one used in Parkland and other mass shootings in recent years.

Congress tried to ban “assault-style” weapons in 1994 but put a 10-year sunset provision in the law. It survived court challenges at the time, but when the 10-year term had passed, the majority control of Congress had also passed — from the Democrats, who had enacted the ban, to the Republicans, who let it lapse.

Since then, all efforts to restrict the sale of such weapons have failed. Even relatively bipartisan attempts at strengthening other restrictions, such as the Manchin-Toomey background check expansion bill in 2013, have fallen short of the necessary supermajority needed for passage in the Senate.

It was not, as President Trump alleged Wednesday, because of a lack of “presidential backup.” President Barack Obama supported the bill, as Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, pointed out to Trump. Republicans filibustered the bill, which got 54 votes.

In each case, defenders of gun rights have invoked the Second Amendment, the text that casts a long shadow across all discussions of guns in the U.S. At times, it seems to all but end such discussion.

Parkland changes calculus

But now, the tide is running the other way. The Parkland shootings have created a new moment and a new movement, led by teenagers who survived the tragedy and took their protests to social media and beyond.

Suddenly, even Trump is tossing out ideas about keeping students safe, arming teachers, restraining gun sales through background checks and higher age limits, and even banning accessories such as “bump stocks” that enable nonautomatic weapons to fire rapidly and repeatedly.

And it’s still unclear what Trump wants exactly. Republicans on Capitol Hill seem flummoxed by Trump’s posture.

After Trump’s made-for-cable bipartisan meeting at the White House with members of Congress, Texas Republican John Cornyn, a leader on gun issues in the Senate, seemed to scratch his head.

“I think everybody is trying to absorb what we just heard,” Cornyn told reporters. “He’s a unique president, and I think if he was focused on a specific piece of legislation rather than a grab bag of ideas, then I think he could have a lot of influence, but right now we don’t have that.”

He added that he didn’t think simply because the president says he supports something that it would pass muster with Republicans. “I wouldn’t confuse what he said with what can actually pass,” Cornyn said. “I don’t expect to see any great divergence in terms of people’s views on the Second Amendment, for example.”

Ah, and there are those two words again — Second Amendment.

If new restrictions are enacted — a prospect far from certain, as Cornyn rightly points out — they will surely be tested in the courts. There, it will be argued that they infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens to “keep and bear” firearms.

In other words, they will run afoul of, that’s right, the Second Amendment.

Anticipating that, some gun control advocates — and at least one lifelong Republican — want to leap to the ultimate battlement and do it now. They want to repeal, or substantially alter, the formidable amendment itself.

That would seem logical, at least to these advocates. If some 70 percent of Americans want more gun control and the Second Amendment stands in their way, why shouldn’t they be able to do something about it?

Someday, it is conceivable, the people and politicians of the United States may be ready for that. But it will need to be a very different United States than we know today.

Why? Because amendments to the Constitution, once ratified, become fully part of the Constitution. Changing or removing them requires a two-stage process that has proved historically difficult.

The Founding Fathers were willing to be edited, it seems, but they did not want it to be easy. So they made the amending process a steep uphill climb, requiring a clear national consensus to succeed.

Why it takes consensus

A proposed amendment to the Constitution must first be passed by Congress with two-thirds majorities in both the House and the Senate.

The two chambers have not achieved such a margin for a newly written amendment to the Constitution in nearly half a century. The last such effort was the 26th Amendment (lowering the voting age nationwide from 21 to 18), and it cleared Capitol Hill in March 1971.

(There has been another amendment added since, in 1992, but it had been written and approved by Congress literally generations ago. More about that curious “zombie” amendment below.)

Even after surviving both chambers of Congress in 1971, the 18-year-old vote amendment still had to survive the second stage of the process — the more difficult stage.

Just like all the other amendments before it, the new voting age had to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. That is currently at least 38 states. Another way to look at it: If as few as 13 states refuse, the amendment stalls.

This arduous process has winnowed out all but a handful of the amendments proposed over the past 230 years. Every Congress produces scores of proposals, sometimes well over 100. The 101st Congress (1989 to 1991) produced 214.

Some deal with obscure concerns; many address facets of the electoral process — especially the Electoral College and the choosing of a president. Many are retreads from earlier sessions of Congress. The one thing most have in common is that they never even come to a vote.

Two that fell short

In 1995, a watershed year with big new GOP majorities in both chambers, two major constitutional amendments were brought to votes in the Capitol. One would have imposed term limits on members of Congress. It failed to get even close to two-thirds in the House, so the Senate did not bother.

The other proposed amendment would have required the federal government to balance its budget, not in theory down the road but in reality and in real time. It quickly got two-thirds in the House but failed to reach that threshold in the Senate by a single vote (one Republican in the chamber voted no).

So even relatively popular ideas with a big head of steam can hit the wall of the amendment process. How much more challenging would it be to tackle individual gun ownership in a country where so many citizens own guns — and care passionately about their right to do so?

Overcoming the NRA and other elements of the gun lobby is only the beginning. The real obstacle would be tremendous support for guns in Southern, Western and rural Midwestern states, which would easily total up to more than enough states to block a gun control amendment.

There have been six amendments that got the needed margins in House and Senate but not the needed margin of support in the state legislatures. The most recent was the Equal Rights Amendment, a remarkably simple statement (“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex”) that cleared Congress with bipartisan support in 1972 and quickly won nods from most of the states.

But in the mid-1970s, a resistance campaign began and stymied the ERA in many of the remaining states. The resistance then managed to persuade several states to rescind their ratification votes. With momentum now reversed, the ERA died when its window for ratification closed.

Zombie amendments

Other amendments that met similar fates included one granting statehood to the District of Columbia. Like the ERA, the D.C. amendment had a time limit for ratification that expired. But other amendments sent out for ratification in the past did not have a limit, and so might still be ratified — at least theoretically.

The granddaddy of these “zombie” amendments was the very first among the Bill of Rights, which began with 12 items rather than 10. The proposed amendment sought to regulate the number of constituents to be represented by a member of the House, and its numbers were soon outdated. So it has never been ratified and presumably will not be.

The one other amendment originally proposed in 1789 but not ratified as part of the original 10 amendments sat around for generations. Then it caught the attention of state legislatures in the late 1980s, at a time of popular reaction against pay raises for Congress. This amendment stated that a member of Congress who voted for a pay raise could not receive that raise until after the next election for the House of Representatives.

That amendment was dusted off and recirculated, and it reached the ratification threshold in 1992, more than 200 years after it had first been proposed. It is now the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, and the last — at least so far.

A new Constitutional Convention?

If all this seems daunting, as it should, there is one alternative for changing the Constitution. That is the calling of a Constitutional Convention. This, too, is found in Article V of the Constitution and allows for a new convention to bypass Congress and address issues of amendment on its own.

To exist with this authority, the new convention would need to be called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures.

So if 34 states saw fit, they could convene their delegations and start writing amendments. Some believe such a convention would have the power to rewrite the entire 1787 Constitution, if it saw fit. Others say it would and should be limited to specific issues or targets, such as term limits or balancing the budget — or changing the campaign-finance system or restricting the individual rights of gun owners.

There have been calls for an “Article V convention” from prominent figures on the left as well as the right. But there are those on both sides of the partisan divide who regard the entire proposition as suspect, if not frightening.

One way or another, any changes made by such a powerful convention would need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states — just like amendments that might come from Congress.

And three-fourths would presumably be as high a hurdle for convention-spawned amendments as it has been for those from Congress — dating to the 1700s.



“My God! How little do my countryman know that precious blessing they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy.”

— Thomas Jefferson, 1743 -1826, America Founding Father, Author of the Declaration of Independence, 3rd President of the United States

Nancy Grimes: Add some cute to your Thursday with Narwhal the unicorn puppy

Add Some Cute to your Thursday

Meet Narwhal, the “unicorn” puppy born with a tail on his head. He is up for adoption through Mac’s Mission, an animal rescue organization in Missouri focused on helping homeless animals.