How a Small Firm, in a Small Town, is Making a Big Impact

Before Jeanne Reed decided to go to law school, she was deep into the building construction industry. Since receiving an associates degree in Building Construction Technology, she had spent seven years working in a business as a construction estimator.  Then one morning she woke up and thought, “this isn’t enough.”
Jeanne Reed

Jeanne Reed

“I realized I just wasn’t happy and felt like I’d maxed out in what I was doing and where I was going in this line of work,” recalled Jeanne. “Going to law school was a total leap of faith. I had never once in my life thought of myself as lawyer until I found myself listening to my friend talk about how excited she was about going to law school. It had always been her dream.  It hit me that moment that law school might be right for me too. It’s funny, but I saw it as a sign.”

That night Jeanne jumped online to see what she needed to do get into law school. She checked out WMU-Cooley Law School’s website and discovered that they not only offered great scholarships, but they offered an option, unlike any other Michigan law school, where she could go to law school only having an associates degree.

“It seemed like all stars were aligning. From my perspective, I didn’t believe getting a bachelor’s degree would make me a better lawyer. What I wanted to do was start now, not years down the road.  I took the LSAT practice tests and based on those results, I figured I had a chance to get a full ride. Well, I ended up with an 85 percent scholarship, so pretty close!”

“Even though I was 29 years old at the time, I went to an Open House with my dad at Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus soon after I got my LSAT scores. I remember getting to meet lots of people from the law school, but I especially remember my dad insisting on meeting and talking to the dean. Well, Dean Miller happened to be right next to us! We all had a wonderful conversation, and to this day, I absolutely love the dean and the professors. They were fantastic.”

I met Jason (Eggleston) in a small class during  my first term in law school. We hit it off right away. Both of us were non-traditional students. He was from Greenville (a small town in Michigan). We both loved being part of a small town where everyone knows each other and you have a real connection to the community.  We started talking early on about building a business together.”

Jeanne Reed and Jason Eggleston

Jeanne Reed and Jason Eggleston

Jeanne and Jason flourished in law school. Both received book awards, scholarships and graduated cum laude.
“I started out in law school thinking that I would end up doing something along the lines of contracts and business,” said Jeanne. It was my mock trial experience though that inspired me to follow the path I’m on now.  I did a complete 180!  So many people have told me since that I have the heart of a criminal defense attorney. I believe that is what makes me good at what I am doing.”
Jason Eggleston with wife, Chelsa, and son Dawson

Jason Eggleston with wife, Chelsa, and son Dawson

Jason joined up with his brother in a family owned firm right after graduation, but a new opportunity opened up when his brother got a new job. “Again, it seemed like divine intervention, said Jeanne. ” Jason’s  brother was appointed as the Montcalm magistrate and that got us talking again about working together in practice. We both knew that we wanted to handle our business differently than most law firms. We wanted to represent folks in our community that really needed help. And that if you call, we will answer our phone.  We want people to know that we care for our clients.”

“Our mantra is ‘know your rights.’ So many of our clients desperately need legal services, but can’t afford to travel to Grand Rapids to hire a big firm lawyer. We are absolutely committed to offering professional, accessible, and affordable legal services. And I am so thankful for Cooley.  If they hadn’t given me the opportunity to attend law school when I did, things could have been much different.  In fact, our business mirrors many of the same qualities that I admire and respect in Cooley – professional, accessible, and affordable.”

Jeanne Reed with sons Bryce, eight, and David, six

Jeanne Reed with sons Bryce, eight, and David, six

Jeanne Reed is a single mom taking care of sons Bryce, eight, and David, six. Jason Eggleston is married to wife, Chelsa, raising their two-year-old son Dawson.  Jeanne and Jason now work together in their firm Eggleston Reed Law in the small town of Greenville, Michigan.


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Will using the right preparation strategies produce bar exam success? Absolutely, according to two authors.

Law students and graduates tend to see the bar exam as a significant obstacle to law practice. Experienced lawyers who must retake the bar exam when seeking licensure in a new state tend to feel the same way: “Ugh, the bar exam.” When to prepare, how to prepare, and for what to prepare, all loom as big questions.

Dean & Professor Nelson Miller

Dean & Professor Nelson Miller

A new book, co-authored by WMU-Cooley law associate dean and professor Nelson Miller and Western Michigan University instructional designer Dr. Doug Johnson, helps examinees adopt a better perspective.

Dr. Douglas Johnson

Dr. Douglas Johnson

The book, “Preparing for the Bar Exam,” carries the subtitle, “A Comprehensive Guide to Plans, Programs, Content, Conditions, and Skills.” But its bigger contribution — beyond indicating when, how, and for what to prepare — is to re-conceive taking the bar as an enormously formative event. The co-authors’ point is that, when done with the right attitude and behaviors, taking the bar exam, or even retaking the bar exam as an experienced lawyer, makes one a much better lawyer.

“Bar prep is significantly more complex than many realize.  That complexity makes a strategic approach critical to success. Passers often look back seeing the key strategies that they followed.  We want to help graduates look forward, adopting those key strategies well in advance,” Miller explained.

WMU Ph.D. student Nathan Bechtel (wearing a tie) talks to (left to right) to WMU-Cooley teaching assistant Natalie Winquist, WMU graduate student Jessica Rocheleau, and WMU-Cooley teaching assistant Clinton Rosekopf about best study practices for exam success at WMU-Cooley' Grand Rapids campus.

WMU Ph.D. student Nathan Bechtel (wearing a tie) talks (left to right) to WMU-Cooley teaching assistant Natalie Winquist, WMU graduate student Jessica Rocheleau, and WMU-Cooley teaching assistant Clinton Rosekopf about best study practices for exam success at WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus.

Co-author Dr. Johnson, WMU’s instructional design research lab director, knows a lot about right behaviors, having provided services internationally to organizations on instructional design, performance management, systems analysis, fluency training, and motivation. His participation in this book project represents yet another benefit flowing from the law school’s WMU affiliation.

Under the supervision of Dr. Johnson and Dr. Heather McGee, instructional design students from WMU’s Industrial/Organizational Behavior Management graduate program are working with law faculty and students to improve learning.

“With a proper understanding of your own behavior, you can arrange your world so that it pushes you to achieve your aspirations. Regardless of how difficult or complex the task in front of you is, it can always be broken down into a smaller set of more manageable tasks,” stated Dr. Johnson.

The right preparation strategies are certainly critical to top performance in any field. Adopting achievable goals, establishing interim objectives, ensuring effective preparation, and striving at full effort are all important activities, as are measuring, assessing, and improving practice performances. Both incremental and comprehensive improvement is also important.

“I am seeing a huge benefit of these teaching strategies already,” said WMU-Cooley student Emily Dykhuizen. “The memorization of terms and elements has made briefing cases simpler, added to my confidence while speaking in class, and helped me tie in the different aspects of the class to different possible arguments to cases.”

Yet the behavioral aspects of taking on and beating any significant challenge are equally important as the strategies that one employs. Lawyers and other professionals need to know how motivation truly works including how feelings, procrastination, and distraction work against it. Masterful lawyers know how to focus, give maximum daily effort, accomplish the immediate in sight of the long-range goal, and prepare effectively to accomplish big things. Learning how to prepare for the bar properly helps make a lawyer masterful in law practice itself.

What are some of your study skills secrets to success? Please share your thoughts and ideas below.

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Constitutional Law Professors Weigh in on Kim Davis Lawsuit

After spending six days in jail for her refusal to authorize marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Davis was released by U.S. District Judge David Bunning with the stipulation that she could not “interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.” This week, the ACLU filed suit against Davis over changes she has made to marriage licenses. A deputy clerk has been issuing the licenses, but Davis removed her name and the name of her office. The ACLU claims the alterations treat same-sex couples as second-class citizens and wants the court to enforce the return of the same licenses used across Kentucky.

marriage license

Western Michigan University Cooley Law School professors offer various opinions regarding the lawsuit filed against Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Professor Michael C.H. McDaniel

Professor Michael C.H. McDaniel

WMU-Cooley Constitutional Law Professor Michael McDaniel believes Davis’ actions are in violation of her oath of office. “Article VI, Sec.1, clause 3, of the U.S. Constitution states ‘… all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution…’ and as an elected official of the executive branch of local government, surely is bound by this oath. She breached that oath by interjecting her religious views into her duties as a public official, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

Professor Gerald Fisher

Professor Gerald Fisher

“I understood the ‘accommodation’ to solve the ‘problem’ was to allow Davis to remove her name from marriage licenses,” stated WMU-Cooley Professor Gerald Fisher. “As far as I know, we do not yet have good legal ground for concluding that her actions to date would undermine the efficacy of the license itself. Getting that point settled should be the cue for developing opinions on whether Davis should be punished.”

Professor Brendan Beery

Professor Brendan Beery

WMU-Cooley Constitutional Law Professor Brendan Beery said, “The Kim Davis story illuminates widespread misunderstanding about the difference between a citizen and a state official, about the power of courts generally, and about the fact that the Constitution is the law.”

Professor Emily Horvath

Professor Emily Horvath

Professor Emily Horvath explained that “When someone is elected to public office and carries out the duties of their office, they are no longer a private individual. They are, in fact, the embodiment of the government when they are acting in their official capacity. Therefore, they are required to follow the Constitution as it is the ‘law of the land.’ The Constitution has been interpreted to prohibit states from denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Ms. Davis’ individual opinion cannot supplant the opinion of five Supreme Court Justices, and the use of her office to enforce her individual opinion is, quite frankly, an abuse of power.”

Professor Devin Schindler

Professor Devin Schindler

“Civil disobedience has had a long and respected history in the United States, however, even Thoreau went to jail,” said Professor Devin Schindler. “Kim Davis took an oath to office, which she is now violating. Like Thoreau, Davis must pay the consequences of her decision.”



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From Ellis Island to America: Understanding How Opportunities Are Different Than Promises – in Life and in Law School

WMU-Cooley Professor Victoria Vuletich

WMU-Cooley Professor Victoria Vuletich

This blog author, Professor Victoria V. Vuletich joined the full-time WMU-Cooley faculty in 2008 after working with the State Bar of Michigan since 1999. As the Deputy Division Director of the Professional Standard’s Division, Prof. Vuletich advised attorneys regarding ethical dilemmas and practical issues they were facing. She is a frequent presenter on legal ethics issues and is a member of an ad hoc task force that advocated and proposed legislation to address the victimization of immigrants by “notarios.” Here is her story about what she learned from her “Nana,” Christina Fidel Vuletich, about opportunity.

In this picture of me with my Nana, I imagine her looking at me, thinking with much satisfaction, that I would have opportunities she never had, thanks to her sacrifices.  And I know now that she was right. My paternal grandmother, as she would say, “came over from the Old Country.” Making the perilous voyage at the height of the Great Depression, she and her husband lost their baby daughter on the journey across the Atlantic. When she landed at Ellis Island she knew only two words of English.

My only picture of Nana. Here she is relaxing in the backyard, while my father is in the background working on something, and me off on the side in the stroller.

My only picture of Nana. Here she is relaxing in the backyard, while my father is in the background working on something, and me off on the side in the stroller.

She soon made her way to Colorado where she lived in the high Rocky Mountains – in a tent!  She eked out a living doing miner’s laundry (and, well, doing a little bootlegging on the side too.) It took her two years living in the tent to save enough money to obtain shelter that had four solid walls and a roof.  As a little girl I remember asking my father why she would save soap shavings and used pieces of tinfoil that we would normally throw away. His response that she was once so desperately poor that such scraps had value to her was something I could not comprehend.

It took many years for me to mature and appreciate why she made that desperately hard undertaking – opportunity.  And really, it wasn’t as much about opportunity for her, as it was opportunity for her children and grandchildren.

She was faced with signs:  “No Italians need apply.”   And opportunities were quietly denied her, as often there were no signs signaling her when she was wasting her time pursuing this person or that company.  The attitude was there, just hidden.

Each term, in the very last class, I tell my students that they should be proud to attend WMU-Cooley Law School.  All law schools are founded upon the notions of justice, equality and opportunity.  But we are one of the few law schools that “walk the talk.”  We believe in giving people a chance – an opportunity to improve their lives.  A few years ago, one of our students came in under the PEP program – a program for students who do not meet the admission criteria.  Next term, she will be graduating at the top of her class with several semesters of straight A’s behind her.   When I first started teaching, I had a student who grew up in a shack in Mississippi with no running water (yes, in the 1990s.) She has now returned to Mississippi as a successful practicing lawyer.

I tell my students that they should be proud that they go to a school that practices the greatest principles our nation was founded upon. Day in and day out. Year after year after year.  We give people an opportunity that they may not otherwise have.

Because of my grandmother and our family’s culture, I understand that opportunities are different than promises.  No one promises us anything.  (Which may be an odd thing for a lawyer to say as contracts are, after all, promises.) But nothing kills justice and equality more thoroughly than the lack of opportunities.  Not the lack of promises.

Nothing thrills me more than helping people seize the opportunity.  Not just because it is a good thing to do and because it is my job.  It is much more sacred than that.  Helping people improve their lives, and the lives of their children and grandchildren, well that is, as the commercial says: priceless. In some small way I also feel that I am honoring my grandmother when my colleagues on the faculty and staff work to help people each and every day seize the opportunity. It is work for the ages.

What has your “nana” taught you or how has she made an impact on your life? Share below.

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Graduation Speaker Believes in Miracles and Divine Perfection of the Universe

“Do you believe in miracles? If you do, then you have come to the right place today, and if you don’t believe in miracles, you have come to the right place, but you’re here at the wrong time, because in the next 20 minutes, you will be utterly and completely convinced that miracles can and do occur, and your life will be forever changed.” Catherine Groll, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School graduation speaker and 1992 WMU-Cooley graduate.

WMU-Cooley Graduation Speaker Catherine Groll

WMU-Cooley Graduation Speaker Catherine Groll

“If that completely scares you, or you are just totally not in the mood for yet ANOTHER life changing event, this might be a great time to go to the bathroom! The word miracle is derived from the Latin word miraculum, which is derived from mirari “to wonder.” A miracle is an event that provokes wonder. As such, it must be in some way extraordinary, unusual, or contrary to our expectations.


Let’s start with the miracle of all of us, being together at this time and place exactly. Do you ever marvel, just marvel, at the unbelievable complexity of events and pathways, and coincidental moments that had to take place to gather this particular group of people, all born at different times and different dates, from all over the world, from all walks of life? To bring us, each and every one, to the Wharton Center in East Lansing, Michigan, on a Sunday afternoon, a sacred conspiracy of some pre-ordained and pre-destined journey to the here and now. Together. You are all one foot away from your new life, as a law school graduate, and one foot in here from your old life, as a student. Once you walk out that door today, nothing will ever be the same.

Some of you may be very sure-footed and clear about what is going to happen and where you are going next. You may have a well-thought-out plan, and a great job lined up. You have no worries about paying bills or student loans and you are good to go. You people need to get a life – you have obviously been working overtime!

WMU-Cooley graduates celebrate their accomplishmen

WMU-Cooley graduates celebrate their accomplishment

Others of you, maybe many of you, may be hesitant to walk out that door, because reality waits, and the cold truth is – the picture is a little murky. Will you pass the bar? How will you pay everyone back? What if you don’t get a job? What if no miracles happen? Well, I believe in the Divine Perfection of the Universe, so we should probably move on to Miracle Number 2 before you start to panic about that whole student loan thing.


Take some time today to take stock and reflect on the very personal and hard-fought journey that brought you here. What has your path been? How unlikely was it that you would be here today? Weren’t there naysayers and disbelievers when you said you were going to law school? Weren’t there financial concerns? What were your challenges along the way? What did you overcome? Weren’t there moments when you wanted to quit and you doubted yourself and you said, “ I can’t do this anymore.”

But you did. You persevered. And look around you. These brothers and sisters in arms – It is instant family, an unbreakable bond. You are now part of a community of people who have gone on to literally change the world. Governors and senators, CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, mavericks and rebels, game changers and visionaries, everyone of them a graduate of this school.

I have known since I was 10 years old that I wanted to be a lawyer.

  • First, if you told me the sky was blue, I wanted to know what your basis was for that conclusion, why you insisted on imposing your opinion about the sky on me in a discriminatory fashion, and what was your definition of the word ‘sky.’ Basically, I was every mother’s nightmare child! Fortunately, I fell in love with a man named Perry Mason who was a TV lawyer and he could whip the world into truth and justice in the space of one hour.
  • Second, my father died of medical malpractice, due to a missed cancer diagnosis, and learning that negligence could kill people scarred me in a permanent way.
  • Third, my mother gave me a Black’s Law Dictionary for my 18th birthday and encouraged me to go and ask a local attorney, who was well known as a rabble-rouser, if I could come and work for him. I went and he took me under his wing. It was there that I first learned about the inequality and injustice that occurred with the immigrant population in New Mexico and it deeply affected me, and I saw that the law was a powerful tool in the hands of the right people.
  • Fourth, and this is completely just between you and me, I was quite the juvenile delinquent. I dropped out of high school in 11th grade, took my GED, dropped out of college. I was going to be a rock star, toured with a very bad garage band.

I was not very focused and easily distracted – but somehow I managed to graduate respectably from college and started working as a legal assistant, which helped me get back on track about applying to law school. I signed up to take the LSAT. I did not study. They did not have prep classes like they do now. The night before, I was very irresponsible, went out with friends, partied too much, and barely made it to the test. I was hung over and late and I really had no idea what I was in for. I had never done a single thing to prepare for this momentous exam which was about to determine the course of my life. So you can imagine what went through my head when I read this first question, which was supposedly (allegedly) testing my logical analysis skills.

There are eight people in a line at the bank. It is a cold, snowy day. Three of the people have on scarfs and one of the scarfs has the color blue in it. One of the eight is sneezing. The second and seventh persons in line are holding wallets. The only man in line has on a yellow hat. One of them took Bus Route number six. Which one had oatmeal for breakfast?

Wait. What??? Whoa, I am in some serious trouble here. Holy crap. If this is what law school is all about, I am way out of my league. First of all, I don’t even eat oatmeal. And I am not proud of what happened next, and I truly hope that the statute of limitations has run with the Character and Fitness committee, but I panicked, and made the only decision I could think of at the time. I would just randomly fill out the dots with a number two pencil. And that is exactly what I did. Unbelievably, I miraculously passed, but just barely. I applied to only three law schools, and made the waiting list at one of them. But none of that is the real miracle. The real miracle is what happened next.

In my mailbox a few week later was what can only be described as a love letter from WMU-Cooley Law School. In essence, it said, ‘We know you’re the kind of girl who doesn’t follow the rules. Hey, neither do we. You want to follow the road less traveled, well, we are blazing the trail. We’ve got options – we are redefining who gets to be a lawyer in this country – we are opening the doors. You can come part-time, you can come full-time. You want to do weekends or nights so you can keep your day job? Not a problem. You don’t have to be rich, white or come from an Ivy League school, just be who you are, and let us give you the opportunity of a lifetime.’

Well, sign me up!! They were playing my song. And I am here to tell you that everything amazing and wonderful in my life started the day I came to Cooley. And I did have the opportunity of a lifetime, and my friends, so do you!!

And I am going to bet that you have a similar story to mine about getting here. Maybe this wasn’t the school you originally picked out, maybe you never heard of Lansing, Michigan, maybe going to law school was something you decided to do because you lost a bet or got turned down at med school. Why you got here doesn’t matter so much right now as the fact that you WERE here and ARE here now. Trace those steps and stops and starts, and the twists and the turns. Follow that road map that brought you here, one step at a time, and see if you don’t believe, like I do, that it was a miracle.


There is always, always room for one more good lawyer in the world. So get out there, spread your star dust, and welcome to your miraculous life. As my friend Bob Marley said : ‘And don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing gonna be alright!’

Catherine Groll

Catherine Groll

Catherine Groll is a trial attorney with The Mike Morse Law Firm, the largest personal injury law firm in the State of Michigan. She has practiced as a litigator for 22 years and taught at WMU-Cooley as an adjunct professor for 12 years, receiving the Frederick J. Griffith III Adjunct Faculty Award for excellence in teaching in 2010. She also received the Camille S. Abood Distinguished Volunteer Award in 2012. In 2013, she taught the first Tort Law class at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Cambodia, and taught evidence law and critical thinking to new judges.


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WMU-Cooley Constitution Day Speakers Impress Upon Law Students That the Constitution is the Law

We learn about the U.S. Constitution back in grade school, with teachers covering such historical subjects as the founders, the Bill of Rights, and fun facts about the times. As we go through life though, we often lose sight of the cornerstone document of our country in the pressures of daily life. 


Each September comes a reminder of our heritage in the form of a celebration called Constitution Day where schools across the country, from elementary classrooms on up through high schools and universities, take some time to reflect on the Constitution, citizenship, and other related topics. Law schools, with their obvious connection to the topic, are happy to get in on the celebration.

At Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, speakers brought history alive at all four campuses and touched on a variety of aspects of the Constitution.

In Lansing, the Cooley Center lobby was filled with people who came to hear Jonathan Sacks, the first executive director of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission. The commission was created as a result of efforts to improve legal representation for indigent criminal defendants. Sacks said the commission has been working to propose minimum standards for attorneys representing indigent defendants in Michigan.

In Lansing, the Cooley Center lobby was filled with people eager to hear constitutional expert Jonathan Sacks talk about the right to defense counsel.

In Lansing, the Cooley Center lobby was filled with people eager to hear constitutional expert Jonathan Sacks talk about the right to defense counsel.

In Tampa, students, faculty and staff learned about the role of courts in society in the context of landmark decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. A panel consisting of campus Associate Dean Jeff Martlew, and professors Jeffrey Swartz, Paul Carrier, and Brendan Beery, brought the concepts of constitutionalism clearly into focus for over 60 attendees.

Professor Jeffrey Swartz, Dean Jeffrey Martlew, event moderator Brianne Myers, Professor Paul Carrier, and Professor Brendan Beery, presented Constitution Day in Tampa.

Professor Jeffrey Swartz, Dean Jeffrey Martlew, event moderator Brianne Myers, Professor Paul Carrier, and Professor Brendan Beery, presented Constitution Day in Tampa.

“What too many people don’t understand,” Beery said, “is that the Constitution is law.  So it won’t do to say that a person has done something unconstitutional, but not illegal.  If it’s unconstitutional, it’s illegal. When the Supreme Court issues a judgment on a federal question, there is not a state employee in the United States who is not bound by that judgment.”

In Grand Rapids, the relevance of the U.S. Constitution in today’s political and social climate was brought to life by Warner Norcross & Judd LLP attorney Matt Nelson. Nelson made the argument that the majority of political decisions should be made by the people acting through their representatives, and not by a non-elected court. He suggested that the Court’s role should be limited to striking down laws that are contrary to the plain dictates of the Constitution.

In Grand Rapids, a crowd gathered to hear constitutional law expert Matt Nelson talk about the proper role of an un-elected court in a government dedicated to self-rule.

In Grand Rapids, a crowd gathered to hear constitutional law expert Matt Nelson talk about the proper role of an non-elected court in a government dedicated to self-rule.

In Auburn Hills, the 800th anniversary of England’s Magna Carta prompted a discussion of that document, and how it compares to the U.S. Bill of Rights, by speaker Ronald J. Rychlak, a professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law. He also gave an overview of the Bill of Rights and how it was was interpreted during the Civil Rights era.

From left, Federalists Society Co-President Krystal Yalldo, Assistant Dean Lisa Halushka, Professor Ronald Rychiak, the Hon. Michael Warren, Federalist Society Co-President Joseph Falzon, and SBA President Michael Ruso.

From left, Federalists Society Co-President Krystal Yalldo, Assistant Dean Lisa Halushka, Professor Ronald Rychlak, the Hon. Michael Warren, Federalist Society Co-President Joseph Falzon, and SBA President Michael Ruso.

According to We the People, “Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787, recognizing all who, are born in the U.S. or by naturalization, have become citizens.” Take time to read the The United States Constitution today.

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Day of Remembrance: Boy Scouts Honor Lives Lost in 9/11 Day Long Salute

Each year on September 11, the Gerald R. Ford Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and Museum honor those who sacrificed their lives during the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, by hosting a Community Day of Remembrance and day-long Scout Salute.

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor and retired Brigadier General Michael C.H. McDaniel, an Eagle Scout himself, joined police, fire, EMS and military personnel, including over 100 Patriot Guard motorcyclists, as the flag that was flown at the museum for the memorial was escorted into the City of Grand Rapids. Below is his speech.

Retired Brigadier General and current Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Professor Michael C.H. McDaniel speaks during commemoration ceremonies for Grand Rapids’ Day of Remembrance and Scout Salute at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

Retired Brigadier General and current Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Professor Michael C.H. McDaniel speaks during commemoration ceremonies for Grand Rapids’ Day of Remembrance and Scout Salute at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

“First, if I may, let me express my gratitude to the Patriot Guards motorcycle group and their state commander for escorting the Colors brought by the Grand Rapids Fire Department and the Boy Scouts.  I have been to many military funerals. And while I know, as a law professor at WMU-Cooley, that the Westboro Baptist Church has the right under the First Amendment to protest near military funerals, as a member of the military, it makes me sick. So, I am always grateful to the Patriot Guard for their selfless duty at every military funeral I have attended, creating a human buffer, no matter the weather, between the family of the fallen and the protesters.


The American flag represents our beliefs as a nation:  the unity of our people, the diversity of our nation.

It is symbol of what we fight for. After Iwo Jima, after 9/11, after every conflict, this flag was raised high in the sky, as a symbol of sacrifice, of American resilience and of determination. Here is how the symbolism of the American flag is generally understood:

  • A 17-year-old school boy (Robert Heft) from Saginaw, Michigan designed our flag in 1958.
  • The U.S. flag consists of 13 horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with six white. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies; the stars represent the 50 states of the union.
  • The colors of the flag, perhaps, are even more symbolic: Red symbolizes hardiness and valor; White symbolizes purity and innocence; Blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.


It is altogether fitting, then, that we reflect on those values today, a day which has been consecrated by the blood and tears of the fallen and their families. But this time, on September 11, it was not the sacrifice of the members of the military, but of our other public servants. One of the greatest lessons of 11 September 2001, was that not just the military, but Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS, Emergency Management all made sacrifices for the principles which our flag represents.

Today, I want to talk about the fire community in detail, rather than the others. Yesterday, a senior fireman, Dennis Rodeman, of the  Lansing Fire Department was intentionally struck by a pickup truck and killed. Firefighter Rodeman was also a U.S. Marine, 24th Marine Regiment, who served in Fallujah, Iraq.

Two points I wish to emphasize:

  • First, what a great public servant. Firefighter Rodeman although not killed on a call, died while serving the public. He was participating in a Fill the Boot drive for Muscular Dystrophy, just as firefighters, and the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters), have served so many causes and charities benefiting the public.
  • And it appears that he may have been targeted because he was a firefighter, because he was wearing the uniform. And it reminded me of the incident in western New York on Christmas Eve, when a madman set his house on fire, called 911 so that the firemen sacrificing their holiday with family and friends in the warmth of their homes, would be lured into an ambush and intentionally gunned down, because they were firefighters.


Since 9/11, we have honored firefighters for their resolute courage to save as many others as possible without regard to the risk to self. But so it ever was for firefighters, LE and EMTs. America did not realise the self-sacrificial nature of the job until that day. In short, firefighters were already the equals in self-sacrifice of soldiers and police officers for, but on that day, the rest of us finally realized that fact. All three groups are symbols of the ultimate self-sacrifice for our citizens and our country.

There appears to be an epidemic of armed violence against law enforcement.

On the first day of this month, Lt. Charles  Gliniewicz  of Fox Lake, Illinois, PD was the eighth law enforcement officer shot and killed in the U.S. in 30 days and the fourth in 10 days, according to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The reasons are not obvious, ranging from the generations-long ostracism of socio-economic and racial sectors of our country and community, to the accessibility of firearms by those not competent to use them. What is obvious, however, is that police officers are targeted for the uniform they wear.

When I served at the Pentagon for a short two years, one of my duties was Force Protection policy. Not operations, granted, but revising the policies to protect our servicemembers. In that short time, we had four attempts or attacks on the Pentagon, with either firearms or explosives. Why? Because the building is seen, as our servicemembers are seen, as representatives, as symbols of this country.


But – Now, with the death of  our Lansing firefighter it would seem that, like soldiers and police officers, because firefighters are also symbols of our country and community, they will be attacked because they are such a symbol.

Professor and Former Brigadier General Michael C.H. McDaniel

Professor and Former Brigadier General Michael C.H. McDaniel

To the Scouts, a few short words. My proudest moment was not pinning on these stars. It was pinning on the Eagle, to become an Eagle Scout. Scouts, you are here to honor and guard this flag, over the next 24 hours, as a symbol of our country. But know that while you are doing so, while you are sacrificing a small slice of time for this noble purpose,  you are honoring the firefighters, the police officers, and the members of the military for their sacrifices. You, Scouts, you are not just the firefighters, police officers and military of tomorrow, you are the dedicated and informed future public servants that this country always will need, because public service in all its forms is the foundation of this great country.

Because of the death of firefighter and U.S. Marine, Dennis Rodeman, I ask you to permit me to end with a benediction:

Father Mychal Judge, a FDNY Chaplain (and a Franciscan friar from my undergrad school, St. Bonaventure U), said these words in his last homily to his fellow firefighters : You do what God has called you to do.  You show up.  You put one foot in front of another.  You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job – which is a mystery.  And a surprise.  You have no idea when you get on that rig.  No matter how big the call.  No matter how small.  You have no idea what God is calling you to.  But he needs you.  He needs me.  He needs all of us.  Father Mychal was the first victim of the attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11.

May God bless us and the United States of America.”

Note:  Four shootings in 10 days is higher than normal, but shooting deaths of officers are actually down 13 percent compared with the same January-to-September period in 2014. There were 30 shootings last year and 26 this year. Those figures include state and local officers, and federal agents.

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