This and that

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress. -- Ronald Reagan

The Missouri Legislature adjourns May 18, about seven weeks from the writing of this column. I've learned not to predict the outcome of the issues legislators are debating.

However, in the budget this year, for the first time in recent years, spending, not cuts, is the news story, thanks to efforts two years ago to curtail the runaway medical financial strain on the state budget. Save a little for the rainy days, guys.

The Lewis and Clark (MOHELA) higher education capital improvements bill keeps morphing into different makeups as the issue of stem cells, financial questions and political posturing dominate the debate.

The bill has enjoyed the support of 22 college and university presidents, state and local chambers of commerce, agriculture commodity groups and bipartisan members of the legislature.

I say pass the bill in some form and make use of the creative discovery of funds available to support some needed funding for overdue higher education projects.

One of the toughest issues to address is that of medical costs, funding and allocation of assistance to those most needy.

This is a complicated issue, and I'm one who has faith in our governmental process and efforts of our elected officials to reach a better decision than we who are not well-versed on the issues, the cost and ramifications of sincere (not political) efforts to finalize a bill. Most Missourians want to see both parties work together to address these issues.

No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and courage of free men and women. -- Ronald Reagan

There's an old gag about the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. An optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist fears that he might be right.

Corn is now $4 a bushel, up from about $2.25 a bushel last year. The U.S. Agriculture Department's 2007 plantings forecast is expected to show the largest increase in corn planting in a decade. The crop could surge to 87 million acres from 78.3 million acres last year, the government estimated, and some estimate even higher depending on the weather. Can anyone say "ethanol"?

Congrats and thanks to the Notre Dame Regional High School girls' basketball coach, Jerry Grim, who announced his retirement after a highly successful 25-year career: one state title, five state final fours, 11 district titles, 441 wins (227 losses). And the school has named the new basketball court after him.

Also thanks to Cape Girardeau County's emergency director, David Hitt, who recently announced his retirement after 11 years on the job. Hitt, 60 was a 28-year career military man, retiring as a master sergeant. During his retirement he intends to devote time to issues important to veterans. He is also a former Jackson alderman and will be devoting his time to his renewed duties on the board of aldermen as the soon-to-be-elected (unopposed) Ward 2 alderman.

Recently, over 600 Cape Girardeau-area citizens attended free showings of the movie "The Ultimate Gift" sponsored by the Southeast Missouri State University Foundation, United Way and other area charitable groups.

It's a good movie. I ran across a recent article by Alan Farnham, which gives you some background on the movie:

You're pulling my legacy: Backers of a new film, "The Ultimate Gift," hope it will make you laugh, cry and hire a financial planner.

Starring James Garner, it's a witty, winning explication of how -- as today's financial planners like to say -- you can "leave your legacy" successfully.

The movie is the latest brand extension of what started as a little book (154 pages) on wealth transfer and has now turned into almost a cult for certain financial advisers. "The Ultimate Gift" was originally a novel dictated in five days by Jim Stovall, a blind author, TV producer and motivational speaker whose company, Narrative Television Network, is in Tulsa, Okla. It was published in 1999 by Executive Books (for a book club), then again in 2000 by Honor Books for retail distribution.

Sales were slim. Then one day Stovall got a call from asking what he was doing to cause bulk buys of 200 or 300 copies at a time. "I had no idea," he says. But he investigated and found the book had become a huge hit with trust officers, estate planners, wealth coaches and other financial advisers. They were buying it for clients.

To date the book has sold 4 million copies, with no promotion or advertising. Not a financial advice book filled with tips and techniques, it is instead a fable that teaches that the right way to hand down money is first to hand down one's values. "Compared to anything else I've ever done, this one has had the longest fuse," Stovall says.

With a group of partners, he has also launched the Ultimate Gift Experience -- a Web site providing tools, guides and other resources that a family (rich or otherwise) can use to transfer values from one generation to the next. For example, $100 buys you a kit consisting of envelopes filled with questions meant to spark family conversations about friendship, hard work, gratitude and other values. The site also lists Ultimate Gift ambassadors -- mostly financial planners and estate attorneys -- who can help donors leave legacies the UG way.

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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