Category Archives: MY LIFE

Three decades as a Philly Cop come to a close

Recruit training, Philadelphia Police Academy, summer 1990

This past Friday, January 19, was my last official day on the payroll of the Philadelphia Police Department. After nearly three decades, I hung up my badge and gun, riding off into the sunset of retirement.

I come from a Philly Cop family. My brother, Mike, remains on the job as a Sergeant with the Central Detective Division. For a few years way back in the early 1990’s we were partners working a police wagon.

Our father, Matthew Veasey Jr (I’m the third), had been a Philly Cop himself for three decades from 1960 through 1989. He passed away back in August knowing that my retirement was coming up. If you combine his and my own service, the calendar year of 2019 will be the first in a half-century without a Matthew Veasey serving in uniform.

We also have a pair of cousins on the job. John Bernard is a Detective and Bob Veasey is a police officer. So even though I’m now out, the family influence remains within the Philly law enforcement ranks.

Trying to write about all of the experiences that I had, all of the people who made a difference, in one piece would be an exercise in futility. There were so many, I could write a book. Maybe some day I will do just that. I certainly understand how so many cops have written books and scripts in the past. There are that many amazing, wild, and touching stories.

But I will take a few paragraphs to glance back at my career as both a general reminder, and as a sample of where a career in the police profession can take you.

I started out by taking the written exam in December 1989. I had just turned 28 years old, and had been working in the banking profession for the previous decade since my graduation from high school.

This wasn’t my first time taking the police test. I took it previously way back in 1980 as an 18-year old. At that time, I passed the written test as well as all of the subsequent exams and checks.

Unfortunately, for one of the few times in history, not only was the PPD not hiring, they were actually laying off officers. I remained on a hiring list for two years while that layoff and city hiring slowdown continued. My list eventually expired, and by that point I was settled in to my job with First Pennsylvania Bank.

By the time that 1989 testing opportunity came around, I had moved over to Fidelity Bank. Though I was making better money in a more responsible position, I still wasn’t seeing much of an interesting future for myself in the banking profession.

In those days, the city actually gave you a booklet to study for the written test. I studied hard, and it paid off. When the results came out, I had finished high. By the end of January 1990, I was attending the orientation session at the old Academy facility on State Road.

Over the next few months there were numerous tests: psychological, psychiatric, lie detector. There was a background check in which neighbors and family members were contacted about my conduct and character.

I passed everything with flying colors, and entered the Philadelphia Police Academy as a member of Class 289 on April 23, 1990. The next five months were like being back in high school. Classroom work, homework, and studying. There was regular physical training that got me into the best shape of my life.

In mid-September of 1990 our class graduated. I was assigned to the 6th District, the same place as my brother, who had graduated the previous year. The 6th served an extremely diverse area in those days, stretching from Broad Street down to the Delaware River, and from South Street up to Poplar Street.

The Veasey Boys, 6th District wagon crew in the early 1990’s

While there are districts with far worse violent crime situations, few could rival the 6th District for the variety of assignments and citizen interactions. You went from a job in the drug-infested Richard Allen Homes projects on one call to the wealthy inhabitants of Society Hill for the next.

There was a thriving gay community, the burgeoning club scene along Delaware Avenue, and the boardwalk atmosphere of South Street. The entire downtown area was a hodgepodge of residents, visitors, workers, and transients. It was a great place to learn how to interact with people from all walks of life, and from all socio-economic backgrounds.

We had great cops in my squad, many of whom stayed together for much of the more than six years that I was in the district. One of those cops was my brother, Mike. He and I would spend much of the early 1990’s as partners working a patrol wagon together.

My brother passed the Sergeant test and moved on, and for a couple of years I worked mostly on a solo patrol car, though I still occasionally worked a wagon with other partners.

In late 1995, I took the exam for Detective, finishing at 103 out of hundreds on the list. In January of 1996 the department promoted 89 people to the rank, going through 96 names on our list to get them. This left me just seven slots away, but now I had to wait. That wait lasted most of the year.

That promotion to Detective finally came in November 1996 when I received the gold shield and began my investigative career with the East Detective Division. In more than four years at EDD it became obvious to me that cops who worked the “Badlands” of the 25th District saw more violent crime in a year than I had in six years at the 6th District.

It was so consistently violent in East Division that we had a phenomenon known as the “Nine O’clock Shooting” – there was a shooting nearly every night on the 4×12 shift somewhere around that time.

Headed out for first day as a Detective in November 1996

The Detectives, supervisors, and cops who I met during my time at East were some of the best that the profession has to offer. A number of the Detectives from our division would eventually move on to assignments at Homicide, basically the investigative elite.

Just after Christmas in 1999, I transferred to the Northeast Detective Division. This was mostly just a move to get a closer commute from my home, as my family had moved up to the Somerton section of Far Northeast Philly earlier that year.

Any thoughts that it might be quieter at NEDD than it had been at EDD went out the window on my very first night. Working a 4×12 shift, I got more jobs that night than I had in a typical night at East. And not only that, but I got a shooting that night. Yep, the old “Nine O’clock Shooting” followed me.

Just how bad the crime situation had gotten in the 15th District of Northeast Philly was a bit of an eye-opener. It would turn out that Northeast Division, while not as consistently violent as East, was every bit as busy from a policing and investigative perspective.

What I gradually found during the two and a half years that I worked at NEDD was that I was missing the streets. This was something that was a bit of a surprise to me. When I made Detective, became a member of the Gold Badge Club, and got to wear business clothes every day, I thought that I would never put on a uniform again.

But the cop bug began to bite again, and I took the test for Sergeant in the spring of 2002. I thought that I did well, but you never really know with those things until the results come out.

Final annual qualification at the shooting range, September 2017

In early August, my wife and I were preparing to go away on a vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The day before we left, my phone rang. It was my Sergeant at the time, Mark Burgmann, who said just one word: “Ten.

I knew his voice, but was in vacation mode and just wasn’t getting the context. “Ten what?” was my response. “You came out number ten on the Sergeant list.” I thought for sure that he was messing with me. I figured that I must have done well, but that he was bumping me up a bit. Turns out he wasn’t.

What that meant was, as long as the city actually hired off the list, I was getting promoted again. It was just a matter of time. Turns out, it was a lot of time.

There were no promotions off that list into 2003. Finally that spring, some seven months after the test results were announced, I was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Following the promotional ceremony at Temple University, all of the promotees went to a downstairs area. There we were to turn in our old badges, and receive our new ones, along with our new assignments.

As I waited in line for my turn to get my new badge and assignment, a friend of mine, Brian McBride, was in line in front of me. Brian was also making Sergeant. When he got close enough to see the list, he turned to me and said “18th.”

In my head I thought “18th?” Honestly, I couldn’t even have told you where the 18th District was at that time. All I knew was that it was somewhere out in West Philly, a section of the city where I had never worked, lived, or traveled.

The 18th District headquarters is located at 55th and Pine Streets. When I tell you that there is no easy or quick way to get there from my home at the far end of the 7th District in Northeast Philly, well, that is an understatement.

Visiting with granddaughter Elysia as an 8th District patrol Sergeant in 2006

During the year that I spent out in the 18th, there were two days where, coming home on daywork do to severe traffic problems, it took me two hours to make the drive – without ever leaving the city of Philadelphia.

The 18th turned out to be a great learning experience, including that I got to know a section of the city that was unfamiliar to me. Approximately one-third of the district was taken up by the University of Pennsylvania, which afforded a number of opportunities to work with and around some great events such as the Penn Relays and Big Five games at the Palestra.

Two of the best medical facilities in the country, the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) are in the 18th. Working with their E/R staffs was a great experience as well.

But it was just too far to travel every day, and the first opportunity that I got, I put in a transfer looking to move somewhere closer to home again. It took about a year, but in March of 2004 that transfer came through sending me up to the 8th District in Northeast Philly.

The transfer to the 8th was a godsend as far as travel goes, but it came with a qualification. I had to accept a “Last Out” assignment for the first time in my career. While at East Detectives, the department had briefly switched to a schedule that saw us work “around the clock” shifts for about a year. But this would be the first time that I had to work the overnight “graveyard shift” on a daily  basis.

Graduating from St. Joseph’s University in May 2009

For nearly four years, the 8th District was my home. It was very close to my actual family home, about a 10 minute drive. And it turns out that I was able to adapt to working overnight fairly easily. I did switch to a “regular” squad schedule of daywork and 4×12 for a year, but found that I actually preferred overnights, and so switched back.

Then in the fall of 2007, almost on a whim, I put in a transfer request that would change my life. Ever since high school, I had always wanted to be a teacher. That desire had never left me, and that it had never happened became a regret as I moved through my banking and police years.

I had never attended college, not one class, when in the fall of 2003 while at the 18th District at age 41, I finally changed that situation. The PPD had a working arrangement with the Community College of Philadelphia which allowed officers a chance to take classes at the Police Academy in their spare time. I signed up for the program, and finally began to work towards a degree.

Taking classes year-round, which continued as I moved to the 8th District, I finally attained my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice from CCP in May of 2006. I then moved immediately on to Saint Joseph’s University to begin work towards a Bachelor’s Degree, which I would receive in 2009.

The school experience reignited my overall interest in education, and so in the fall of 2007 came that life-altering transfer request to the PPD Training Bureau. The transfer came through, and November 1 of that year began a decade-long run as an educator.

Teaching at Philadelphia Police headquarters in October 2013

I was finally getting to do what I had really always wanted. It was a natural fit, standing in front of a classroom and presenting police professionals the information that would help them do a better job in serving the public while also staying safe.

That was where my journey ended this past Friday. It was a journey that allowed me front row and behind-the-scenes exposure to some of the great events in Philadelphia over these past three decades.

Like most Philly cops, I worked all of the big Philly events, including things like the “Welcome America!” celebration around July 4th, the Greek Picnic, the annual bike race through Manayunk, the Dad Vail Regatta, and multiple “Freedom Medal” ceremonies.
I worked the Mummers Parade at a number of spots over the years, including four that stand out. With my brother in the early 90’s, we were the “beer wagon”, holding and transporting any cases that were confiscated by officers. Needless to say, there were many.

I worked the “Two Street” parade night celebration just once, about five years ago. And in both 2016 and 2017 got to work really fun assignments as a supervisor out on Broad Street, including right at City Hall a year ago.

In recent years there were multi-day details for the visit by Pope Francis in 2015, and the NFL Draft a year ago. While I didn’t have to work the Democratic Convention in the summer of 2016 thanks to a scheduled vacation, another political gathering was a career highlight.

In summer 2000 while I was still at East Detectives, the Republican National Convention came to Philadelphia. I was detailed to work for two weeks at the Dignitary Protection Unit, and was paired with a Philly cop named Billy Stuski, who was also from South Philly.

Billy and I were teamed up with a pair of cops from the District of Columbia Police Department as the security detail for U.S. Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma for the duration of the convention. Nickles was the Senate Majority Whip, one of the key spokespersons of the GOP at that time.

My Dad, retired Philly PD Captain Matthew Veasey, visits my office at the new Training Bureau in June 2016

For two weeks we went everywhere that the Senator went. Sometimes we did “advance” work, scouting out the locations that he was to visit the day before his actual trip. Most of the time we accompanied him around the city.

This was both during formal convention-related events, usually in the evening, and also during social events, such as various dinners, lunches, concerts, and more. He was an avid golfer, which got me into a handful of prestigious locations such as Merion and Pine Hill, where he shot rounds during his stay.

When reading this, you’ll note that I didn’t “name names” very much, other than my family. There are just too many of them. Suffice it to say that nearly every person who I worked with and got to know thanks to this career was appreciated.

Also, I didn’t tell many specific stories. I’ll save those for future police-related pieces here. Or maybe for some future book or script. There are a million of them.

At my retirement party on Friday night, a nice crowd showed up from all across these last 28 years. I was honored with a plaque and some very nice words that summed up my career. And then I was handed the microphone, always a dangerous proposition when I’ve had a few beers.

I kept it fairly short. But one statement that I made summed it up. Of all things, it was a takeoff of a Priscilla Presley quote from “The Naked Gun” when she made the statement “I like cops!” because I do. Actually, I love cops. And I love teaching. For the last decade, I got to teach cops.

Short of managing the Phillies, I can’t think of a better job for myself. Also, it was the prototypical “square peg in a square hole” – a perfect job for my tastes and my talents.

Thank you to the Philadelphia Police Department for all of the various opportunities of the last three decades. And more importantly, thank you to all of the unforgettable people who wear the badges and carry the guns. The men and women who stand the wall and work hard to keep our city safe around the clock every single day.

For nearly three decades, I was honored to continue a family tradition. I was honored to stand as a member of the Thin Blue Line. After my promotion to Sergeant, I was told by a Detective that “once a member of the Gold Badge Club, you’re always a member.” Well, for the rest of my life, I’ll be happy to remain a member of the Blue Family.

2017: the year that I lost my Dad – but in the end, not really

Mike, our Dad, and myself in the late 1960’s

The calendar is about to flip not only to the end of a month, but also to the end of another year. The end of December causes most of us to take a glance back at the events of the past year. As usual, this one was filled with many good times

But the calendar year of 2017 was a year of goodbyes for me as well. The biggest goodbye of all was one of the hardest of my life. This was the year that I had to say goodbye to my Dad.

I’m sure that many of you can say something similar to this regarding your own fathers. My Dad, Matthew Joseph Veasey Jr, was my hero. He was also very much a role model and inspiration. But it wasn’t always that way.

Many of the memories that I hold from childhood and my teenage years regarding my relationship with my Dad are way too personal to share publicly. The specifics of those memories belong kept between he and I, and a few close family members.

Suffice it to say that I was the test case for challenging my Dad. I have a younger brother, Mike, and I’m fairly certain from conversations that we all had in later years that he would back me up on that fact.

I grew through my teen years and tried to spread my wings away from the control of this tough-guy U.S. Marine and Philadelphia Police boss. It didn’t always go smoothly.

But through those difficult years we learned a greater respect for one another. And the fact that I had already softened him up made things a little easier on my brother coming up right behind me. You’re welcome, Bro.

As I said, my Dad was a Philly cop, rising through the ranks to retire as a Captain after three decades of service to the community. I took the test at the age of just 18 as well, and passed through all of the preliminaries. Unfortunately for me, this was the one time in the last half-century that the PPD was going through actual layoffs and not hiring anyone new.

Despite taking that test and my father’s career choice, I never had some overwhelming urge to become a police officer myself during my 20’s. After that early test, I never even considered that line of work.

Dad (L) with Mike & I and our families, summer 1993

I began to draw closer to my Dad during the decade of the 1980’s. He got much more political in his 40’s, and recruited me to help out with those efforts. This involved volunteer work on a couple of Philly mayoral races, and his move into the presidency of the Philadelphia Emerald Society, a local Irish organization.

Conversations that we had during those years definitely can be given credit for at least planting seeds of change in me. I was a liberal Democrat to that point in life. He had become much more conservative.

While I disagreed with many of his positions in our discussions, which at times bordered on arguments, he forced me to think and to defend my own thought process.

Over time, I would challenge myself in my worldview, leading to more open-minded self-education on my part. This ultimately led to a wholesale change that was much more in line with his thinking.

I made him a grandfather twice over in those 1980’s, and at a young age. This allowed him to enjoy decades with his granddaughters, who he loved unconditionally. He wanted to be called “Grandfather” by them, because he felt it was more regal. Though we busted his chops on that choice of title over the years, the girls embraced it and him, returning his love completely.

That ‘busting chops’ aspect would become a staple of conversations involving him, my brother, and I during the 1990’s. Over the last three decades of his life, those little dining table discussions among the three of us will always remain some of my own life’s favorite moments.

Following his retirement in late 1989, our Dad moved down to Florida. He would spend the last quarter-century of his life there, but returned to the Philly area for regular visits. Even though we all eventually gained a greater ability to stay in close touch via access to the Internet and cell phones, he stated “I need hugs”, and would make his way up to Philly for a visit.

As he was retiring, I had decided to take another shot at the Philly police test myself. At age 28, I aced the test and was in the Police Academy by April 1990. My brother had already done the same a year ahead of me.

Dad, with myself and Mike at my Police Academy graduation 1990

I know for a fact that nothing ever made our Dad prouder than having both of his boys serving as police officers. He loved passing along advice in the early years of our careers, and then just listening to our own ‘war stories’ as those careers unfolded. We both advanced to supervisory positions, which only made him prouder. And of course, that shared experience in uniform only drew us closer.

His last visit north had come in the early summer of 2016. Then at Christmas a year ago, our Dad began to experience symptoms from the rare form of lung cancer that would eventually take his life. He struggled all through 2017, back and forth to various doctors, in and out of hospitals.

Mike and I finally flew down to Florida to visit him in mid-August. Dad had been in the hospital for two weeks that time, and we were both feeling serious apprehension.

We got to visit with him on a Saturday, spending much of the day together. Though it was in a hospital room with Dad obviously laboring to breathe rather than sitting around a dining room table, he was still as feisty of spirit as ever.

At that point, he was still holding out hope. He knew that he was battling a terminal condition. But there were tests results still to come. His hope was that he could be stabilized, go home, and begin some form of treatment that would give him a few months, if not a couple more years.

It wasn’t to be. He did return home with his loving wife Vicki just a couple of days later, but it was to hospice care. There was nothing more the doctors could do. He died the next weekend.

Unlike when our Mom passed away suddenly back in 1998 at just age 58, I was much more emotionally and spiritually prepared for this one. But it was still a gut punch. I let my tears out just once, with my wife Debbie.

Taking part in his funeral services down in Florida and back up here in Philly was cathartic. I was honored by Mike in allowing me to speak on our behalf at both ceremonies. Both church communities were fantastic. Here in Philly, both the USMC and the PPD presented him with honors. Dad would have been moved and proud.

Dad’s USMC flag presentation and PPD Honor Guard gun salute in Philadelphia

‘Matthew J’ was a tough guy, but he was always an emotional man. Life threw difficult challenges his way as a child, as a young father, as a veteran police boss, and as an older man. He fought his way through all of them with tenacity, a refusal to back down or surrender that would be a lesson that absolutely wore off on me.

On one of his visits north just a few years back, I went along with him to the cemetery outside of Philly where much of his family was buried. This included a visit to the graves of his mother and father, some aunts and uncles, and our brother Joseph, who was stillborn in December 1960.

He also did some preliminary genealogy research on his family tree back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the results of which he turned over to me. This spurred me on to include my Mom’s side of the family, and take much of those tree branches back some four and five generations.

Those things mattered to my Dad: family history and memories. As long as he was alive, the people who mattered to him during his life were still alive. They were alive in him, in his photos and stories and memories.

One thing that I’ve found over these last few months without him, going through “firsts” such as my first birthday and Christmas without him, was that his feelings on the importance of preserving family memories really are important.

You see, what I’ve (strangely to me) found is that I “feel” him now more than I ever did when he was alive. Maybe that was because I took for granted during his life that he was out there. That he would be back up to Philly for a visit in a few months. That I could pick up the phone and talk to him any time.

Our last picture together in June 2016

Now, he seems to be constantly with me. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Very few hours pass in a day that I don’t hear his voice in my head. It’s not a bad thing, or a sad thing, or a somber thing in any way. It’s a good feeling.

So what I’ve found is that, while I absolutely miss him terribly, he is still with me. He is always going to be with me. Death didn’t take him away. I see and hear him constantly.

And one more thing. He was a man of faith, something that was always with him, but that developed more fully later in life.

That aspect of faith, a knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ and of God’s love, is another lesson learned by watching my hero. It may be the most important lesson that he ever passed along, in fact.

And because of this one, I know for a fact that one day I will again see my Dad. When I get to wrap my arms around him for one of his hugs again, what a great day that will be.

While 2017 is always going to be remembered by me as the year that my Dad died, I won’t really ever have to think of it as the year that I “lost” him.

Matthew J. Veasey Jr is not lost. He’s not even gone. He’s right here with me now. I would venture to guess that the same goes for any of you reading this now who knew him. It will remain that way for at least as long as any of us remain alive.

Babies are always a blessing

Christine Veasey at The Vet, September 1980

Yesterday was a very ‘baby’ day in my life. I was surrounded by them almost everywhere that I went. After going to Sunday Mass we headed down I-95 and across the Walt Whitman Bridge, over to Williamstown, New Jersey and a visit with some of my wife Deb’s family.

Her sister, Arlene Clegg, has lived in South Jersey for over a decade now, and she and her family are pretty close with ours. We spend a lot of good times together, from holidays to road trips to simple family gatherings.

We used to live less than a block from one another in the ‘old neighborhood’ on Huntingdon Street, Leen’s husband Jim and I used to play ball both with and against one another in younger days, and Deb was in the room for the birth of both of Leen’s kids, daughter Cheri and son Jim. Growing up they were close at different times with my own daughters, Christine, Kelly, and Melissa.

As yesterday proved, those days of us being simply the parents, and them being simply the kids, are now officially over. At Leen’s house yesterday we visited not only with the folks already mentioned, but with some new members of the family.

Both Cheri (son Jake) and Jimmy (son Ayden) have had babies within the past two months. Well, actually Jimmy’s girlfriend Regina had the baby, but you get the idea. Two new babies to visit at one sitting.

Cheri also had a daughter, Danica, born just under two years ago, so now she has two in diapers. Been there, done that. The babies look great, as most all babies do, and seemed to be pretty healthy, so thank God for that.

My eldest daughter, Christine, had a baby of her own just six months ago. She gave birth at that time to my grandson, Reznor Lloyd, and after we left Leen’s house yesterday we stopped by for a quick visit with them at their South Philly home.

While ‘The Rez’, as I’ve taken to calling him, was sound asleep we did get to visit with him and his beautiful sister, my 6 1/2 year old granddaughter Elysia.

Now at this point I don’t want to intrude on my family members private lives and situations too much, or make any personal commentary. But in keeping it simple, none of these babies was brought into the world in what would be considered a traditional family. None of their parents are married, and all of them face various challenges in trying to put together and keep together their own individual families.

But despite all of the challenges, difficulties and hard work that their decisions to become young parents under these circumstances has involved there is one thing that becomes very apparent when you spend any time visiting with each of them. The babies have been a true blessing in their lives.

Watching them hold their babies, change their diapers, proudly hand them around to family members, some simple truths come flooding back from the early days of my own parenthood. Babies make you less selfish. Not completely unselfish, but less so.

They make you think about someone else, every minute of every day. They force you to become at least somewhat responsible in that you have to look in the mirror and realize that it is time for you to begin to make your own way in this life.

You need to support your baby, hopefully with the full loving help and cooperation of your partner. We even further hope this partner becomes our committed spouse, if they aren’t already.

As I visited with all of the kids and their kids it took me back to my own days as a young father, which really began 29 years ago today. That same eldest daughter Christine was born on this very day in 1980.

I am one of those guys with a fuzzy memory of many things from that far back, but so much of her birth and those early months are still very clear in my mind. Her mom had some physical problems relating to the pregnancy, and needed to be hospitalized for a short time leading up to the birth.

I remember having to stay out in the waiting area after first arriving at the hospital, and the birth took a long time. I slept overnight on the night of February 1st and into the 2nd on a very uncomfortable wood-framed couch in a ‘family room’ area.

The actual birth was a difficult one, but in the end there she was, a beautiful little girl who we named Christine Elizabeth Veasey.

There are so many stories that I could tell of her as a baby and young child, but I can condense it all down to saying that she was simply a joy as a baby. The kid slept for hours in the overnight, always had a sunny disposition, and was an extremely fast learner.

As a young family we had many challenges and difficulties, just as our children do today. Some we were able to overcome as time went along, some we were not.

But one thing has stood out through the entirety of my life. Despite the fact that I was a father at 18, the father of two by 19, the births of my daughters and the challenge of raising them was a blessing from God in my life.

Yesterday I got to visit with all of the new babies in my family. Today I celebrate the 29th anniversary of the birth of my own first baby, now raising two of her own. I love her more than I can ever tell her or show her, and if she ever reads this it comes with this simple wish: Happy Birthday, baby!

New Year resolutions

What will yours be? To perhaps lose some weight? Statistics show that weight loss, getting in shape, and other such related items are the number one resolution that folks make for the New Year.

This is going to be the year that you finally drop those extra 10, 20, 50, 80 pounds and whip your sorry butt into real, solid physical condition, and then keep it that way with regular maintenance.

Unfortunately, as I know all too well, the vast majority who make this resolution will drift away from it by the spring, definitely by the summer.

Number two on the resolution list is perhaps even more likely to fail: quitting smoking. How many times have you said that this will be the year that you put out your last cigarette, and never pick up another?

The ‘patch’, some type of drugs, your own will power, all of it is begun in an earnest effort to rid yourself of the vile weed. But for smokers, this one usually is surrendered even quicker than a weight-loss resolution.

As far as I can recall, there is only one resolution that I have made in all of the 30 or so years that I have been making them that I have managed to keep.

Several years ago I realized that I had gotten away from one of the things that gave me great joy as a young man. That was reading good books. I was reading the newspaper, even reading some articles online, but I hadn’t picked up a book in years.

That wasn’t the case when I was younger. From the time of my childhood and mostly through my twenties, I read books regularly. So at about age 40, I made the resolution that I was going to read books more.

As a tool, I resolved to go out and get a library card, and read at least one book a month. I went to the library, got the card, took out what turned out to be a great biography. It was titled ‘When Pride Still Mattered‘ by David Maraniss, and told the life story of legendary Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi.

I have never looked back. There is almost never a time when I don’t have at least one book that I am currently reading, and I highly recommend that Lombardi bio.

This year my resolution has more to do with faith than anything else. I have resolved to try to do what God wants me to do more than doing what it is that I want. Those two things have often been in conflict in the past, as they are in most folks lives.

I hope that by keying on His desires for me rather than my own, that I will see solid, positive changes across many facets of my life.

We’ll see. I have a lot of hope, because as a believer in Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour I know the full power of God. He can do great things in your life if you just let Him in and give him more control.

So there is my New Year resolution for 2009. It’s far bigger than losing some weight, quitting smoking, or reading more books. And it’s the one that I hope actually comes to pass, more than any other that I’ve gone after.

God bless you all in the New Year, and each of your families and close friends.

I hope that whatever your own personal resolutions are, that you will achieve success at them, and that perhaps you will consider adding a piece of my own to your own efforts. I believe it will make those battles a lot easier for you. Happy New Year!

Television & the presidency as a time machine

A face from my mirror’s past unexpectedly pops up on a TV documentary

I was sitting at home this past Saturday night, just flicking around the dial, when a newly produced special report on the Fox News Channel titled “Television & the Presidency” caught my eye.

Being a bit of a history buff, especially American history, it was right up my alley: a historical perspective on the role that television has played in Presidential politics.

As I settled in to watch, the program moved quickly through Jimmy Carter’s term in the late 1970’s. Those Carter years were fresh in my own experience, since I had turned 15-years-old right after his election.

Carter was basically the President of my high school years, and it wasn’t pretty. The man was supposed to be some kind of genius. At least that was how the press sold him. But he just couldn’t seem to solve any of the big problems that came along, from the gas crisis to unemployment, ballooning interest rates to the emergence of radical Islam.

Every time a problem raised it’s head, Carter talked and talked and got nothing done to solve it. At least that was my perspective as a teenager. But what did I know? And besides, it didn’t matter, I didn’t have a vote…yet.

In the fall of 1979, among the many other changes happening in my life, I turned 18 years of age and finally could register to vote. My family was historically a Democratic Party one, and the views seemed to easily fit the liberal ideals that most appropriately espoused my own philosophy at the time. So, I registered Democrat.

Carter continued to stumble and falter, and I looked to ‘Camelot’ for my own and my newly chosen Party’s salvation. I had been a Kennedy fan ever since learning in my youth that I shared my birthday with the late Senator Bobby Kennedy.

Having done a lot of reading during high school on JFK and Bobby, I was definitely among those convinced at the time that there must have been a conspiracy in Dallas, and that the Warren Commission was a sham.

In my first election, the Pennsylvania primary of May 1980, the presumed heir to the Kennedy crown stepped up to challenge President Carter. And so, I jumped on board the ‘Teddy Kennedy for President’ express.

That spring, Kennedy came to Philadelphia to accept the endorsement of Mayor Bill Green. I had just started working for First Pennsylvania Bank about eight months earlier, and Kennedy’s speech was going to be given right outside my work doors near 15th and Chestnut Streets.

I remember very clearly looking down from our 7th floor windows in the 1500 Chestnut building. You could see the ‘rooftop’ security activity, but no one was telling us to stay away from the windows in those days.

At some point during my lunch hour, I slipped out of work and made my way down to try and get a glimpse of my new political hero. Much to my amazement, I was able to get within just a few feet to the rear of a makeshift stand which had been erected, and from which Senator Kennedy would speak.

I remember it pretty clearly, but I am quite sure that in the haze of the ensuing 28 years, I have probably messed up a few details. But that’s how I recall that day. I also remember that I never actually got a chance to see Kennedy due to the thickness of the crowd, though I was probably no more than 20-30 feet from him.

At the rear of the stage, with security and dignitaries between myself and other onlookers, and with Kennedy speaking at the front, all I could do was stand and listen, which I did.

Oh, and a couple other things that I know. I had longer hair then, actually parted in the middle with the ‘wings’ that were still in style. I was wearing a white dress shirt with a wide collar, had left the top shirt button unbuttoned, had a grey tie loosened. I was wearing the vest from a grey 3-piece suit, without the suit jacket.

How do I know all that detail, you say?

Because as the Fox News television special progressed through to Kennedy’s challenge of Carter, they showed a snippet from that very speech given by Kennedy on that day in Philly.

Very quickly, but lasting maybe four full seconds, there was a closeup of an 18-year-old Matt Veasey standing in the back of the stage, eyes glazed over as he listened to Kennedy speaking.

It was crystal clear, a close-up, and they held the camera on me long enough for me to say “Holy crap!” as I sat in my living room that night, now almost three decades later.

Thankfully, modern day television experts have invented something called DVR, and I quickly rewound the program to watch again. There I was staring back in time at myself almost three decades ago, still a teenager, less than a year out of high school, my eldest daughter just a couple of months old.

It was eerie, partly because it was totally unexpected, partly because the shot was a good one, partly because I haven’t seen that face much in decades.

I don’t know of any video, family or otherwise, that exists of me from those days. I don’t actually even have many photos from that time, at least not in my possession. But there I was, live and in person, at least on tape, from spring of 1980.

I ran upstairs and got my wife Debbie, who didn’t even know that I existed in 1980, and asked her to come downstairs and watch the show for a minute.

I had it cued up to just before my appearance, and gave her the buildup describing what the show was about and where we were in the episode, and then asked her to watch close and see if anything catches her eye.

She watched and let the shot of me go by, and just as I flickered off the screen she looked at me wide-eyed and asked “was that you?” in an incredulous tone.

We watched it together a few more times and shared the amazement with a good laugh as I caught her up on some of the things that were happening in my life at that point.

So if you get a chance to see this “Television & the Presidency” special on Fox News Channel, stay tuned for the episode and section where they cover Jimmy Carter.

As that Fox documentary moves to the Kennedy 1980 primary challenge, they will show the Philly speech, and as Kennedy laments that we want “no more high taxes, no more hostages” or whatever his rant was, you will see a starry-eyed young liberal in the audience.

That young man was me once, a long time ago. It was good to see me again.