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A war cry against the purest form of evil. A community rallying against brutal, horrific violence that will forever scar and haunt not only the people of Uvalde but those far beyond its borders who just can’t make sense of the senseless. And who fear that their city will be the next one forced to be “strong.”

While it unarguably takes incomprehensible strength to endure such immense, immeasurable, and insurmountable loss, glorifying suffering makes it no more bearable. #UvaldeStrong. #YourCityStrong. Our go-to hashtag, an automatic and painfully predictable response after every school shooting. It has become cliche, as vain and empty as “thoughts and prayers.”

I do not know what it’s like to lose a family member to violence. For that, I am grateful. But there is also an element of “survivor’s guilt.” Why were those victims taken? Why have their families and community been forced into this hell? I look at my children and feel lucky that it wasn’t us, and then I feel mortified. My family is no better than those of any of the victims. Why did it happen to them? Why did it happen, period.

I do not know what it’s like to lose a child to violence, but I do know what it’s like to be a parent, desperate to wake up from a nightmare that just will not end, no matter how many times I shut my eyes tight, beg and barter with God, or fruitlessly seek meaning that will somehow justify my greatest fear coming true. I know what it’s like to watch the sun set and know that today was the last day I will ever see my child again.

In 2012, I lost my son unexpectedly when he was just six weeks old, and I can’t help but empathize with the parents of the victims in Uvalde, who are just beginning a journey through grief that offers no resolution. There is no destination. There is no hope of making this “right.” It will never be right. It can only be survived.

When my son passed, I didn’t want to be strong. I wanted to fall apart. Over and over again, I felt like my chest was going to explode within my chest, and, many times, I wished that it would. I wasn’t strong. My perseverance was not a notch to add to my belt; it was a crushing burden that I never wanted to carry. When well-meaning friends and family members would commend me on my strength, it hurt. 

I didn’t want to be strong. I wanted to collapse. Implode under the unrelenting weight of a reality that just could not be real.

I also think about the parents of the children lost at Sandy Hook Elementary and those of the countless victims of every school shooting before and after December 14, 2012. How it must feel, nearly a decade later—a decade—to watch Tuesday’s events unfold and wonder how the loss of their children was not enough to prevent this from happening again. How have we not had ENOUGH?

These parents are the epitome of strength. They fight tirelessly to effect change, fueled by grief and the undying hope that they can save our children when we didn’t save theirs. 

Strength is taking action. It’s taking a single step when our legs are shaking and our hearts are broken. Strength is not just supporting a community in the wake of tragedy, it’s caring enough to carry the load with them, because we cannot carry it for them. It is our job to be strong for them. 

What kind of strength are we asking of our neighbors? This isn’t their burden, it is our burden. 

— by guest columnist Whitney Alexander

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Paul's Bio

I clearly have the attention span of your median fruit fly.Look! Airplane!

Sorry. I’m back.

It’s both a curse and a blessing. I’ve never bought this stuff about, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But I do think that a wide range of life experiences helps us grow as people, and helps us better relate to other people. I’ve been fortunate. And I am beyond grateful.

I show up on time. I go like hell. I’m a good listener. I hold myself accountable. I own my mistakes. And I have a natural and an insatiable curiosity. I’m never afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t. But then I try to find out.

The flip side is I’m a lousy ballroom dancer and my clothes sometimes fit me funny.

Stuff matters to me. I care. But while I take that stuff seriously, I try hard to never take myself seriously. As a result, I have sometimes been told, “Paul, it’s hard to tell when you’re serious and when you’re just having some fun. Which is it? Serious or fun?”

My answer is “yes.” But I think that is a legitimate criticism. I promise I’m going to work on that.

This has been the quickest and strangest half-century I’ve ever experienced. During that period, I’ve been afforded amazing opportunities in news and sports journalism across all platforms. I have taught wonderful students at the high school and collegiate level. Always, I learned more from them than they did from me. I’ve been a high school administrator. I spent ten seasons as a high school varsity football coach. I’ve been an advertising executive. I’ve hosted nationally syndicated television entertainment shows. In maybe the biggest honor I ever received, I was selected by NASA to be “Chet The Astronaut” for the “Land The Shuttle” simulator at Space Center Houston. (All I can say there, is “Do as I say, not as I do.” I put that thing in the Everglades more often than not.) Most recently, I just wrapped up a decade as a television news director, during which time our teams distinguished themselves in holding the powerful accountable, achieving both critical and ratings success.

What does all that mean? It means I am profoundly grateful. It also means I’m ready for “next.” So here we are. Radically Rational. It’s an idea I woke up with in 2017. I scribbled “Radically Rational” on a piece of notebook paper and used a magnet to stick it on our refrigerator. I saw it every day, and it just would not leave me alone.

I am second in charge at Radically Rational, LLC. My wife, Jo (also known as BB), is the president. Clearly, I have failed in my attempt to sleep my way to the top of this organization.

I hope you will learn that I’m loyal as a Labrador. But I will admit that this doggie can bite every now and then. My promise to you? I will show up on time. I will go like hell. I will listen to you earnestly and attentively. I will hold myself accountable. I will never be the least bit hesitant to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t.

But then I’ll try to find out. Let’s do it.