Planes, Trains and Automobiles...A Thanksgiving Day list

John J. Hopkins Nov. 20, 2005, 4:12am

I have selected the classic, “Plains, Trains and Automobiles,” as today’s movie theme for a host of reasons.

First of all, it is one of my personal favorites--a true Thanksgiving masterpiece starring Steve Martin as Neil Page, uptight ad executive from Chicago, wishing only to get home to be with his family; and the late, great John Candy as Del Griffith, shower curtain salesman, who only wants to help and to fit in.

There are so many great scenes as they journey from New York to St. Louis and eventually up I-55 to Chicago: Neil’s profane tirade at the car rental counter, the devilish encounter with the trucks going the wrong way down the highway, the “those aren’t pillows” line in the motel, leading up to the Norman Rockwell moment when Neil does finally reach home--that it is always a terrific way to start the Holiday season...

Beyond the fact that it is a good movie, I chose “P,T & A,” because there just are not a lot of movies about or dealing with Thanksgiving, this uniquely American day.

All countries, to a lesser or greater degree, celebrate days of independence, honor their fallen comrades, and remember significant historical events. But Americans, in acknowledgment of the role of Providence in the destiny of the Republic, set aside this day to give thanks for the abundance of blessings to which we all share.

It is a shame that this day has become so overshadowed--by Halloween on the front, Christmas in the back--that it has lost some of its luster. For my dear wife, it is her favorite holiday, one in which you do not have to buy presents, give candy, or dress up, just feast, and be grateful.

She is so strong on this point, that NO Christmas decoration will appear at the Hopkins home until after Thanksgiving, regardless of how late in November.

So, it is in the true spirit of Thanksgiving, that I submit the list of things for which I am thankful, presented in no particular order.

THE COURT SYSTEM IN MADISON COUNTY: Much maligned, the court system here in Edwardsville, while flawed, is so much better than many other circuits. The Clerk’s office is helpful and knowledgeable, the judges approachable on matters of docket settings, and the bailiffs friendly, standing in stark contrast to many, many other places throughout the state.

Searching for perfection, while a worthwhile goal, should not blind an appreciation of what we have.

HYLLA vs. WEBER: 15 rounds, heavyweight fight, raw meat for the columnist, with the winner getting the title shot in the Ball Park, the loser the one-way ticket to Palookaville. While outside interests are keenly watching this race, it is ours here in Madison County to observe up close and personal.

THE ORAL HISTORY OF THE MADISON COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION: For the past dozen years, the Bar Association has set aside a couple of hours on the Thursday before Memorial Day to honor the memory of any members who have passed away in the preceding 12 months.

It is an oft times very touching and uplifting ceremony, much appreciated by family, friends and colleagues. But the real joy has been in listening to the stories, the tales of characters no longer among us, of deeds, some noble and exalted, some humble and modest, but always interesting, and sure to bring a laugh, a tear or just a fond remembrance.

The oral history of the MCBA is rich and textured, and the older I get, the more I appreciate it.

THE MED MALP REFORM ACT: Now, before you go thinking I have gone off my nut, let me explain. The Med Malp bill passed into law is multi-faceted, some good, some bad, some ugly.

The ugly is obviously the damage caps, the bad is the unnecessary procedural changes, but the good is that for the first time ever, ISMIE, the insurance arm of the Illinois State Medical Society, a group that controls 70 percent of the market, had to come before the Division of Insurance and attempt to justify the unjustifiable.

With rates spiking up 35 percent in 2003, then 7 percent in 2004, then a freeze in 2005, all BEFORE the change in the law, the ISMIE boys were squirming. For that, I am thankful.

TO BE A LAWYER: Perhaps no profession has taken as many cheap shots as the law, especially of recent vintage. But in all the bloods lust, facts--historical and otherwise--become obscured.

The words, ”We hold these truths to be Self Evident,” or, “Of the people, by the people and for the people,” or indeed, the entire Bill of Rights, were authored not by engineers, doctors, bankers or businessmen. But by lawyers.

The history of service to the nation runs deep in the legal profession, and I am humbled to be part of this honorable tradition. From the day I took the oath in 1977, to the present day, I have been proud to be part of the noble profession.

I have been given the chance to help literally thousands of people in their time of need, satisfying in the soul the desire to assist your fellow man, while admittedly giving a boy from East St. Louis a lifestyle no other profession could hope to give to his family.

The famous Shakespeare line, "First thing we do is kill all the lawyers,” was spoken by a henchman of Dick the Butcher, whose goal was total anarchy, then to install a dictatorship. He knew that the rule of law, and those who practiced it, stood to block his way. It is still true today.

Well, this is my list. I hope this Thanksgiving Day, you and your family take some time to reflect on the blessings and bounty that we all are so privileged to receive.

Have a great holiday.

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