After our limo passed through the Arlington Cemetery gates, I looked to the left and saw two parents visiting their son or daughter. They sat on lawn chairs in front of a grave. It wasn’t the formation of “lost man” planes that flew over my head that made me cry. It wasn’t the horse-drawn coffin that vanished against the silhouette of the trees that saddened me. The men with guns, who were firing into the sky in homage, began to pursue me. It was the sacrifice and the pain of the loss that saddened me. All these men and women around me gave their lives for this country. He was sad for his parents, wives, and children. My father was older when he passed away. He lived a long and successful life. Most of the military men buried in Arlington did not have the same opportunity. This is what my father would communicate to me, if he had been there.
Charles Bernard Kenning, an attorney, was buried in Arlington Cemetery with full military honors in February 2009. He was uncompromising, uncompromising, and strong. It would remind us that freedom is always at stake; He will ask you to respect the law.
Junior lawyers learn to isolate, manipulate, and alter truths; however, Charles Kenning believed that, in truth, there is no compromise. Our Founding Fathers fought tyranny with truth, values, compassion, and the rule of law. He believed that these men created the greatest democracy in history. Our Founding Fathers were great intellects. Many of them were not only statesmen, but also university presidents, lawyers, and parents.
They studied, sought and fought for ideals such as justice and individual freedom and human dignity. It is this story that brought the United States of America out of the world. It is this framework that created a people who possess the power to vote, work and speak freely in the pursuit of happiness. Charles Kenning would ask us not to allow our pontiffs to blind us with falsehoods, taxes, misinterpretations of the law. Unpaid bills and rewritten rules that will lead our children into an era of economic, political and social slavery.
This message was consistent with his actions. Charles B. Kenning was shot down in Germany on his 23rd mission in 1944. In the prison camp, he was aware of American rights and explained the Geneva Convention to his captors. All that was left to protect their camp, at that point in their war experience, were frightened young Germans with big guns. My father was lucky to speak German.
Like our ancestors, Charles Kenning fought for democracy and the rights of the individual. Upon leaving the prison camp, “Life Magazine” captured and published an image of the event that marked his departure. With crutches in hand, he broke the Nazi flag. It was this image that alerted his mother, who was thousands of miles away: her son was alive. With spirit intact, he would return home. Sonny-boy, as Nana would call him, would tell them that we must honor, uphold, and respect the conventions of the law and our constitution.
Charles B. Kenning graduated from Georgetown University and soon after passed several bar exams offered on the DC Beltway. The screw that was drilled through his leg to prop up his ankle, during the war, did not hinder his forward momentum. It was this tenacity with which he approached his love of freedom. In life, his spirit was unaffected. In illness and near death, he did not complain.
Charles B. Kenning was a collector. He collected cars, boats, and books. Few people know that he owned each and every law book that the West Publishing Company ever produced. Thousands of square feet of law library were meticulously lined up in our home. When I was a teenager, I remember learning that this was strange. Friends came to play and then came back in groups for the library tour and to buy snacks. I soon learned not to invite anyone into that part of the house. I didn’t want to be different; all the other houses in Pittsford were not built on foundations that reflected an underground city equipped with libraries and food-filled fog shelters.
In college, my sisters and I started calling this part of our home “Chuck’s-Mart.” The prices were correct, after all. Anyone can find a free book or feed the entire bedroom if necessary. There was no need for a blue light special at Old Farm Circle. He never realized that books or groceries were missing. The filthy and hungry masses who walked through our doors appreciated this oversight.
When my father became disabled, his beloved library moved to Albany, New York, and became the best part of a student law library. He would have liked to join them in their studies. After law school, he taught law at John Fisher College. He was the type of teacher who wanted students to read and actively discuss topics. However, when discussing a point with Charles Kenning, you’d better get the facts right. He was not an easy teacher.
If Professor Kenning were alive today, he would ask students to read the bills that Congress is proposing. He invited his students to actively discuss the issues. I would like the precedence and contrasting positions to be justified. Professor Kenning would have been disappointed by a government and a people who did his reading. Congressmen, who do not read the bills, have equally horrified him. He was neither a compromising person nor an easy man.
I could imagine Mr. Kenning saying something like; “Some advocates of rewriting and creating new laws have learned that in chaos, there are opportunities. But in true freedom, there is only the rule of law.” My father would say that the truth cannot be masked in bills and in revisionist history. Our history is clear, our founders were forthright, and our agenda as a people is predestined. It is our duty, our right and our privilege to live in freedom and defend the constitution. As leaders, we must hold our legislators, politicians, and families to high standards.
Charles B. Kenning did not obscure the truth to gain political power, popularity, fame, or financial gain. He was a student of American History. who believed in defending the law. He had great love and respect for the constitution. I would ask you to hope to protect your children and future generations with the same document. He was adamant in this belief.
My sister relates a conversation she would have with her children. It would start out as a question; “Did you do the best you could?” If you answered “Yes”, there was more to follow “… if that’s the best you can do, you’ve done enough.” Then I would add the touch; “Now go help someone else do better.” He was unwavering and stubborn.