Thursday, January 28, 2021

Essays for my children: A plea for peace

The decades of fermenting suspicion, isolation, mistrust, and division - by media and political organizations alike - have boiled over, manifesting these rifts into physical violence on the streets of our communities and in the halls of our uniquely American institutions.   


At this pivotal juncture in our Union’s history, when it would be easy to drown ourselves in the confluence of political extremism, social outrage, and cancel culturalism, we must afford our futures a moment of contemplation. We must realize the severity in the America we have become.  We must choose whether we, as individual citizens of this Grand Republic, truly desire our Constitutional miracle to fall into oblivion, or instead rise to the potential forged by the generations who have strived  to deliver us this Promised Land.


We can no longer allow ourselves to look into the faces of our compatriots and see only enemies undeserving of our respect or dignity. We must channel our passion to act into an aspiration to listen, while sharing the vigilance in the common defense of the rights and freedoms that so many peoples were once denied. We must see each other for the ties that bind us in fellowship, and in the shared visions for prosperityWe must once more rekindle the patriotic love for a Country that still represents the last best hope for all humanity.


I have journeyed in many political circles and in each have enjoyed the company of outstanding personalities whose contributions to America’s greatness were simple, yet immeasurably affirming.  In bearing witness to their efforts it is my hope that though our political views may vary sharply, we will not continue to wield our resentment as a bludgeon.  Rather, I hope we can withdraw from behind our partisan barriers and converse with one another again, speaking the words gifted to us from a common heritage of historic optimism.


250 years ago, with a muddle of problems and an intercedence of providence, the people of the United States strove to transform this Country from a collection of ARE to a Nation of IS.  Now once more, demonstrating our resolve and our faith that we can conquer any challenge together, we can fulfill the promise of Liberty’s grace first realized on that July summer’s day.

Wil Levins

January 2021

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Daddy-Daughter Moment: Dr. Seuss


I enjoyed narrating Dr. Seuss' book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish with you for "Refinery Reads". You did an amazing job and I hope we get to narrate more children's books in the future. You are an intelligent, talented, caring, and beautiful young woman. 

Click image for video

Love always,


Monday, January 18, 2021

Dad Advice: Religion


Maddie and Gracie,

When I ponder religion and the meaning of The Almighty, I often think of the episode of Futurama in which Bender meets God.      


I bet a lot of people pray to you, huh?


Yes, but there are so many asking so much. After a while you just sorta tune it out.


Y'know, I was God once.


Yes, I saw. You were doing well until everyone died.


It was awful. I tried helping them. I tried not helping them but in the end, I couldn't do them any good. Do you think what I did was wrong?


Right and wrong are just words. What matters is what you do.


Yeah I know, that's why I asked if what I did - forget it.


Bender, being God isn't easy, if you do too much, people get dependent. And if you do nothing, they lose hope. You have to use a light touch, like a safecracker or a pickpocket.


Or a guy who burns down the bar for the insurance money.


Yes, if you make it look like an electrical thing. 

When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all.

Dad Advice: Enjoy the Journey

Maddie & Gracie,

As we discussed recently, do not be pressured into knowing exactly what you will do in the next few years, what college you want to attend, which profession you will aspire to, or how you want your life to exactly unfurl. Enjoy being a young person. Life moves so fast and we spend so much of our time worrying about the future that we do not take the time to enjoy where we are now and what is truly meaningful.


So what do I think is truly meaningful?  People and the experiences enjoyed with people is what I think is truly meaningful. Friends, relatives, acquaintances - people whom you love, people that you want to build a friendship with, people who introduce you to new things and interesting experiences. Spend time building memories with people that help bring joy into your life, grant you perspective, help you grow personally, and teach you things about the world that you didn't know. Living in the present while looking periodically to the future allows you to take a step back every once in a while, when times are really very good, and mark the moment in your memory as a blessed time in your life.


Goals are important to have but, realize they are destinations to future places and being present in the “now” allows you to savor the journey. For now, your goals should be simple and somewhat vague – go to a college one day, find something that interests you with which you can support yourself, and have a lifestyle you enjoy. Kind of basic but, other than that, focus on making new friends, trying different hobbies, joining local interest groups, or participating in various sporting activities. Explore the world around you and enjoy these days as a young person because they only come around once in our life times.


Love you both always,



Thursday, October 15, 2020

Dad Advice: Talking About Politics

Maddie and Gracie,

At the time of this writing there are only 19 days remaining until Election Day 2020. As you have noticed, it seems politics in America today has become more intense, angry, and even violent at times - though, surprisingly, there have been worse moments of political discord in our Nation's past (see The American Civil War). For this piece of advice though, let's just focus on personal political interactions. As we have seen, political conversations can create animosity between friends and family members - as especially seen on social media (see my previous post). 


The problem with expressing political opinions in a conversation or in social media posts is that a simple discussion can quickly descend into an intense and bitter argument. This is in part because a person's political views are formed by their beliefs and ideologies, which are representative and informative to an individual's personal identity. An individual's political beliefs are forged through a multitude of factors like parental influence, growth environment, education, religion, and a diversity of personal experiences. To debate a political issue, especially when passions become heated, can seem like an attack on someone's personal beliefs because their political views are, in-part, a reflection of their identity.  


Saturday, September 5, 2020

Dad Advice: Social Media & The Internet

Maddie & Gracie,

Back in 2009, while running for City Council in Gloucester City (boy I looked really fat in that picture), I started writing articles for Cleary’s Notebook, a South Jersey news blog owned by former Gloucester City News publisher Bill Cleary. From those initial articles and through the many comments or essays I wrote in the years following, I was indoctrinated to the power of Social Media. What I found was in their best moments social media sites can announce good news, deliver insightful information, share happy moments of achievement in peoples’ lives, while keeping friends or families connected over long distances. In bad moments it can provide a window for direct comments, from mostly anonymous posters, that are mean spirited, combative, insulting, ill-informed, and even outright lying. To his credit, Mr. Cleary did filter out profanity, libelous statements, and personal attacks on family members from the blog’s comments. However, even with that level of censorship, a lot of room remained for waging character attacks, personal slights, outrageous insinuations, and bold-faced fabrications. I always appreciated Mr. Cleary for giving me that opportunity and the invaluable exposure. 


Sunday, August 9, 2020

Dad Advice: Closing a Chapter

Maddie & Gracie,

Well, it has been a rough year for sure. Being without you two and your mother for the better part of this past year was undoubtedly the most challenging time of my life. Most nights I stayed at the refinery long past my counterparts simply because going back to an apartment devoid of your presence was deeply depressing. As I jokingly said, though 100% true, many nights I would walk into the Tibaron Lane Apartment declaring “Nobody, I’m home!”

I understand too that my absence at home also bore a negative impact on your mental well being. Though not every child is as blessed to have a two parent home, like we all were in our immediate family, there really is something to be said for the cohesion, stability, nurturing and love that comes from having the balance of dual opposite but, integrally important, personality perspectives.

But, with the move to Perrysburg and the selling of our house on Baynes Avenue in New Jersey, that chapter is now over and we can move on in Ohio with us all back together. I know you miss our house, the home of your childhood, and especially the close proximity of your friends and our extended family. Though I have said this many times, Home really is wherever we are all together. You are the loves of my life, my greatest pride, and my sincerest joy. You make Mom and I’s lives fulfilled and being with you, watching you grow into strong young women exploring this new place, fills me with such abundant happiness.

Perrysburg, and Ohio in general, may not have been the place we foresaw coming to call home so many years ago however, I believe it is a great area filled with wonderful people who will bring peace and contentment to our lives. And with us all together, I know anything is possible for our future. 

Take advantage of this opportunity and enjoy this time in our lives for what it is - a new adventure.

Love you always,


Friday, August 16, 2019

Dad advice: It’s all about people

Maddie and Gracie,

The last few months have been difficult but, they have affirmed my belief in one absolute in this life: it’s all about people. How you treat people reflects your character and being a leader is entirely about character. From a local group to a large organization, it starts with the character of leadership and how that leadership effects people.

Being a leader, in my mind, comes down to some basic, simple “Musts” for success - and by success I don’t mean wealth but, the richness of fulfillment that comes from bringing shared prosperity to your people.

10 Absolute Leadership Musts

- Listen to your people
- Learn the strengths of your people
- Inform your people
- Empower your people  
- Encourage your people 
- Serve beside your people
- Reward your people
- Respect the dignity of your people
- Honor the sacrifices given by your people
- Express the importance of your people to all of your people

Successful leadership comes down entirely to one word: PEOPLE

The success of an organization, or a team, is based upon a foundation of leadership that reflects its genuine character. Without people there is no team and without a team there can be no success for an organization.

If given the opportunity and privilege to lead, be humble, lead by example, and communicate frequently with your team. Show respect, gratitude, and patience. Learn as much from your people as you teach and always make their concerns your concerns.

I hope this helps you someday.



Sunday, July 7, 2019

Dad Advice: Things Will All Work Out

Maddie & Gracie,

As you know our family is on the precipice of major change with Dad’s job but, even in this challenging and uncertain time, with stress and anxiety running high, we can learn from the moment and in by how our character responds.

I do not believe in luck, fate, superstitions, or a preordained master plan. I believe in cause and effect, actions having equal and opposite reactions, probability, statistics, preparedness, reason, and logic. When someone says - with kind and consoling intent - that “things will all work out”, surprisingly, I agree 100 percent.

I agree not because I place my faith in some unseen force working behind the ethereal curtain instead, I have faith in myself, my character, in the positive interactions conducted throughout my life, the bonds I forged, and in the counsel of those with whom I love and surround myself. I have absorbed hundreds of lessons from numerous mentors whose teachings helped shape the person I am today. Because of this culmination and the support of my loving family, I have absolute faith that my compassion, dedication, work ethic, knowledge, experience, demeanor, dignity, values, talents, passion, drive, skills, and abilities grant me the means to make sure “things will all work out”.

This is no braggadocio or self flattery, it is reinforcing a truth that each of us has the ability to adapt and achieve but, not by waiting around hopelessly - hands raised skyward - yielding to the thought that something will just happen to make it all better. Seek strength in your character, gather love from those around you, and have faith in who you are and what you can accomplish - for only you can navigate your future, wield your power, and make sure “things will all work out.”

Remember, I believe in you.



Sunday, March 3, 2019

Dad Advice: Dating and Love

Maddie & Gracie,

Someday you will want to...(sigh) So, here is what I need you to know and understand about dating.

1. Parents fear their children dating because it is fraught with the potential to get hurt. Remember, we only want what is best for you. Admittedly, it took a while to find your mother and achieve the happiness for which I had been searching. I had some disappointments along the way and, I am sure to have had disappointed others as well. Take your time, protect yourself, and never fear coming to me or your mother for support, advice, guidance, and understanding...we’ve all been there.

2. I hope that you will seek someone who values you as much as I do and will treat you as I have done. Kindness, caring, friendship, affection, appreciation, consideration, empathy, laughter, dignity, and respect should all be expressed, unconsciously, by the person whom you choose to be with.  Never stay with someone who does not appreciate you for exactly who you are and does not show you the courtesy you deserve. Know your value and never let someone else dictate your worth. 

3. Life is entirely too short to limit your chances for achieving true happiness and experiencing unconditional joy in your life. In my opinion race, gender, religion, orientation, nationality, and class present no significance when searching for that special someone. It ultimately does not matter. If you find someone who brings joy into your life and loves you as much as I do, than hold onto that person and never worry about what others may think or say. 

We will always - ALWAYS - have your back and believe in you.



Dad Advice: Know Your Value

Maddie & Gracie,

As I have told you many times throughout your lives: You. Are. Wonderful. I see you for who you are, who you will become, and it brings me great joy to envision your future.  

Both of you are intelligent, compassionate, caring, funny, beautiful, kind, and loving young women. You should always embrace the goodness instilled in you and endeavour to make this world a better place by extolling your virtues.

Never let anyone succeed in diminishing your self worth. Do not let yourself be defined simply by what others may think of you. Stay true to who you are and who you want the world to see you as by projecting your confidence and using your mind, heart, skills, ideals, principles, and beliefs to forge your happiness. 

Believe in yourselves and what you can accomplish when you focus your desire and will to succeed. Use your passion to overcome the obstacles that may stand in your way but, do so while wielding kindness, reason, facts, and empathy to navigate your path in life.

Embrace your shortcomings and weave your failures into your greater character as rounded personal growth relies on the teachings learned in both your victories and defeats. 

See yourselves as your Mom and I see you, for we could not be prouder.