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Interview with Bob Kuhn, J.D. (Part Three)

July 8, 2018

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 17.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Thirteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: July 8, 2018

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 4,071

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Bob Kuhn, J.D. is the President of Trinity Western University (TWU). He discusses: the legislation of behaviour; the Canadian community; the question of how much Canadians are willing to sacrifice; interaction with prior TWU presidents; diet cokes and tuna sandwiches; limited edition Bob Kuhn’s coons; precision in language; and the summary of the New Testament Gospel.

Keywords: Bob Kuhn, CEO, Christian, president, religion, Trinity Western University.

Interview with Bob Kuhn, J.D.: President, Trinity Western University (Part Three)[1],[2],[3]

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: I thought about the legislation of behaviour. Even – pardon the phrases – murderers, rapists, and child molesters in prison, their behaviour is highly controlled, but we can probably agree.

The ones guilty and in prison rather than wrongful convictions pretty much have bad hearts, but their behaviour is very tightly “legislated.”

Bob Kuhn: Our recidivism rate is through the roof. The US ability to incarcerate new people is questionable.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] if they put a big wall around the entire country…

Kuhn: [Laughing] Yes, yes, a big wall to trap all the people inside.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Kuhn: It defies a characterization. Christianity defies a characterization. That the heart is something at issue here. One’s heart is in need of repair. So, the way we go about living out those values that have the reparative effect. How do we go out loving people we have strong disagreements with? That is, ultimately, the success of a community, I think.

It can be a pretty wonderful thing.

2. Jacobsen: What is our largest community? It is the Canadian community.

Kuhn: Right.

Jacobsen: If we dismiss that entirely or in its entirety, it could lead to problems for sub-communities within the country as well – as a general point.

If you infringe on the individual rights of a person based on the group they are identified with on some standardized definition of the group – because there are concerns about the community and the individual, it is very hard to disentangle sometimes, and, of course, you would know better than I would in legal contexts; if someone’s right is infringed based on group identity, then both the individual and the group are infringed upon.

So, you take one of the most dramatic examples in the early to middle 20th century. Some were accepted by the government definition of being Jewish descent or heritage. So, say, you are born of a Jewish mother, but do not practice the Jewish religion.

You are ethnically Jewish by descent by the mother, but you are not by religion. So – I do not know if this is the case, you are sent to the work camps or incineration. The group is hugely violated, massively violated, at the same time the individual is violated.

The conversations we have been having in and out today, around the individual and the community. There are some threads that tie the two together.

Kuhn: Yes, for sure. The metaphor used in the New Testament is the “body,” the Body of Christ. So, if one part of the body hurts, then the whole body carries the pain. It is not as if you isolate that.

Individual rights do not get isolated. It does not have an affect. AIDs, for instance, there is a whole community of people. As far as I understand, the Aboriginal and Indigenous communities are suffering the consequences of AIDs.

I supposed there are reasons for that. We can talk about the reasons of that. But the whole community hurts. We can say, “We can fix that by legislating that.” You are not going to fix it that way. Trying to legislate people’s hearts, when you can only legislate their behaviour.

There will always be ways in which people go back to legislating behaviour. This is where I go back to ED (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity) – trying to legislate that. We are going to get it wrong, more wrong than right.

I think what we have done is a reasonably good job at educating people at why this is important to consider and why we have gender inequity in the workforce. That is more compelling when we are educating and legislating.

I probably did not follow your script very well.

Jacobsen: One point about EDI, as a standardized policy. Even if there is sufficient consultation of things, I hesitate. I say this as a young person. I hesitate at too rapid of a reform in a country that ranks very high on education – elementary, middle, high, and post-secondary (undergraduate and graduate) – as well as the quality of life metrics.

This is by international organizations. That might be organs publishing studies through the United Nations. These rankings are an indication of overall success in providing for the needs of the people of the country.

So, rapid change amounts to saying, “We have a much better solution to all your ills. So, let us jump on that train.” Yet, we rank so high. Who else do we have to compare to? Some of the Scandinavian countries, Iceland, Finland, and so on.

These countries only do marginally better. It is the Jerry Seinfeld joke. The person in first place on the sprint about 1/100th of a second ahead. One guy 1/1,000th second behind. Never heard of him.

It is in that sense. We are doing so well on education, so well on quality of life metrics, which is a general term for health and wellbeing and all the other things. That to say that it has to be done rapidly and that these are obviously the right solutions.

It raises questions for me as a Canadian citizen, not necessarily the efficacy of it, but the rapid implementation of it. That raises question marks to me.

Kuhn: That is a good point: the means by which and the speed by which changes are advocated and are legislated means we are not carefully considering the consequences. One of things is that the inequity in the media.

The attention in North American media to things that are totally meaningless. Yet, we don’t talk about that being inequitable. We do not talk about people starving in other countries are suffering injustices.

If that was equivalent to WWII, we would not say, “That is a mess over there. We can only focus over here.” In a sense, it expands on the community discussion. That we have not taken responsibility internationally.

That we have put out our – as you put it – potential to be slightly elevated beyond where we are now, to the top of the heap. We would put that above the people suffering problems that we could solve in a weekend if we just put out minds to it

3. Jacobsen: Let me take an example of Marielle Franco, she was 38. She was an up-and-coming career politician. A lot of people in that community in Brazil loved her. She was found with four bullets in her head.

That is a different sort of problem. In America, there were at least seven political assassinations: Kennedy, X, King, another Kennedy [Laughing]. These people were being assassinated based on political differences.

So, just on levels of rapid change, of removal through death, of political leaders, we do not have that. They might have a health problem. With on mayor, allegations that turned out to be true with drug use.

People would say, “The crackhead mayor of Toronto.” People make fun of those. It is not catastrophically bad. It is bad. It is bad by some historical Canadian standards, but it is not the end of the world by any comparison.

I agree with you. In the sense, we should be focusing on others who are in less fortunate circumstances. Based on the metrics, this is one of the best systems around. I agree with another point.

“Yes, but…” our focus internally is only based on how far we can extend our influence or reach. We are only a country of 36 million. California state has more people than we do as a country maybe 1.5 million or 2 million people.

As well, the kinds of foci that people might have; those are only going to be local. They are going to be within their community. They are going to be based on the community or municipality with some more reach, or the province or territory if some more reach.

Even federally, we are seen by the World Economic Forum, I believe, as having the most positive influence on the world out of any other country. At the same time, what does that mean in practical terms?

We are a tiny country. We are pulling our weight. We are not pulling Singapore weight per capita, but we are pulling a good weight for a positive image. At the same time, at what point is it reasonable to expect we are influencing other countries?

Kuhn: I question how much Canadians are willing to sacrifice for the benefit of the population of the globe. I think self-interest ranks pretty high in our list of priorities in our country. That is true of probably all countries, to a greater or lesser extent.

Unless, you have been to those other places and let them touch you heart, “How do you feel going to a full grocery store and jobs?” There is a lot to be said for transporting people away from their comfort zone.

I am intrigued by some of the good stories of people who come here from Syria and other areas. I am thinking of one of our bookkeepers who came from Syria. He was telling a story, a remarkable story. His whole attitude was one of humility and thankfulness.

He was appreciative of everything this country had given him. But yet, that story really does not filter down very far. We tend to gravitate towards the harsh things. I often think one of the benefits of being in a university like this is that there is a high value given to many of the students to service and sacrifice to a certain extent, and caring about those around you. I forgot the stats exactly, but a huge percentage are involved in doing something to better the community, whether it is prison work with inmates or Downtown Eastside.

I wonder, “What is it?” Maybe, that is the best approach with one person at a time, by changing their hearts with care and concern for people. I do think that we are overfed.

Jacobsen: Also, over-sassy.

Kuhn: Yes, fat and sassy, it is an interesting time. It is a very interesting time to be alive.

4. Jacobsen: As the fourth president of Trinity Western University, and you have been working here for several years, and with the work in Parkinson’s activism, what is potential advice prior presidents of Trinity Western gave to you upon earning the position, as well as others you may have met in other leadership arenas, e.g. the work in Parkinson’s?

Some of them may have read the blog Positively Parkinson’s and were influential in that world. They say, “Not only are you going to make a great president, but you should talk to Bob or Jimmy over here,” then they give you some advice.

Kuhn: I, unfortunately, didn’t have the opportunity to gather much advice from my predecessors. I would probably go back to the first president who was the president when I was a student here in the 70s

He had some interesting things. He used them quite often. I often reflect on that. If Christ is Lord, then nothing is secular.

Jacobsen: I remember hearing that from some of your work. Can you elaborate on that?

Kuhn: I think, as Christians who follow Christ, there is no aspect of living that is not touched by that commitment or that relationship – or “worldview” I will call it from an intellectual perspective. It touches everything.

It is one of the things that makes sense to me. No matter what we do or how we do it, it sounds trite. Yet, I find myself repeating it more times than I can remember. It is to remember to do the right thing, in the right way, with the right attitude.

Of course, the “right” implies some “moral” or “better than.” It is probably not a helpful terminology. The right thing, we usually know what is the right thing to do. We do not know if it is the right way to do it.

Even more, we do not know if we are doing it with the right attitude. But as I try to measure, “Is this the right thing to do? Is this the right way to do it? Is this the right attitude?” if I do not have all those three, then they are probably wrong in some sense.

If I have all those three, then I think I can stand and say, “I approached this. If I am wrong, forgive me.” But that sort of dovetails with what Calvin B. Hanson used to say. I think that is an all-pervasive summary.

From the Parkinson’s community, I think, there is a ton. I have learned a ton from being someone who has the constant companion of Parkinson’s. It is a very, sometimes, demanding but very good teacher.

It teaches not just a form of humility. Because do you want to be humiliated or humble?

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Kuhn: If you aren’t humble, it will make you so in a big hurry. It teaches you compassion because you learn there are a lot of people hurting in a lot of ways. You have something that they do not understand and maybe can’t understand, but they try to understand.

That goes a long way, if they try to hear what your heart is saying in coping with a disease that is incurable so far, and will only get worse. The Parkinson’s community has taught me to not be afraid to talk about physical disabilities

That, in itself, creates harm, because we feel uncomfortable. Nobody feels particularly comfortable talking to somebody in a wheelchair, but if you get down to where they are looking rather than having them look up at you.

It is quite a magical thing. It makes them human. Parkinson’s did that more for me than I thought. I would not have guessed that. I thought I was reasonably compassionate before. But I was processing compassion in the head.

People don’t want pity. Sometimes, they do.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Kuhn: People definitely want to be understood. The effort you make to try to understand. It shows the value of listening and silence.

5. Jacobsen: Why do you have tuna sandwiches and diet cokes every lunch?

Kuhn: Oh my gosh. I used to. But these days, I have been changing things up. Sometimes, it is easier to not have to make decisions.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Kuhn: I make a lot of decisions every day. Just not having to choose what to eat for lunch, it is probably good for me, except the diet coke.  I have made some change to a roast beef sandwich. Parkinson’s has dulled my sense of smell. It dulls things.

My olfactory glands not producing necessary receptors to translate smell. Taste is somewhat diminished because of the smell. That is one of those sneak-up-on-you parts of Parkinson’s. When Alexa and Shawn, two interns who I had and you met, that was the tuna sandwich and diet coke phase. I don’t know why.

Now, I go to the cafeteria.

6. Jacobsen: Why were Bob Kuhn’s coons or Kuhn’s Coons limited edition? What charity did you sell them or auction them off to?

Kuhn: I originally thought of the idea leading up to the Montreal 2013 World Parkinson’s Congress. I was an ambassador for that. In 2012, I did a world round-trip. Part of my goal in this, my friend and I took two-and-a-half months and travelled to 17 countries.

As somebody related to the Parkinson’s community, I thought, “It would be cool, like a Flat Stanley.” Flat Stanley is this contrived character that is flat. It is a cut out. It is taken and put in pictures from all around the world.

“This is us and Flat Stanley in Peru. This is us and Flat Stanley in Paris.” The creation of a flat character that I could take pictures with around the world for people. That was the idea. It grew into not having a mascot for World Parkinson’s. What about a raccoon?

It has some attributes similar to people with Parkinson’s. I won’t bore you with that. I said, “I will buy 1,000 raccoons.” I had them made. I had someone develop the design. I bought a thousand raccoon plush toys. You can have one if you want.

Jacobsen: Sure [Ed. I was given one later].

Kuhn: It was a hit! It didn’t sell a 1,000. That was an optimistic goal. I wanted to beef it up. I bought the rest back. I used them as opportunities to talk to children about Parkinson’s disease. I call them Parkie.

Whenever someone brings their kids, I love kids. I love babies. I get a lot of people coming by. I give them a Parkie and explain a little bit about Parkie. Their parents are then given an introduction into why Bob sometimes has the shakes.

I have a nine-year-old grandson. It is sort of fashioned to be a conversation-starter with respect to Parkinson’s. It caught on. Then they had a big mascot. In Portland in 2016, the World Parkinson’s Congress happens every 3 years.

So, they had a big, huge mascot. A big huge cut out for pictures to be taken. I understand the next one is going to be in Japan. It has been a great, fun story to tell. When I was growing up, my nickname was “Coonskin.”

I identified with the raccoon for some reason.

6. Jacobsen: As a lawyer, you have a precision with language. When someone asks, “How are you?” they reply, “I am good.” Why does that not sit well with you?

Kuhn: It has been a pet peeve for a while. I was probably corrected at one point in time. That, to say that, is inaccurate. Typically, you are not more good than anyone else. That you are “well.” I say that is the proper English.

English has been expanded to include colloquialisms like “I am good.” But still, when you think about it, are you good? I sometimes might be good. Mother Teresa is someone who is good. I do not dwell on that.

It is more of a grammatical issue. I want especially young people to use the language with some abandon, using the word “like” four times in a sentence.

Jacobsen: Or using “really” or “you know.”

Kuhn: Using “uhm” as a start to a sentence or a filler between two sentences, I, especially the president’s interns, tell them I am going to rough on them about speaking and convince them that you can hear yourself as you speak and can correct your language.

That the more you hear yourself speak, then the less you will use filler words and words that are else appropriate. With some people, that sticks. I hope to improve language skills. It is partially a vocabulary skill as well.

I think learning to look up words that you don’t know expands your horizons and increases your ability to communicate. That increases your ability to have relationships that are perhaps more full, more significant. Maybe that is all wishful thinking.

7. Jacobsen: Developing in the German-Stoic family background, in the Baptist tradition, and transitioning into the more formal Evangelical tradition seen at Trinity Western University, what best summarizes the New Testament Gospel to you?

Kuhn: I think the quintessential nature of the New Testament Gospel was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

That is the King James because [Laughing] that is what we grew up with. Except, that was memorized when I was too young to know any versions at all. I probably wouldn’t use that version today. Certainly, my upbringing would be consistent with the Evangelical perspective.

So, for me, there is no inconsistency for the historical roots of my faith. I think that belief in a God that cares, that loves, that is interested in every detail of your life, and allows us to make choices on our own at the same time as being involved and interested in our lives.

That paradox of a God of the universe and a God who cares is, to me, essential. The Gospel message of responding to our, whether we admit or not, depraved state is necessary. When we talk about hope, for me, that is the hope.

There is a Bible reference. I have forgotten what the actual address of that reference. But I think it is out of Paul’s letters. It said, “Be always ready to give the reason for the hope that lies within.” For me, I cannot imagine living life without the hope that lies within.

That is a daily response. That is the Parkinson’s that taps me on the shoulder 24/7. It is as meaningful as anything that I can imagine. Without that hope, I think that I would be relegated to the heaps of optimists with cynical attitudes.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Kuhn: I understand that at some level, but I find no matter what question I have been able to come up with that seems important to me. I find the answer in a Christian approach, a Christian faith.

It fits me very well. It fits, I think, many others well. It answers the deepest questions. At the same time, it doesn’t provide glib responses to those questions. At least, it doesn’t in my opinion. I am sure others would differ.

I find it – what would be the word – satisfying at a heart deep, soul deep level. It removes the anxiety that otherwise plagues my life or would without it. I am not what you call, probably, a “Bible Thumper.” I do not wear my faith on my sleeve like some people do.

I am conscious of my propensity for hypocrisy. That is a start.

8. Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mr. Kuhn.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1President, Trinity Western University.

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 8, 2018 at http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bob-kuhn-three; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018 at https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] J.D. (1979), University of British Columbia (J.D. 1979); B.A. (1976), University of British Columbia; A.A. (1972), Trinity Western College.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Interview with Bob Kuhn, J.D. (Part Three) [Online].July 2018; 17(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bob-kuhn-three.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2018, July 8). Interview with Bob Kuhn, J.D. (Part Three)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bob-kuhn-three.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Interview with Bob Kuhn, J.D. (Part Three). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A, July. 2018. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bob-kuhn-three>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2018. “Interview with Bob Kuhn, J.D. (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bob-kuhn-three.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Interview with Bob Kuhn, J.D. (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A (July 2018). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bob-kuhn-three.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘Interview with Bob Kuhn, J.D. (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bob-kuhn-three>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘Interview with Bob Kuhn, J.D. (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bob-kuhn-three.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Interview with Bob Kuhn, J.D. (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 17.A (2018):July. 2018. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bob-kuhn-three>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Interview with Bob Kuhn, J.D. (Part Three) [Internet]. (2018, July; 17(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bob-kuhn-three.

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Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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