Preparing Children for Work

Note: I recently happened upon this My Turn article in our local daily, The Burlington (VT) Free Press. It strongly echoes the timeless values that Booker T. spent his life conveying to those who needed it most. When I called to request permission to publish here, I happily discovered that the author, Laury Tarver, attends my church!

By Laury Tarver
This past summer, my teenage son worked at a local farm stand. Dropping him off the first day, I saw him shake hands with his new boss. The gesture made me think of the valuable things work brings to life and the things we want our children to give to their work. I drove away smiling, thinking of all the years of parenting it takes to prepare a child for one handshake.

Work offers independence. When our children become part of the labor force, they move closer to independence and the ability to care for their future family. Unlike a loan or welfare which requires some relinquishment of power, wages promote self-reliance and control. My son was thrilled to receive his first paycheck and handled it with reverence. He read every word written on the front, back and paystub before carefully endorsing the check.

Work offers contentment and satisfaction. Providing a product or service that meets a need is gratifying. Physical labor makes our rest sweeter. We develop a sense of accomplishment when we master difficult tasks. My son was tired and dirty after working in the field, but eager to talk about washing hundreds of cucumbers or meeting interesting people who came to pick berries. Soon after showering, he was sound asleep on the couch or on the floor of his room.

Work presents opportunities for personal growth, new relationships and experiences. Because employment highlights our strengths and weaknesses, we can change the way we act and think. We become part of a community of people and experience new things. One of the most unforgettable summer jobs I had was working as the receptionist at the Jetsetter’s Salon in Clinton, Miss. The women welcomed me into their small-town beauty shop world, gave me advice on life and men, and surprised me with a going away party that included a gospel sing around the shampoo station.

Just as work adds value to life, our children should give value in return. To equip them, parents must consistently model and teach excellent character throughout the childhood years. A father reads Bible stories and fairy tales at bedtime to teach his son the qualities and consequences of good and bad character. Parents require a child to admit wrongdoing and make an apology to train him to be honest. A mother takes her daughter along to visit a sick friend or deliver food to a new neighbor to model kindness and compassion. To learn humility, we expect our sons and daughters to handle victory and defeat with equal grace. From teaching table manners to standing in honor of veterans, parents have an irreplaceable responsibility to cultivate excellent character — a quality found in exceptional employees.

Children must also learn the importance of hard work and persistence. We post chore charts on the refrigerator and teach children to make their beds and pick up toys to demonstrate responsibility. Parents monitor television, computers and cell phones to train children to put duty before personal agenda. We struggle when our children face challenges, but encourage them to stick with commitments and keep trying. Parents resist rescuing children from the consequences of their choices so that they take ownership of their lives. Through diligent parenting, we develop the hard work, persistence and decision-making ability seen in exceptional employees.

Parents get weary and discouraged. We wonder if the things we do and the words we say make a difference. Yet, when we witness a handshake moment, it makes the parenting years worthwhile. Those young hands offered contain the sum of all our efforts and the possibility of something exceptional.

Laury Tarver of Essex is a mother of two teenagers and leads parenting classes at a crisis pregnancy center in Burlington.

Booker T Washington for the Nobel Peace Prize

Think about it.
The 14th Dalai Lama received the Nobel in 1989. He led 2.6 million – but lives in exile.
The Dalai Lama’s philosophy (meaning of life): “To be happy and useful.”

Booker T. led over 3 million – and never exiled himself.
Booker T’s philosophy was to live a useful life and overcoming adversity.

Of course he won’t get it. But he deserved it nevertheless.

Character Matters – Irena Sendler

By Harris R. Sherline

We often read or hear stories about courage and heroism without stopping to think about the greater meaning they convey.  And, all too often, we make a brief mental note of them and move on with the routine concerns of our daily lives.  But, such stories have special meaning – because they exemplify the best and perhaps most important aspect of personal character: helping others without any expectation of compensation or reward.  Doing good for its own sake.

It happens every day.  A passerby rushes into a burning building to save someone they don’t know, a fireman risks his life to save a dog that’s fallen through the ice, a co-worker donates an organ to an unrelated fellow employee who cannot survive without a kidney transplant, or a woman like Mother Teresa, who dedicated her entire life to caring for those who are sick and poor.  Such selflessness offers hope and encouragement in a world in which we witness far too much hate and violence.

This is the story of a woman who routinely risked her life for two years during the Nazi occupation of Poland to help Jewish infants and children, a woman who received little if any recognition for her selfless, sustained acts of heroism and asked for nothing in return.

In 1999, four high school students in a small Kansas town were asked by their teacher to check out a magazine article he read about a Polish woman, who had reportedly saved the lives of 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 and 1943. He said he’d never heard of the woman and speculated that the article may have gotten the facts wrong.  The students followed up as a National History Day project and discovered that the story was not only true but that this heroic woman was still alive at the time.

Irena Sendler (Sendlerowa), a Polish woman, was one of many heroes and heroines of WWII.  Yet, until recently, very few people had heard of her.  A woman of uncommon courage and principle, for two years she risked her life in the Polish Ghetto to rescue some 2,500 Jewish infants and children.

According to a website created to tell her story (www.irenasendler.org), the students “found that Irena Sendler, as a non-Jewish social worker, had gone into the Warsaw Ghetto, talked Jewish parents and grandparents out of their children, rightly saying that all were going to die in the Ghetto or in death camps, taking the children past the Nazi guards or using one of the many means of escape from the Ghetto – the old courthouse for example – and then adopting them into the homes of Polish families or hiding them in convents and orphanages. She made lists of the children’s real names and put the lists in jars, then buried the jars in a garden, so that someday she could dig up the jars and find the children to tell them of their real identity…The Nazis captured her and she was beaten severely, but the Polish underground bribed a guard to release her, and she entered into hiding.”

As an administrator at the Warsaw Social Work Department during the war, Irena began making false documents for Jewish friends when the war started in 1939.  From 1939 to 1942, she made documents for people in the Warsaw area, helping many to escape before she joined the underground Zegota and started saving children.  She had a network of helpers (twenty-five at one time), almost all social workers, who rescued both adults and children from the Warsaw Ghetto, made false papers for them and found places to hide them.

Irena was eventually caught by the Gestapo and put in Pawiak Prison, where she was tortured and had a leg and arm fractured.  Zegota bribed a guard to have her released in the night to a member of the Underground shortly before she was about to be executed, and she remained in hiding throughout the rest of the war.

EPILOGUE
Irena passed away on May 12, 2008 and was buried in a Warsaw, Poland cemetery.

The great irony of Irena Sendler’s story is the fact that she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, but it was awarded to Al Gore, a man whose own character is highly questionable.   However, I believe she will be remembered long after Al Gore’s name has become just a footnote to history, demonstrating once again that character matters.

© 2008 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
NOTE: Read more of Harris Sherline’s commentaries on his blog at “opinionfest.com.”

Too Many People Go To College

Issues & Views Editor Elizabeth D. Wright has graciously allowed us to reprise timeless articles from her Newsletter. This article suggests that it’s time to reconsider the benefits of a practical, entrepreneurial education.

by Leon Podles

Despite today’s worship of the college credential, most real wealth in our society is still gained not through education and the professions but through entrepreneurial activity. Higher education as it now exists in America simply doesn’t develop the qualities of initiative and aggressiveness necessary to succeed in business. Often it undermines them.

American education can be particularly inhospitable to males. Patricia Sexton in The Feminized Male shows how energetic and assertive boys are punished because they cannot function in classrooms taught by women wl assume that the quiet, non-physical behavior of a girl is the only type prop to school. Active boys consequently often do poorly in school. This is an especially massive problem in America inner cities, where the boys grow t with fewer civilizational restraints c their innate male natures.

Few of these overactive boys will ever become great successes in a world of conventional academic schooling They could excel and become productive citizens, however, if directed instead toward work, practical vocation and business. Consider that when teacher describes a student as aggressive or physically active, she is saying he is a problem. But if a businessman or trades employer describes a worker as aggressive, he is paying a compliment.
The most aggressive boys have always gone into business. Today, the poor ones often end up dealing drugs.

Boys who go the legitimate route, however, can end up being very productive indeed. In 1995, the U.S. Trust Company surveyed a sample of America’s biggest earners and found that less than half of them had completed college, while 29% never went at all. Instead of learning to conform to academic expectations, they were out adding value, making products, and earning money—in ways that are not taught in schools today.

(from: I & V summer ’95; orig: American Enterprise: Sep/Oct, ’95)

Black History Month – Yadda Yadda

by Ronald Court

When famous soprano Leontyne Price was hailed by an opera critic as, “perhaps the greatest black opera singer of all time, ” she responded with, “What’s black got to do with it?”

Exactly.

Her fierce dedication, discipline, training and hard work – in a word, her character – not color,  defined her.

Yet news & feature editors around the country today are still rummaging through their archives for old columns to recycle in commemoration of February as “Black History Month.”

Expect articles on the usual suspects:  Frederick Douglass, WEB DuBois, Martin Luther King Jr., and my favorite, Booker T. Washington. Still, it seems a bit patronizing to ‘commemorate’ one month in twelve to a few famous people who happen to be of a particular race.

Maybe it’s time to emphasize color less and character more.

According to John Adams, the American Revolution occurred in the hearts and minds of the American people years long before shots were fired at Concord and Lexington. He saw the War for Independence as merely an “effect and a consequence” of the real American Revolution.

Similarly, the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency is merely the “effect and a consequence” of changes that occurred in the hearts and minds of people over several years (decades) leading up to the election. Note also that Michael Steele, a black American, was just elected to lead the Republican Party. Both events underscore that America has at last entered a post-racial age.

It is not how we look, but how we live that defines us.

Maybe it’s time to emphasize color less and character more.

Though Dr. King’s dream that people not be judged on the basis of color has been realized, his dream had a second part: that people be judged on the content of their character. In this, he echoed the practical vision and teachings of Booker T. Washington. When it comes to character, Booker T. wrote the book. Literally. His book, “Character Building,” a compilation of Sunday evening talks he gave to Tuskegee students is online and free for download at www.BTWsociety.
Sadly, much of Dr. Washington’s timeless wisdom and plain advice has been ignored by too many for too long. And we all, to one degree or another, suffer the consequences.

If, as WEB DuBois wrote a century ago, “the problem of the twentieth century (was) the problem of the color line,” what will be the problem of the twenty-first century?
The economy? Terrorism? Global warming? Political corruption? Reasonable people may differ as to the degree one presents a more “clear and present danger” than another. But these terms merely describe the effect and consequences – not the cause – of the actions taken by multitudes of individuals.
Each of these problems have at their root, a failure of character by individuals.  Thus, the problem of the twenty-first century will likely be the problem of the ‘character line.’

If the solution to the problem of the color line lay in emphasizing civil rights, I humbly suggest that the solution to the problem of the character line will lay in emphasizing personal responsibility.
Rather than “black history month,” why not, say, “character month?” Though the temptation to have government attempt to change society from the top down will always be with us, history shows that the slower way, by changing the hearts and minds of men and women from the inside out is the only true, lasting way.

This is real hope and change we can believe in.

“Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee”

By Harris Sherline

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” was perhaps the most widely recognized taunt during the years that Muhammad Ali dominated the fight game. He was and is a larger than life personality, transcending even the ravages of Parkinson’s disease, which sidelined him some years ago.

But, the Muhammad Ali most people remember, especially America’s seniors, is a man who overcame every obstacle he encountered on his way to the top of his profession, exhibiting uncommon strength of both character and will as he went. He is a towering personality, still beloved by people around the world.

Without question, Muhammad Ali was the most famous African American of his time and remains among the most widely recognized faces on the planet, widely remembered as one of the greatest prize fighters of all time, if not the greatest, a three-time winner of the heavyweight world title. Famous for his prowess in the ring and his ability to promote himself, he grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of a billboard sign painter and a household domestic. He was named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr., which Ali changed when he joined the Nation of Islam in 1964.

However, “Aligning himself with the Nation of Islam made him a lightning rod for controversy, turning the outspoken but popular champion into one of that era’s most recognized and controversial figures.”

There was a time when Ali was reviled and attacked by many of the very people who later came to admire him. During the Vietnam War, he refused to serve in the United States Army, on the grounds that he considered himself to be a conscientious objector, stating, “War is against the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. I’m not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in no wars unless declared by Allah or The Messenger. We don’t take part in Christian wars or wars of any unbelievers.”

I remember, at the time, most Americans thought his claim was merely a ploy to avoid serving in the military, that he was ungrateful for the opportunities and financial success he had been able to achieve in this country. But, he stood firm, not only adhering to his Muslim faith but having to deal with having his title stripped from him.

Ali said, “I’m not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in no wars unless declared by Allah or The Messenger. We don’t take part in Christian wars or wars of any unbelievers.” Ali also famously said in 1966: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong …They never called me nigger.”

When he appeared for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces in 1967, Ali “refused three times to step forward at the call of his name. An officer warned him he was committing a felony punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Once more, Ali refused to budge when his name was called. As a result, on that same day, the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. Other boxing commissions followed suit.”

The jury gave Ali short shrift, finding him guilty after deliberating for only 21 minutes. He received the maximum sentence, which was upheld on appeal in New York, and the case subsequently went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he ultimately prevailed. After not being able to fight for three-and-a-half years, he regained his title in 1974, defeating the then champion, George Foreman, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Held in Zaire, Africa, the fight was billed as the “The Rumble in The Jungle,” drawing the largest audience in history at the time.

Although Ali has been faulted for many of the choices he has made during his lifetime, he is a living demonstration of the fact that “character counts,” displaying uncommon courage and strength of character by converting to the Muslim religion in the face of widespread intolerance, refusing to yield in spite of the damage to his reputation and the loss of his livelihood, and the threat of losing his freedom. He was clearly prepared to go to jail for his principles.

Today, at age 66, dealing with the ravages of Parkinson’s disease, Ali is a living example of character and grace. Notwithstanding the various shortcomings and perhaps his less than exemplary behavior at various times during his earlier life, Ali has become a model of courage and dignity for all to see and emulate. Traveling throughout the world to participate in a wide variety of events, he has become one of the most beloved figures of our time, a living example of the fact that character counts.

Blessed with a gift for words, Ali has made many quotable statements. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” is perhaps the best known, but others truly exemplify his great character:

Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.

I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin’ hell, but as long as they ain’t free, I ain’t free.

Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.

I never thought of losing, but now that it’ s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.

Old age is just a record of one’s whole life.

To be able to give away riches is mandatory if you wish to possess them. This is the only way that you will be truly rich.

Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.

We have one life; it soon will be past; what we do for God is all that will last.

What keeps me going is goals.

© 2008 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved

NOTE: Read more of Harris Sherline’s commentaries on his blog at “opinionfest.com.”

Sobering Statistics for the New Year

By Ronald Court

Only six hours into the new year, Chicago has its first of several hundred annual homicides. Preliminary police records indicate that in 2008, there were 508 Chicago homicides, up from 442 in 2007.

Those numbers don’t speak very highly of the twenty-years of work as Chicago’s vaunted “community-organizer,” soon to be our nation’s President. We sincerely pray that he does better with the vastly more difficult responsibilities he will assume in his new job.

He might consider the lessons taught by an earlier ‘community organizer’ with a far better track record, even while operating under the view of hateful white racists as well as resentful black racialists. Like Barack Obama, Booker T. spoke eloquently and inspired millions, but he placed little faith in government to ‘do the right thing’ – at least for that times’ near and intermediate future. Rather, he exhorted his audience to develop practical skills and improve their conduct in ways that ultimately, he foresaw, would be recognized and valued. History has shown that his approach works.

He spoke out against and tracked lynching rates, which brings me back to Chicago’s homicides, To put it in perspective, the most lynchings ever recorded in one year (1892) was two-hundred thirty (230). Of these, 69 were white, 161 were black. Nationwide. Adjust for population today and control for black-on black homicides, and lynching pales.

In these few weeks before his inauguration, Barack Obama would do well to learn to emulate the life and methods of fellow ‘community organizer,’ Booker T. Washington.

A Glaring Omission

By Ronald Court

On Christmas Day, George Will wrote of a “Small Successful Government Program“ that purports to tell America’s story through some forty American works of art – primarily paint and sculpture. However, Mr. Will failed to note a glaring omission of this otherwise commendable governmental effort.

Yet again, as with so many liberal interpretations of American History, Booker T. Washington is treated virtually as a footnote–and controversial at that, for how else would interpreters of American History find a place to interject WEB DuBois in it? The fact is, the only notable role Du Bois plays in our history today is only as a footnote to Dr. Booker T. Washington’s significant, productive and immensely more constructive one. Indeed, if not for Washington, DuBois arguably, would have been dismissed and forgotten decades ago.
A Ladder For Booker T. Washington (1995)

Herewith is my comment to George Will’s article:
“Any attempt to tell “America’s Story” by “Picturing America” in forty or so images is bound to omit a significant chapter or two.

However, selecting Puryear’s 1995 sculpture “Ladder for Booker T. Washington” does this country’s “other great American named Washington” a disservice.

A better, more instructive and evocative sculpture would have been “Lifting the Veil of Ignorance” (below) sculpted by Charles Keck in 1922.

“Liftting the Veil of Ignorance”

The opportunity to engage students in discussion over differing viewpoints on Dr. Washington’s role in advancing civil rights, given the time and place of Dr. Washington’s efforts, would still be there without reducing Dr. Washington’s legacy to an abstraction that some choose to misinterpret as a ladder leading nowhere.

That American historians have accorded the honor of naming an era (1895-1915) “The Booker T Washington Era” should have clued the designers of this program into BTW’s positive impact on American history. Booker T. deserves much better.

It’s a Crisis of Character, not of Financial Markets

By Reggie Jones

Booker T. is said to have defined character thus: “Character is Power.”

Character is “how you behave when no one’s watching.” The present financial crisis is a wake up call to recognize the importance of character. The so-called leaders of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, along with their enabler politicians, are largely responsible for actions that brought us to the financial brink. Yet the media blames it on a lack of oversight and under-regulation, claiming Republicans weren’t watching the store.

But the real question is, “Why the need for oversight?” Don’t responsible people know the difference between right and wrong?

Yet, in today’s society, highly paid people, from athletes to politicians even US Presidents have engaged in illegal and immoral activities and do not hesitate to lie when caught. Oversight? Meaningless when fans and political parties stand behind them.

Finding celebrities without character all too easy, making it all the more difficult for young people to withstand pop culture pressure and develop proper character. Yet the bitter fruit of the lack of good moral character among so many is all too apparent. Skyrocketing out-of-wedlock birth rates among young and younger teens. Rising rates of sexually transmitted disease (STD). families break down.

But speak out against these trends and you are labeled as judgmental. Success is less and less defined as living a constructive, productive life, but more and more by having more ‘bling’ than the next guy.

Booker T. Washington never wallowed in self pity for lack of ‘bling,’ nor for being born a slave. Rather, he used his struggle as motivation to improve himself. He refused to hate white people, choosing to seek common ground through forgiveness. He understood and applied the wisdom of the Judeo-Christian concept of forgiveness.

He showed that character – above all – was essential to attaining success. He also defined character as having a strong faith in God, keeping your word, taking responsibility for your actions, serving your fellow man, exercising thrift in financial affairs, and following the golden rule.

If more people on Wall Street and at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue adhered to Booker T.’s ideal and model of character, our country would not be having to deal with our present moral and financial crisis.

Achievers are Not Robber Barons

By Reggie Jones (Opinion expressed are not necessarily those of the BTWS).

It’s that time again, and I am frustrated. Politicians are heading into the home stretch, blathering nonsense about a segment of society to which we owe more than any other. They and their sycophantic pundits parade their bigotry with inflammatory rhetoric that turns especially virulent as we approach the culmination of an election cycle.

The code phrase for this class-oriented bigotry is, “the rich.” It’s wielded by leftists who just can’t stand the most productive members of society. Their vitriol is never directed at Marxist dictators or criminal elements. Rather, it is directed at the real public servants, people I call “achievers.” Just two examples: former House Leader Dick Gephardt referred to achievers as “the rich and the lucky.” And more recently, Sen. John Edwards, a former presidential wannabe, just couldn’t stop talking about “two Americas.”
Well, at least one of those, ummm, ‘Americas’ shut that randy dandy up.

Achievers risk time and money to invent, improve and provide things that can and do make our lives better. Each of us is free to choose whether to reward them for the fruits of their labor or not. This is a fundamental tenet of capitalism – a system in which everybody can be winners.

But politicians just don’t get it. Why not? Because they live in another world. A world in which the name of the game is zero-sum – for each politician who is a winner, there must be a loser. The pool of winners cannot grow. The more “experienced” at winning a politician gets, the less he or she can fathom the potential of a ‘win-win’ situation. From their perspective, if the rich get richer, then surely, the poor must be getting poorer.

Suppose achievers became quitters after experiencing their first failure. Suppose they chose not to risk and endure the agony of failure and rejection time and again until they (hopefully) hit pay dirt. That is, until creating or doing something the world wants enough to pay for.

These are real American heroes, but there are no monuments in Washington to them.

Instead of textbooks labeling them as “robber barons” what if young people were inspired with the wisdom of Booker T. Washington who said, “…Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which one has overcome while trying to succeed.”