There is one word that if embraced could fundamentally change the course of our country. One word that if aptly applied has the power to return us to a course of prosperity with virtue. One word that is universally revered but at the same time consistently ignored. You’re probably expecting me to say “Jesus” or “God,” or perhaps the “Bible,” but our deities and even the “Good Book” consistently refer all of us, directly or indirectly, back to this same word as part of our humanity. Based on the title of this post you might expect the word to be “leadership” and you’d be close. Actually, the word I’m referring to is a character attribute commonly displayed by true leaders. Its a quality that most people would agree is laudable, but in recent years has become difficult to find in our leaders. So, what’s the word? In our house the kids just refer to it as the “r” word. Responsibility!
One of the first things most of us learned about the father of our country was a lesson in responsibility. Perhaps its more fable than fact, but legend has it that one day George Washington’s father discovered that a cherry tree in the family orchard had been cut down. When confronted, young George admitted, “I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree.” Whether this is exactly what happened we will never know, but his honesty and willingness to accept responsibility are in large part what endeared Washington not only to his generation, but to all those that have followed.
How incredibly different things seem to be today. Watching Mr. Obama speak to a crowd in Iowa during his recent bus tour across America’s heartland, I couldn’t help but draw a stark comparison. Our economic troubles may or may not be caused by his policies; that’s a topic for another post, but for him to stand up as the leader of our nation and blame the previous administration, the Congress, the TEA Party and “bad luck”, demonstrates his unwillingness, or perhaps his inability, to accept responsibility. This character flaw has been revealed repeatedly over the last two and a half years, and is at the root of his declining popularity. People want leaders they can trust. “The dog ate my homework” is a pretty lame excuse, and so is the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
In an earlier post “Mr. Obama, the High-Center of Attention” (May 24, 2011) http://www.spiritofhealthcare.com/?p=38 I pointed out how disingenuous this President was in taking personal credit for finding and killing Osama bin Laden. The way he handled the triumph of that military action was an obvious political maneuver designed to get a bump in the polls. Now, with the numbers going against him once again, he either is too self-absorbed to recognize his inability to lead, or he simply lacks the character to accept any responsibility for our fallen economic “cherry tree.”
The latest example of this “its not my fault” phenomenon involves the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a division of the Department of the Treasury along with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. All these government entities appear to have been involved in operation “Fast and Furious,” which was part of “Project Gunrunner.” As this story continues to unfold it is clear that Federal officials allowed and perhaps even encourage thousands of weapons to be sold within the United States to operatives of Mexican drug cartels. Instead of leading to the heads of these organizations, as government officials are now saying was their plan, these weapons quickly crossed the border into Mexico and into the hands of ruthless gangsters. Operatives of these drug lords used these same guns to wreak havoc on both sides of the border, including the slaying of Brian Terry, an American Border Patrol Agent on US soil. The fact that this story has not been widely reported by the liberal media shows just how far they too have fallen in fulfilling their responsibility to the American public compared to the era of Watergate and Richard Nixon 40 years ago.
There is an old saying, “the fish rots from the head,” and I fear that is precisely what is happening to America. It is a well known fact that if a man abuses his wife his sons are far more likely to abuse their wives. When people see their leader shirking his responsibilities they too will follow suit, using any and all available excuses to justify their own failures. Unfortunately this is exactly what we are seeing play out throughout our society. Whether its our Congressmen, like Barney Frank, failing to own up to the part they played in the sub-prime mortgage scheme, which brought down the housing market, or the flash mobs who are conducting “Smash and Grab” raids, the trend is for every misdeed to be followed by an excuse. Typically, the media spends more energy convincing the public of the validity of the excuses than they do condemning the acts of corruption and lawlessness. Thus public accountability is lost and justice delayed is indeed justice denied.
There are however, examples of everyday people taking responsibility and they should be applauded for doing so. Earlier this month identical twins Nate and Nick Smith of Faribult, Minnesota, along with their dad, Pat, attended the “Shattuck vs. the World” annual charity hockey game to raise money for the local youth hockey league. As is common during such events, someone is selected from the audience to take a shot from center ice, trying to put a three-inch wide puck through a three and one half inch opening 89 feet away. Impossible, right? Nick’s dad had signed him up for the drawing to take the shot, but just before the selection was announced Nick left the seating area. Before leaving he told his brother to take the shot in the unlikely event his ticket was selected. As fate would have it Nick’s ticket was selected and Nate took the $50,000.00 shot; miraculously he made it. The following day their dad went to the event organizers and explained the situation knowing full well that they would likely not get the money. Never the less he felt he needed to do the right thing. At last report the promotions company decided they would not award the prize to Nate, but instead gave a $25,000 donation to the hockey league.
Fifty Thousand dollars is a lot of money, and I’m certain the Smith’s could have used it, but the lesson those boys learned through the example of their father (leader) will in the long run be far more valuable. He didn’t just talk about honesty and responsibility, he demonstrated it, and actions speak much louder than words. Perhaps we should start a new campaign that would result in a new version of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
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