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Friday, June 13, 2008

You Can Make the World a Better Place - Part I

It is easy to be a critic; especially a Monday morning critic. I often find myself offering unsolicited advice to the President of the United States and other public officials; superstar athletes and Hall of Fame coaches, Fortune 500 business leaders; and pastors of mega-churches. However, although most of us critics believe that our advice is sacred, it rarely reaches the ears of the intended beneficiary, because we do not take the extra steps to be heard. However, true change agents will be constructively critical, plus they will work tirelessly to alter the way things are. In some instances all it may take is a telephone call, a letter, an email or a visit to someone’s office to effect change in a situation.

A few years ago I walked into my local grocery store and was greeted with a large placard that read, “We prosecute shoplifters to the fullest extent of the law.” Immediately it struck me that this sign was more of an insult to the working class community of Prince George’s County than a warning to would-be thieves. I mean, what shoplifter doesn’t know that he/she will be prosecuted for theft? Consequently, I demanded to speak with the store manager to express my displeasure at being accosted by such a warning. She apologized, removed the sign and I have not seen it since. I’m certain that I was not the only customer who took offense at the sign; however, it was evident to me that no one took the extra five minutes that it took me to request that the manager remove it.

Being proactive in our criticisms would help make our world a better place to live. I recently discovered that the Civil Air Patrol program at my son’s middle school had become a casualty of the budget ax. Yes, I could have murmured and complained about the school system removing one of the most discipline building and leadership inspiring programs in its curriculum; not to mention that this is a military style program and we are at war. However, I spent 30 minutes constructing a letter of complaint to the superintendent of Prince George’s County Schools and requested that he reconsider his decision to remove the program. I have yet to hear back from him, but I am hopeful that my voice along with protests from other parents will cause the school system to reverse itself.

I am not sure why our country has lost the 1960s zeal of dissent: During that period there was a robust Civil Rights movement; anti-war movement; female rights movement; environmental movement and a host of other organized efforts to alter the social landscape. However, our national lack of motivation to protest the high energy costs and gas prices; high food prices; the lack of candor in government seems to belie everything that the decade of the 1960s stood for.

When I last checked, the power to govern the nation still resided in the American people and was authorized/guaranteed by the Constitution. However, it seems as if we have surrendered our civic obligation to a handful of elected officials who have gambled our future away working on someone else’s behalf. I do not mean to undermine the dedication and loyalty of some of our congressional representatives, but it is clear to me that there is a cabal of men who sit in the seats of power who do not have the working class’s best interest at heart. If they did, do you really believe that our future would have been mortgaged by an additional $3 trillion during the past 7 years? Or do you believe that we would be fighting a war in Iraq under false pretenses? Or do you believe that we would be paying a price for gasoline that is approaching $5 per gallon? Or do you believe that Congress would still be passing legislation that continues to give handouts to those who don’t need them?

To give some perspective to our current political climate, in June of 2007 the richest man in the world, according to this year’s Forbes 400, Warren Buffet, blasted the tax system that he says taxed his $46 million salary at 17.7 percent, while his secretary’s $60,000 salary was taxed at 30 percent. Or to go one step further, the country had a $6 trillion debt when George W. Bush took office, and when he leaves that debt will have ballooned to $9 trillion. If someone were to physically count those additional dollars at the rate of one bill per second, take a guess how long it would take to count it (answer at the end of the article). Notwithstanding whether it would take10 years or 1,000 years to count the additional debt, America as a nation did not accumulate $3 trillion in debt until 1990. Consequently, what it took the country 214 years to accrue; the current administration matched it in less than eight years.

Now that’s a masterpiece of reckless spending!

In closing, I’d like to challenge everyone who reads this article to take a stand. Whatever it is in your personal world that you believe needs changing, make yourself the change agent – make a telephone call, send an email, write a letter, visit your congressman or organize a group to work on changing. Whatever problems lie within your control to change, make the effort to change them, and if everyone made one small change in our world, it would make it a better place to live.

…to be continued

How long would it take to count three trillion $1 bills at one per second?
Answer: Approximately 96,000 years
Formula - Take 3 trillion and divide by 60 seconds, then divide by 60 minutes, then divide by 24 hours, then divide by 365 days.

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