Friday, July 1, 2011

A Nation's Greatness

This Year for our final big project in second grade, my class did biographies. I said that the kids could choose anyone they wanted but I stressed that they should choose someone who changed the world (as opposed to a Disney actress or a world champion wrestler). Their choices were wonderful. Many Civil Rights heroes were represented along with inventors and presidents. Two of my students chose Gandhi. Their presentations were really well done. I could tell that they learned a lot and they certainly taught all of us a lot about this powerful leader. Gandhi was truly one of the people who changed the world.

I was reminded of Gandhi yesterday when Heidi opened an email from Sojourners, a group championing human rights. There was a poster of Gandhi with this brilliant quote.

Seven Deadly Social Sins

Politics without principle

Wealth without work

Commerce without morality

Pleasure without conscience

Education without character

Science without humanity

Worship without sacrifice

To me, these few words say volumes about how an organized society of free people should work. Every one of these elegant truths simply makes sense. When I read them, I immediately wanted to send them to my two little friends who studied and reported about Gandhi because, with some explanation, they could also appreciate the power of these words.

In today’s paper I was reading about how our governor’s budget veto was overridden by the SC legislature. Among other draconian measures, Governor Nikki Haley planned to cut spending toward the public education of our children because of her emphasis on “school performance rather than school funding,” a very quotable statement rather lacking in substance.

The budget was passed and K-12 education was boosted. It looks like some legislators put their SC education to good use. On page A-8 of today’s State there was a brief look at who came out ahead in the final budget and who lost.

Under the WINNERS category was… Business – Lawmakers included $146 million to help businesses pay rising unemployment insurance premium… Some view the money as a bailout to businesses that happily underpaid unemployment premiums for years while the unemployment trust fund slowly ran dry.

Under the LOSERS category was… The Poor – A part of the deal to help businesses pay their unemployment insurance premiums, the jobless now can collect unemployment for only 20 weeks, down from 26. In addition, welfare payments were cut to an average of $217 a month from $270.

When I read the winners and losers descriptions, I was… bewildered?... alarmed? …saddened? It seems like the winner is always business and the loser is always the poor.

When the United States Senate dedicated a building to former U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey he remarked:

"...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. "

Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey
November 1, 1977
Washington, D.C.

"Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members". ~Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973), My Several Worlds [1954].

Aristotle has often been quoted as saying you can judge a nation by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens.

Jesus said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

This quote: "A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." has also been attributed to Mahatma Gandhi .

At least two of Gandhi’s 7 Deadly Social Sins seem to have been violated by this years’ budget. I know that economic times are tough. It is always hardest for the poor. Gandhi, Jesus and the statesmen had it right. When business is the winner and the poor are the losers, we all lose.


Chris Hass said...

About five years ago or so I had my group of kids do research projects on "someone who has made a difference." One of the girls really wanted to pick Laura Bush. Certainly, first ladies take on projects to help make a difference in some groups' lives. But still, when they presented we had Laura Bush standing alongside Mother Teresa, MLK, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, and the likes.

What if one of your kids had wanted to select Nikki Haley as the topic of their biography? So long as they could provide a convincing rationale for choosing her I'm sure you would have let them. Still, can you imagine?

Meesh Hays said...

Yeah, she came to our school. Oh mercy.

Mama always said you spend your money according to your values. (Well, she didn't really, but someone's mama did!) I think about what the "gubmint" needs to do to show what we value, and then I find myself reflecting on my own sense of monetary priorities. I'm a little disgusted by how much money leaves the Hays house each month for communication purposes (phone, internet, cell, satellite) and transportation (two cars, insurance, gasoline). We eat out LOTS. We probably spend more on French Fries every month than we do on our children's education. Ugh.

Anyway, I nominate Tim O'Keefe for the next gubernatorial race. Or Sate Superintendent. Or maybe just Line Leader. Or Door Holder.