by James Edwin Whedbee
Would this great nation have prospered had inventor Thomas Alva Edison been forced to attain a proficient score on his statewide standardized test score, or had his school been forced to make AYP in spite of Edison’s academic deficiencies? Would this great nation have survived the tumult of its Civil War had President Abraham Lincoln’s call to leadership been squelched at a young age by requirements for his proficiency, or — for that matter — if he had been required to attend school at all? In spite of enjoying a private education at a boarding school, George Washington did not excel in literature and languages, yet would we even be a nation were it not for our founders?
Who are these so-called leaders who cower behind words such as “accountability” but lack the virtue to stand behind their people and say, “I still believe in you.” Who are these so-called leaders who fight like children over pennies as our dollars melt away overseas? Who are these so-called leaders who preach the gospels yet show no charity to the poor or compassion for the sick, the orphan or the widow? What manner of creature suggests himself called to leadership without a full heart for the “least of these?” We say “In God we trust,” but would He condone this?
You who hold yourselves out as leaders: examine yourselves. The wealthiest nation on this planet in history compels its ordinary people to fight over scraps so that its defense-industrial base can prosper. This is duty shirking of the lowest order. The nation that led the world to the moon and beyond is grounded from space. Where has our vision gone? Are we now blinded by fear? You now offer stark solutions: give us our way or suffer greater misery. Any child could say the same. No leader draws the sword of war when a kind word can heal a rift. Insolent leaders, hear me. We the People lead you — not the other way around — lest you forget history and yourselves.
Our educators need you first to believe in them. We have found the greatest inventors, scientists, artists and — yes — leaders from among the most outcast in our land; we have to continue finding them. Our doctors and nurses need you to stand behind their years of learning to heal us in mind and body. Our little children need to be patiently guided through the turmoil of our modern world by caring, loving and willing parents not afraid of losing home, health or station in life. Our inventors need you to inspire them to creations rather than destructions. Our artists need you to elevate their spirits to compose the masterpieces for generations to come. Our scientists just need to know you’ll give their minds freedom to explore new universes. Our valiant soldiers, sailors, aviators, coast guard and marines need to know that there is as much merit in the peace of a healing word as in the dark horsemen of the apocalypse we might someday unleash were it not for that peace. Our lawgivers and courts must understand that justice untempered by mercy is tyranny.
It is a higher greatness to have brought another to the mountaintop than yourself having attained such heights alone. You see, from such heights we must all find the vision with which to draw out all our better angels.
James Edwin Whedbee is an adjunct professor in Park University’s School for Education.
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