This morning I went to a nephew’s 5th grade graduation ceremony over in St. Petersburg. They actually had a nice little ceremony, and a commencement speaker, Stephen Buckley, Publisher of the St. Petersburg Times. Mr. Buckley had graduated from Campbell Park Elementary School himself.
I found it telling that his two main points were about responsibility: taking responsibility for yourself and your own actions; and being responsible in the friends we choose, especially as we move into Junior High.
It is true that the types of people we start to associate ourselves with during our Junior High years will tend to have a great deal of influence on how we turn out, and in the overall arc of our lives. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I was lucky and made pretty good choices for friends in Junior High and High School.
I’ve always tried to take responsibility for my life and my actions, and I think I have mostly done a good job of that. I remember about two years ago I’d worked on a huge public sector proposal which we had eventually won. I made what turned out to be a valid assumption about pricing for the main product we were implementing, but the sales guy was trying to renege on the terms. It could have cost us close to a half-million dollars, and the deal would have not been profitable. When I first learned of the situation, I called my boss, explained it to him, and offered my resignation. Luckily, he said no, and when we put the vendor’s feet to the fire, they admitted they had been misleading.
I certainly haven’t been perfect, but I know I’ve tried. One of the things that frustrates me most is the current culture of NOT taking responsibility for one’s own life and actions. We’re overweight, and we blame Burger King; We’re burn ourselves with hot coffee after putting it between our legs and driving our car, and we blame McDonalds; I’m no fan of smoking, but if you elect to smoke, every time you pick up a pack, you’re warned it can cause death, but we sue the tobacco companies when we get sick and die; a Judge (of all people) in D.C. sues his dry cleaners for $54m for a lost pair of pants.
Most recently, the dire results from this kind of culture manifested themselves in the economic meltdown. Wall Street executives rewarded themselves with millions in bonuses, even as their businesses were failing to make money. Then, with no shame, they turn to the taxpayers to bail them out and keep the gravy train running. GM and Chrysler executives decided to build cars with planned obsolescence, and then move the manufacturing jobs overseas, so not only did no one in America want to buy their cars, but no one could afford to buy a car.
In government, politicians lie with impunity, and there is no longer any shame. They just change their story when caught, and move right along. Rep. Virginia Foxx said, on the floor of Congress in front of a grieving mother, that a young man beat to death for being gay was a hoax, and rather than apologize for the sentiment, merely dismissed it as a poor choice of words. Republican Rep. Robin Hayes of North Carolina said during a campaign rally in 2008 that liberals hate Americans that work hard and love God, and then lied about it, saying he’d never made the comment. (Cell phone video and YouTube to the rescue.)
The list goes on and on. Interestingly, during the last election the St. Petersburg Times set up politifact.com to track the lies of the candidates, and now they are maintaining it to hold the elected officials more accountable. Good for them.
I think that once we begin to hold ourselves and our leaders accountable for their actions, we’ll be much better off.