01/22/12 — The test: When it comes to building a future, settling isn't good enough

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The test: When it comes to building a future, settling isn't good enough

The problem with where our nation is headed lies in how some communities and leaders respond to adversity.

Today, some people wait and watch while neighborhoods run down and children wander without direction. They blame schools for low test scores and settle for redistribution rather than asking for conditions to allow them to make their own way.

They wait for help in cleaning up their streets and refuse to take care of the homes and parks that are entrusted to them. They do not take their futures into their own hands. They prefer to wait for the handout. They critique success rather than taking advantage of their right to pursue it.

And then there are the others -- the workers, who have never dealt with conditions like these, who are facing unemployment for the first time and wondering if their hard work was worth it.

They are looking for leadership, the chance to rebuild their lives. They do not know where to turn -- and they are not sure where to put their trust.

So they settle for leaders who think any plan is better than no plan. They fall for the lure of those who are out for attention, not to make the hard decisions that do not need to be spun or that might not make good re-election soundbites but are the responsible contributions of leaders who know that to make a country or a community stronger, you have to face facts.

That is why there is pork; that is why there is debt; that is why there is corruption; and that is why residents are worried about their futures.

More government and projects without rhyme or reason are crutches. They do not make a community or a nation strong. They do not set a town up for a stronger economic future.

They are props -- accessories in a plan that has no real base in what is best for the community. They are "doing something," which for some politicians, is good enough.

Which should come first -- a community caring about pulling itself out of a ditch or the government riding in with the tow chains?

It is in that question that fundamentally we see the change in how Americans view their futures and their lives.

For something to matter to someone, they have to have ownership in it -- and they have to care about it. And they have to believe in it.

If they do not take the first steps, to clean up the mess, to build parks, to encourage their children to stay in school -- and to keep an eye on those who might be headed for trouble -- no amount of government riding in on its trusty steed will change their lot.

And until we deal with the real problems, the hard facts, no window dressing is going to make us healthier, stronger or more prepared to weather whatever future is ahead of us.

The reason? The circumstances and attitudes that caused the poverty and decay in the first place are still there, masked by better surroundings.

It is time that we stop settling, stop listening to Pied Pipers and demand more from those entrusted with setting our course as a community and as a nation.

We should question. We should speak up -- and for goodness sake, we should call a bad decision a bad decision whenever it is necessary.

That is how you change a community and a country's fortunes.

And it is how you rebuild and set a course for a real future with opportunity and hope.

The rest is just for show -- and campaign ads.

If we keep those goals in mind, and refuse to settle, we will get the kind of people we want running our country and our community.

We will see results because we will be dealing with the issues that matter and attacking problems where there is a chance to solve them. We will be determining our own future, rather than waiting to accept the plans of someone else.

We have the power to demand more, to expect better -- and we should.

That is the kind of future we should all want.

Published in Editorials on January 22, 2012 12:02 AM