Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A must read: David Brooks defines what's wrong with America in thought-provoking column about higher call to institutional thinking, standards

NYT columnist David Brooks has hit the problem with America in a thought-provoking column entitled, "What Life Asks of Us".

Brooks calls on us to be dedicated to institutional standards, not individualism. Despite the betrayal by many institutions, the most solid ones still call us to higher standards than what are being portrayed in society through greed and excess.

Journalism actually calls many of we who are writers to a higher standard of commitment to the readers and holding government accountable. The most heroic journalists I worked with were at The Tennessean, who still did their best work for the people while the newsroom management demanded service to a much lower rule geared to profits, personalities and perversion.

Brooks cites the Hall of Fame speech by the great Cubbie Ryne Sandberg. Please read these words and repeat them to your children or students:

“I was in awe every time I walked onto the field. That’s respect. I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponents or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform. You make a great play, act like you’ve done it before; get a big hit, look for the third base coach and get ready to run the bases.”

Sandberg motioned to those inducted before him, “These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third. It’s disrespectful to them, to you and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up.

“Respect. A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn’t work hard for validation. I didn’t play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that’s what you’re supposed to do, play it right and with respect ... . If this validates anything, it’s that guys who taught me the game ... did what they were supposed to do, and I did what I was supposed to do.”


When I think of the institutional thinking and dedication Brooks writes of, my focus goes to teachers. Particularly those at Bethpage Elementary School where I visited Monday with state Sen. Diane Black.

With limited resources at a rural school in Sumner County, they continually turn out students with high TCAP test scores. And one third grade teacher is a former student, now returned as a teacher with her own children in the school population. Many teachers have their kids in the school.

My focus also goes to our men and women in uniform and their families left at home. They are dedicated to the most precious institution in this nation: the Constitution. God bless them all.

Please, take the time to read Brooks' column and mold your conduct to it to survive these difficult times, and make your friends those who think and act the same.


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