Enduring by Al Sikes

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I can still remember neighbors—ones that helped and whose neighborliness is still remembered. Thank you again.

My mind recalls quiet streams and my fishing bobber being pulled under. What is it about quiet streams—if somehow we could use them prescriptively?

Family dinners? Mine were almost every day. Many lessons were learned, yet the most important one was that family was important and cared. When societal forces tear at the family, what have we lost?

And then there were the talks, father to son. Father talked, son listened and knew the penalties of not doing so would bite. He talked sense before I knew sense. Where have fathers gone?

When we leave home and the councils of Mom and Dad, selling is non-stop. The noise level is deafening. Advertising urges us to do this and that—acquire more. Celebrities have eclipsed philosophers and priests. It is no wonder Ringling Bros. has shut down; the circus is at our fingertips.

Life’s wellspring is polluted. Quiet streams—their runs and swirls and eddies–have become sluiceways of excess informed by the latest rock lyricist or advertising copywriter or social media phenom.

Politics—today’s practitioners have largely yielded to money and polemics. The formula: make people mad and then exploit them.

Now the President is Donald Trump. Partisan polemics are the discourse and the government is shut down.

This is not just nostalgia. I was reminded of the way back and forward by a first time book author, Karen Crouse, who is also a sportswriter for the New York Times. Her just released book is “Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town’s Secret to Happiness and Excellence.”

Ms. Crouse writes about a town of “roughly 3,000 residents” that has accounted for a number of Olympians and three medals without damaging the children who have athletic gifts. In Norwich, said an Olympic runner, Andrew Wheating, “it’s not survival of the fittest. It’s survival of all of us.”

We live in a time when appealing or responding to the appetite, has become our all too frequent exercise of freedom. Where self is the hub of our feelings and too often reasoning.

Our only escape is local—where we began and where we are. Families, communities, neighborhoods. And hopefully, over time, those that leave a nurturing environment will take lessons with them into the world of ambition–leaders who, recalling Wheating’s words, are informed by the “survival of all of us.”

Incivility is like a fabric tear—mend it or it will destroy. Enduring values should be our inspiration.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

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