Work toward change instead of waiting for it to be handed to you
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Mitt Romney was right. His percentages were wrong but his assertion was true. There is a percentage of people in this country who live for handouts. They feel entitled to free stuff from the government and don't want to work for a living. They do exist and they feel no shame about their 'gimme' philosophy.
They are not the majority of Americans. I would venture to say that they are not even 10% of Americans. They are a very publicized, often loud, minority of our citizenry.
The rest of us have our vision of the American Dream held very dearly in our hearts and we strive every day to make that vision a reality. Since this country was founded and before, everyone who has lived between her shores has defined for themselves what they mean when they say they want to live the American Dream. One of the basic definitions of being an American means expressing your individuality. We are one people but we are not homogenous in our makeup.
The words in the documents that make up the foundation of our society contain lofty ideals. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To form a more perfect union. Establishing justice and ensuring domestic tranquility. These are ideals that each of us and our ancestors took to heart in many different ways and used as fuel as we went about establishing a life.
If you ask people outside of America to describe Americans, you hear words like brash, bold, inventive, reckless and adventurous. Our actions in times of crisis also prove us to be compassionate, proactive, encouraging and hospitable. Whether we came to these lands on purpose, by force or have been on these lands for centuries, it has always been a healthy mixture of individualism and community that has allowed our society to make great leaps in progress, some of which have changed the world and the very course of history.
A favorite question in presidential elections, both of the incumbent party and the challenging party, is whether or not the electorate is better off now than they were four years prior. Basing your vote on the short-term effects of a job that is just as much about making deals as it is about making policy will get you disjointed leadership.
We can rant and rave all we want about why doesn't government do anything, but if we want to be better off in four years than we are right now we have to make the investment in making that vision a reality. The best way to see improvement is to help others and help yourself.
This weekend is the kickoff of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. There will be commemorations, parades, cookouts, marches, forums, panel discussions, radio programs, television documentaries and church services galore. Most importantly there will be millions of volunteers engaged in service projects of all kinds.
Dr. King taught us that the best way to achieve a better life for the downtrodden is to seek a better way of life for everyone. He also taught us that every act of kindness, no matter how small, has the potential to change the world.
Each of us who wants to see our society progress more towards inclusion and understanding rather than fear and fractured segregation, have a chance to shift the conversations we are having in this world.
There is an old proverb that says act the way you want to be and soon you will be the way you act. If we wait for the government to lay out a perfect plan for a more interdependent society we will never see that come to fruition because they are too focused on your turn, my turn politics. If, however, we get involved in our communities and we get to know our neighbors, and we go back to school and we are active, thoughtful members of our families, we can write the narrative for how this country will progress in the future.
There are those in this country who are on the constant search for hookups, handouts and freebies. They are people who come in all races, economic levels, genealogical background, genders and education levels.
Thankfully the vast majority of Americans see the merit of putting in the hard work to get the reward. Most of us know we are all in this together so why not help each other rather than hurt each other.
Dr. King fought for everyone to have a seat at the table. Now it's time to fight for everyone to have a voice in the conversation.
- Mariel Blake writes a weekly column for The Daily News