Communitas

Blabbings about family, community, sustainability and life from Frederick, MD.

Who Leads Like This? No one. March 6, 2007

Filed under: leaders,obama,politics — tobymurdock @ 6:33 pm

On Sunday Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both appeared in Selma, AL to mark the anniversary of the famed civil rights march there. Most of the press was around the hype of the simeltaneous apperance, and not about the substance of their visits.

The substance, however, revealed how Obama is truly a remarkable leader, none like I’ve ever seen before. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

One of the signature aspects of the civil rights movement was the degree of discipline and fortitude that was instilled in all the people who participated. Imagine young people, 16, 17, 20, 21, backs straight, eyes clear, suit and tie, sitting down at a lunch counter knowing somebody is going to spill milk on you but you have the discipline to understand that you are not going to retaliate because in showing the world how disciplined we were as a people, we were able to win over the conscience of the nation. I can’t say for certain that we have instilled that same sense of moral clarity and purpose in this generation. Bishop, sometimes I feel like we’ve lost it a little bit.

I’m fighting to make sure that our schools are adequately funded all across the country. With the inequities of relying on property taxes and people who are born in wealthy districts getting better schools than folks born in poor districts and that’s now how it’s supposed to be. That’s not the American way. but I’ll tell you what — even as I fight on behalf of more education funding, more equity, I have to also say that , if parents don’t turn off the television set when the child comes home from school and make sure they sit down and do their homework and go talk to the teachers and find out how they’re doing, and if we don’t start instilling a sense in our young children that there is nothing to be ashamed about in educational achievement, I don’t know who taught them that reading and writing and conjugating your verbs was something white.

Who leads like this? Who actually tells people like it is? Who actually points out voters shortcomings, and then challenges them about how they (and not government) can make things better? (The example here is specific to the black community but this is his approach across the board).

Really no one. No one that I’m aware of on either party. And policies aside, I’d support Obama on this simple courage and sincerity alone. (Plus I like his  policies).

Why does our federal government have to be just about making promises to voters and then wrestling in DC to bring back the most loot? It does not, but that’s what it has evolved to. In the presidency there is more potential impact in moral leadership than there is legislative or executive actions. But it takes a courageous, principled, and inspired person to make it happen. And I think we’ve found one!

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Barack & Buffet January 28, 2007

Filed under: Economy,education,globalization,leaders,politics,taxes — tobymurdock @ 8:15 pm

A few weeks ago I finished Barack Obama’s Audactiy of Hope. It was great.

A particularly interesting point was his describing his time spent with Warren Buffet. Buffet, the second richest man in the U.S., spoke about how he thinks that he and the richest 1% of Americans should pay greater taxes. He says:

 [Those wealthy against higher taxes] have this idea that it’s ‘their money’ and they deserve to keep every penny of it. What they don’t factor in is all the public investment that lets us live the way we do. Take me as an example. I happen to have a talent for allocating capital. But my ability to use that talent is completely dependent on the society that I was born into. If I’d been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless. I can’t run very fast. I’m not particularly strong. I’d probably end up as some wild animal’s dinner.

But I was lucky enough to be born in a time and place where society views values my talent, and gave me a good education to develop that talent, and set up the laws and the financial system to let me do what I love doing–and make a lot of money doing it. The least I can do is help pay for all that.

The free market’s the best mechanism ever devised to put resources to their most efficient and productive use. The government isnt’ particularly good at that. But the market isn’t so good at making sure that the wealth that’s produced is being distributed fairly or wisely. Some of that wealth has to be plowed back into education, so that the next generation has a fair chance, and to maintain our infrastructure, and provide some sort of safety net for those who lose out in a market economy. And it just makes sense that those of use who’ve benefited from the market should pay a bigger share.

It is a very interesting perspective from the most successful financier ever. As our country succumbs more and more to the pressures of globalization and the need for citizens to attain “creative class” status for their prosperity, something has to give. The only solution in my mind is an unheard of investment in education–a dedication to it like no country has ever provided. And that will cost money. Mr. Buffett suggests an interesting logic and justification for where that money might come from. It will in fact be the right thing for all Americans.

 

King & The World House

Filed under: globalization,leaders,modernity,Religion — tobymurdock @ 7:56 pm

At Church today, Toni, our pastor, read Martin Luther King’s essay, The World House. It was fascinating, as applicable today as it was when written 40 years ago. MLK was a tremendous mind, heart and was a great communicator.

Here was an excerpt that I found particularly interesting:

We must work passionately and indefatigably to bridge the gulf between our scientific progress and our moral progress. One of the great problems of mankind is that we suffer from a poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.

Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external. We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live. So much of modern life can be summarized in that suggestive phrase of Thoreau: “Improved means to an unimproved end.” This is the serious predicament, the deep and haunting problem, confronting modern man. Enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul. When the external of man’s nature subjugates the internal, dark storm clouds begin to form.

Western civilization is particularly vulnerable at this moment, for our material abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit. An Asian writer has portrayed our dilemma in candid terms:

You call your thousand material devices “labor-saving machinery,” yet you are forever “busy.” With the multiplying of your machinery you grow increasingly fatigued, anxious, nervous, dissatisfied. Whatever you have, you want more; and wherever you are you want to go somewhere else…your devices are neither time-saving nor soul-saving machinery. They are so many sharp spurs which urge you on to invent more machinery and to do more business.1

This tells us something about our civilization that cannot be cast aside as a prejudiced charge by an Eastern thinker who is jealous of Western prosperity. We cannot escape the indictment.

This does not mean that we must turn back the clock of scientific progress. No one can overlook the wonders that science has wrought for our lives. The automobile will not abdicate in favor of the horse and buggy, or the train in favor of the stagecoach, or the tractor in favor of the hand plow, or the scientific method in favor of ignorance and superstition. But our moral and spiritual “lag” must be redeemed. When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men. When we foolishly minimize the internal of our lives and maximize the external, we sign the warrant for our own day of doom.

Our hope for creative living in this world house that we have inherited lies in our ability to re-establish the moral ends of our lives in personal character and social justice. Without this spiritual and moral reawakening we shall destroy ourselves in the misuse of our own instruments.