LESSONS OF YOUTH THE CHARACTER OF MAN
by Andy Weddington
Sunday, 23 June 2013
"When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost." Billy Graham
The year was 1992, it could have been 1991 or maybe a year earlier, I think, that I taped a small few inches by few inches clipping from the newspaper to the side of our refrigerator. It stayed there for years. It yellowed. Eventually the scotch tape cracked and the adhesive failed. The clipping fell. I don't know what happened to that clipping. But seeing the words on it frequently every day left it burned into my memory.
It was a quote: "There's nothing wrong with Bart Simpson [cartoon character] that a soap sandwich, a paper route, and a Catholic school can't fix."
That was the observation of William J. Bennett. Mr. Bennett served as the Secretary of Education for several years during President Ronald Reagan's second term. His comment on young Master Bart, a brat, was made when asked what he thought about The Simpsons television program. Mr. Bennett was neither impressed nor amused by Bart and family. And, as I recall, he thought the program destructive (or words to that effect).
Funny how things stay with you. More than 20 years have passed and every once in a while Mr. Bennett's words come to mind.
They came to mind last week when Mr. Obama (using the word President before his name I just cannot any longer do) made yet another idiotic and downright scary public comment - this time disparaging Catholic schools as divisive to a community.
Now to dissect Mr. Bennett's quote...
A graduate of a Catholic, a parochial, elementary school - during 8th grade I had a 7-day a week morning paper route - what I would like to say to Mr. Obama I will not.
For I remember more than one bar of soap being raked across my mouth by Mom - while working my way through life and that Catholic school. Which, by the way, offered me a superb education of daily benefit still.
That about covers the thought of Mr. Bennett, per my life.
Soap sandwich - check.
Paper route - check.
Catholic school - check.
Those three experiences, along with scouting and sports, complemented with parents who instilled tough, but necessary, lessons with clear values preparing their children for the world built character. I was the oldest of five and the example, the leader, though the role was unclear to me at the time. Steadily that responsibility crystallized.
Though perhaps not knowing it at the time, Mom and Dad were shaping that necessary bedrock for making a Marine. And another Marine. And a Coast Guardsman. And another brother (married a soldier [female] and raised a Marine) and baby sister (married an Airman) more successful still.
I've been a Marine for 33+ years. Will be forever. And ever. I cannot think of anything achieved of which I am more proud. Nor can I imagine accomplishing anything that will top earning that title and the privileges thereunto pertaining. With privilege comes responsibility, for life.
There's something about Marines synonymous with character and respect.
I, like Mr. Bennett, found nothing impressive nor amusing about The Simpsons.
Mr. Obama, day by day, shows us what he's made of. The trait 'character' does not come to mind. But the noun 'character' does.
I do not see a man molded by soap sandwiches, a paper route, nor Catholic school.
And I am thankful to be on the opposite coast - for I want to keep as far away as possible from him, and his ilk; I do in spirit and geographic separation is a plus.
Remember, one is known by company kept. That another invaluable lesson absorbed by listening to, but more so by watching, my parents. Leadership by example - I witnessed it at home.
Therefore to amend, to update, Mr. Bennett's assessment...
"There's nothing wrong with Barack Obama [cartoon character] that a soap sandwich, a paper route, and a Catholic school could not have fixed."
If for that, America would be a far better country today.
We will recover, somehow, from Mr. Obama - a character void character - a Bart Simpson of our time.
Elections loom. Now we must begin the search for the men and women shaped by soap sandwiches, paper routes, and Catholic schools - or something akin.
They walk amongst us.
Billy Graham is one of them - though too old for office.
Hillary Clinton is not one of them - and therefore not fit for office.
America has had enough of 'the Simpsons.'
As a nation, it's time for principles and morals and tough love - like that Sheriff Andy Taylor, community sage and icon of the fictional town, Mayberry, NC, wisely and judiciously doled out. Opie, his 'son', amongst other admirable traits, had character. He sure did. And he set an example for many youth, and adults, too. And though it was only a television program, look at the impact the late Andy Griffith, complementing his co-star's parents, had on young Ronny Howard. What a fine man, Ron Howard.
'The Andy Griffith Show' was a regular in our home when I was a boy. I still watch it. The Simpsons would have never been permitted. And is not still. No need to offer why - for that was just explained.
I figure Mr. Bennett, too, watched 'The Andy Griffith Show' - and would echo all.
I say no more.
William J. Bennett was raised Catholic. He attended Catholic schools. Most probably he had a soap sandwich, or two, and delivered newspapers.
As for The Simpsons, I agree with Mr. Bennett.
I am a member of TAGSRWC - The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club.
Blessed Sacrament School, Burlington, NC. Makers of responsible citizens - of 'men' and 'women' - of character. I am a proud graduate.