Matters of the heart are beyond the jurisdiction of policies and legislation.
No speech, summit, or task force on race is needed for our country to face her demons. The racism that continues to haunt American life is truly a matter that can only be dealt with as people decide to overcome personal fears and insecurities about race.
Legislative mandates have undoubtedly been successful at rooting out systemic racism in many aspects of American life, but the true acts of racial healing and reconciliation will only occur as individuals choose to purge their hearts of racial hatred.
Companies and organizations have done well in their implementation of policies and procedures that are conducive for equity and fairness in the workplace. However, the workers are the ones who must choose to demonstrate mutual respect and racial tolerance.
Ultimately, most of us pray that somehow the remnants of racism would just go away. However, what we’ve learned is that we can’t simply wish them away, but will have to consistently work hard at eliminating bigotry and discrimination from our everyday lives.
This is the task that we as Americans must embrace. Everyday people must confront racism where they live, work, and play. We still have work to do and we can’t just sweep matters under a rug and forget about them. In a weird way, it’s probably good that we get reminders of racism, because it forces us to examine what’s truly in our hearts.
Our domestic and foreign policy concerns are broad and deep.
However, the state of American public education is perhaps our most urgent dilemma.
The task for those of us who care deeply about public education is to continue to define and communicate our priorities and proposals to the American public, so that the academic needs of all students are represented.
To prepare our children and youth for lives and careers in a world that is globally connected across cultures, our school systems will have to recruit, train, and retain highly qualified teaching professionals.
To produce world class schools, the infrastructure and physical capacities of school environments must be reengineered to reflect the technological, educational, and operational demands of this century.
To address the different learning styles and paces of diverse groups of students, the solution is not wholly testing. Rather, the integration of greater creativity, flexibility, and innovation in all aspects of teaching and learning are the essential pillars.
When we focus on the provision of adequate tools and resources for all schools, classroom teachers, and students, we are better positioned for the kind of national academic excellence that can contribute to America’s exceptionalism.
Thanks to classroom teachers, there is a clear path forward.
It’s taken us a long time to truly understand that no progress toward large scale teacher success can occur unless the teaching professionals themselves lead us and teach us what we don’t know.
They’ve taught us that they care about how well they’re doing and whether their students are learning at a high level.
Just like other professionals, America’s classroom teachers value their craft and expect to be rewarded based on performance and merit.
While the rest of us have been focusing on the scores of bad and ineffective instructors, the most successful teaching professionals have been perfecting their craft.
Classroom instructors know best what makes them effective and capable of doing their jobs well.
These professionals know precisely what tools they need in their classrooms and how much support they need from administrators.
They have never objected to greater innovation and flexibility in classrooms.
They are the ones who, in many ways, have taught us how to create academic spaces that are more conducive to the variations in student learning.
And because we are finally beginning to actually hear what teaching professionals are saying to us, we can hopefully replicate the habits, gifts, and practices of great teachers.
Living life is learning about life through lenses that are not our own.
Our daily routines give us plenty of opportunities to learn how to live, work, and play with persons whose backgrounds and views about life are often different from our own.
We can be thankful that our neighborhoods, communities, and other venues provide us with ways to enlarge our perspectives about people with whom we may have had little or no contact.
Every day of our lives, one conversation at a time, each of us can gain greater insight and understanding about someone else’s views and philosophies concerning the issues of life.
Every one of our personal encounters is a chance for us to reexamine our perceptions and become more open and balanced in our thinking.
And despite what we may have learned or witnessed for a large part of our lives, we can take advantage of the opportunities we have to become more enlightened and accepting of our individual and group differences.
We are largely a nation filled with people of goodwill.
And we are capable of dealing with racial matters with integrity and sincerity. All across America, there is the recognition that racial equity and racial justice are not only right, but are the essential pillars for our national prosperity for years to come.
Although our conversations sometimes get poisoned and distorted by extraneous interests and agendas, people are serious about their desire for racial progress.
Ultimately, we are going to have to be willing to confront our racial fears and insecurities by taking certain risks that just might hurt our feelings or cause some discomfort.
Our challenge is whether we have the courage and will to take a stand for the sake of healing the soul of our nation.
We are all products of our families, communities, and culture.
Spiritually, socially, and culturally, we are a composite of the beliefs and values which we learn from the people who influence us and the surroundings to which we are exposed.
We also share in ideals which reveal our American likeness and kinship. Our commitment to justice, fairness, and opportunity reveal the spirit and soul of our nation.
Because we are inextricably linked to one another across so many lines of distinctions, we have a latent mandate to partner and collaborate so that America’s promise becomes reality for every single citizen.
We are gradually becoming a more mature populace that is more defined by the kind of goodwill and integrity necessary to reconcile and unify our country.
Will Americans discover a path of likeness?
“My moral understanding culminates with a commitment to a kind of community that builds on acknowledging one another’s total personhood, looking upon persons as equal to ourselves and not as our pawns or instruments of our designs.
Each person is endowed with rights that are inherent and with worth that is conferred by God, our Creator. The immediate conditions of their lives do not diminish their worth or render them any less significant as persons.”
Samuel D. Proctor, My Moral Odyssey, (1989)
Our most precious treasure in America is our diversity.
Unfortunately, though, we are still not at a place where we fully understand our racial and ethnic endowment.
We have yet to truly appreciate how our diversity is our advantage.
For generations, we’ve been tricked into believing that somehow our differences and unique qualities are a curse, when in essence, they are God’s gift to our nation.
For generations, America’s dilemma has been figuring out what to do with this gift of diversity.
Perhaps we are not mature enough as a country to really comprehend the strength and greatness we have because we are distinctive individually and collectively as Americans.
Our nation and world have shifted economically and culturally.
The circumstances and conditions around us are very different from anything most of us are accustomed to.
Even further, the changes and uncertainty are challenging people’s commitment to what they stand for.
The stresses and pressures on daily lives are causing many to lose sight of what’s essential in life.
We’re losing our focus partly because we’re being seduced by images and distortions.
We’re allowing ourselves to fall for anything and everything.
In place of being distracted or influenced by other people’s choices, we must intentionally decide to stay our course – stay on the paths which are likely to produce stability and prosperity.
Instead of yielding to temptations and choosing easy and convenient paths in life, our task is to stay true to our unique assignments and callings in life.
And we must remind ourselves that we have the strength and resolve necessary to overcome peaks and valleys as well as risks and uncertainties, mainly because we’ve done it before.