ALLAN JEFFERYS: We Should Take Seriously Our Precious Right to Vote
Once again we get a chance to exercise our right -- our privilege -- of voting.
Some voters take it very seriously, boning up on the qualifications of the candidates and placing their flaws under powerful microscopes. Others pay little attention to anything that is not riding on the party line.
Many have already voted, but most of us have not. I personally enjoy going to the voting place, strolling in to see my neighbors, signing up and then entering the ballot area to cast my secret vote. It's a ritual unknown to many parts of the world. It is ours: our right, our privilege.
We get to choose who represents our opinions, ideas, needs, wishes and mandates. Note the word "represents" which is not a synonym for "leads." Candidates should keep that in mind -- especially if they win. Our government representatives, whether state, local or federal, whether president, governor or legislative, are servants of the people. That philosophy is also unknown to many parts of the world.
Our form of government is comprised of three parts: We have a legislative body that writes the laws, a judicial body that interprets them and an executive branch that enforces them. Sometimes the distinctions get blurred, and every once in a while each branch needs some sharp reminders that judges and executives don't make the laws. Power does tend to corrupt.
This year, we get to pick some biggies, including a president and a governor. The presidency has long been considered to be a thankless killer of a job. I'm not sure I agree with that. Ex-presidents seem to be holding up quite well, and some have gotten wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. Without that "former president" title, would Bill Clinton have made more than $100 million?
Why, then, do we seem to have so much trouble finding that one in 300 million who will be the giant we seek? We have had only 43 presidents. Think how few have been great. How many have been poor choices?
I suspect part of the poor-choice syndrome lies in reverse snobbery. Too many people are looking for someone just like themselves -- the guy-next-door approach. Fred Thompson was a good-enough actor to be believable in that aw-shucks, scuff-your-feet-in-the-dirt ploy, but it did not work.
Thank goodness. Personally, all I expect from the guy next door is a good neighbor who will occasionally help me chop down a tree or lend me his lawn mower. He's a good guy, but not one I'd vote for in a national election. Nor do I want him operating on me. For that, I want the most qualified surgeon in town. For president I want the same standard applied. Call me a snob.
I also think most of us want officeholders who will not mollycoddle bad apples. That became obvious at a wine-and-cheese gathering a bunch of us attended recently. Three candidates were there, vying for our votes and contributions. We talked of many things but, when the subject of education came up, the crowd erupted.
We were all in agreement that America was falling down in education, good teachers were leaving and that one of the main reasons was a lack of support for them by the legislators. A few students who could barely read were ruling the roost, fighting with teachers and threatening them while administrators just watched. Everyone was afraid of being sued.
The problem is that the bad apples are aware of their power. And their parents stand ready with subpoenas if anybody objects. Dress code? Don't even think of it. One participant told of his daughter trying to teach in an affluent suburb while a few students romped around the room in their underwear. Boys and girls. Those of us old enough to remember discipline cringed when we heard the story.
Discipline. It goes with the territory and it is long overdue in our schools. No one is suggesting corporal punishment (although many of us remember a rap across the knuckles with a ruler as being effective). Look at the records of the nations that outshine us and note how much discipline plays in the equation. Which is where the law comes in, and tort reform goes to the front of the line. Teachers should run classrooms. Teachers. Not pimply-faced bullies.
One of our candidates stood up and swore he was in total agreement. That's good because the students of today are the government and industry leaders of tomorrow, and we'd better be sure they have a chance to grow and learn. Discipline is a leg up in that agenda.
Because The Pilot has a rule about endorsing someone at this late date, I am not going to name the pro-education-discipline candidate. But I sure am going to vote for him.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic, entertainment editor and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. You can contact him at oldjeff@embarqmail. com.?
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