[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Make A Difference

Monday, October 15, 2007

Make A Difference

The following article by David Lawrence Jr. (former Miami Herald publisher and president of the Early Childhood Education Initiative Foundation) really struck a nerve with me, in a good way.

Brief comments to follow.


We live in a community where a newcomer has a special opportunity to do almost anything -- good or not so good. So many other places, one will wait a decade or more before beginning to make great contributions of time and talent and treasure. Here, most of us came from someplace else, and all of us now live in a place that underscores the pluralism and opportunity of the United States.

We are on the very cutting edge of America: 60 percent Hispanic, 21 percent African American or black (not interchangeable as they would be most places in this country), 19 percent non-Hispanic white (but just 15 percent of the 32,000 babies who are born each year here).

Miami-Dade is a community larger than 16 states in the Union. More than half of us were born in another country -- the highest such percentage in urban America. Ours is the fourth-largest school system in the country. And yet for all our challenges of bigness and poverty and language and culture, the people of Greater Miami have found a way to rally around children -- all children.

Now, to do well -- and good -- here, you must have an adventurous spirit. (There are two kinds of people in Miami, I would tell you: One, those people who reach out in wonder and excitement at the opportunities here who are not offended by being around so many people who are different, and indeed, welcome that and welcome them and, two, those who live in seemingly daily sufferance about all the change here. Only the former really ought to live here because life is so short and community so important.)

Only a century ago, it's worth remembering, Miami was not much more than a fishing village and trading post. And only in the 1990s did The Miami Herald run the obituary of the very first child born in Miami -- in the summer of 1896. That is how young we are still.

Progress is most always the province of optimists, and mine is an optimistic soul about people and the place where we live. We have the good fortune -- and sometimes the pain -- of being part of a community that serves as a testing ground for just about every social challenge and opportunity facing the country.

There is no limit to what can be done in this community -- and has been done in this community -- one good example being Miami's becoming a national model of what can be accomplished in building a ''school readiness'' movement. That means high-quality education, care and development. But good deeds happen only when people realize the power within themselves to make a difference. The greatest stories in human history are of individuals who realized what they had within themselves to make a difference.

What's really prized here -- who's really prized here -- is the person who speaks up to say: ''How can I help?'' It's up to each of us. There is no shortage of opportunities.

Quite optimistic and positive. Perhaps a bit too "pie in the sky" for many. However, Mr. Lawrence is dead-on about his assessment of the two groups of people that inhabit South Florida. I would add a third group: the whiners who care just enough to complain but don't care enough to fix it.

You can argue about Mr. Lawrence's ideas, but at least we have someone who cares about our community and is willing to put his reputation on the line to make improvements. How refreshing. He's right, Miami is full of potential for those willing to seize the opportunity. Our history has no doubt proven that. Miami isn't for the faint of heart or inflexible, and it's perfectly normal for some to feel out of place in this kind of environment. Ironically enough, people in other parts of the country are starting to deal with issues that we have been dealing with here for decades (immigration, for starters).

The true measure of character and purpose, in my book, is the impact that one is willing to make in our community. If you are committed to live here, for whatever reason, the least you can do is to get involved in any way you can. It doesn't have to be anything huge. What we need are less whiners and more people willing to make a difference.

Next time you feel frustrated about something that happened (or didn't happen) in Miami, ask yourself: "What can I do to improve the situation? How can I make a difference?"

6 Comments:

Blogger Ziva said...

Wonderful post Robert, in many ways, Miami is very similar to my home town, Los Angeles. As you know, I have family in South Florida, and have visited your fair city. I love Miami, I believe it is a model for our future. As an outsider it seems to me that for the most part, your local politicians have done right by its citizens, I wish that were so out here on the left coast.

12:18 AM, October 17, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Ziva,

Unfortunately, many of our local politicians (those at the county/city level) from all ethnicities have let us down big time. Corruption, lies, you name it. I guess you can say that's one reason for people being constantly negative, but it doesn't excuse their lack of action to improve things.

12:35 PM, October 17, 2007  
Blogger El Gusano said...

robert:
david lawrence?..pffffffft
that Herald rivals the Granma as the strongest substance on Earth it ven holds Lawrences selve serving lies and hypocricy without breaking.

7:54 PM, October 17, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Gusano,

Herald rivaling Granma? Listen, I'm no big fan of our local rag (and as a subscriber I have firm ground to stand on), but don't you think you're being just a little hard on them? ;)

As far as Lawrence is concerned, I'm making a statement regarding his recent piece in the Herald which I agree with very much. I'm not aware of any issues surrounding the Children's Trust other than the pros and cons of voting for it back in 2002.

As far as criticism of his tenure in the Herald is concerned, there are some valid points there, but we can discuss those some other time.

5:37 PM, October 18, 2007  
Blogger El Gusano said...

Dade's children's trust is doing a great job, inspite of Lawrence and his crooked cronies. We'll talk.

8:43 PM, October 18, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Spill the frijoles, Gusano. Now's a good of a time as any.

9:37 PM, October 18, 2007  

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