Saturday, November 18, 2006

History and Hope

Please keep reading! I am not going to give one more analysis of the recent non-elections or the hypocrisy of politicians and their earmarked spending habits. Nor am I going to issue another nostalgic paean to Thanksgiving - though it is one of the purest Holidays we have.

Today my mind is drawn backwards and forwards. "Back to the Future" is not only a fun trio of movies; it is one of my mottos for sanity. You see, when we look back, we find great resources for the future in the heroism and heartaches of our ancestors.

Politicians can be noble. William Wilberforce was probably the greatest social reformer in Western history, working tirelessly for the abolition of slavery for half a century and championing scores of other social reforms in late 18th and early 19th century England. Wilberforce was everything campus radicals of the last four decades claim they hate: He was an aristocrat, an evangelical Christian, a Member of Parliament and (gasp!) white. This diminuitive little man thundered like a prophet, divested much of his wealth, called his peers to account and kept England from the anarchy of the Continent! Where is the next one?

Preachers can be pure. As Billy Graham moves into retirement, we see a legacy of integrity worthy of emulation. A man on a mission, Rev. Graham found the balance between an unalterable gospel message and the necessity of personal growth and social flexibility. He never wavered in calling people to personal faith in Christ and in his firm commitment to racial and social equality. He willingly lost friends when he integrated his meetings in the South during the 1950s. When haircuts grew longer, he let his grow a bit and welcomed young people. As music styles changed, he opened the door to fresh talents while keeping the message clear. And through all of this he remained faithful to his wife and never allowed a hint of financial scandal to taint his efforts. Let's be thankful for such examples.

Business Leaders can be compassionate and ethical. The Owenite communities of England in the 1820s and 1830s were radical attempts to educate, house and train laborers for a better future. Malden Mills kept all the employees on the payroll while the factory was rebuilt in the 1990s. Today there are hundreds of business networks and investment firms going past the letter of the law and making sure that everyone - from the farmer to the retail clerk - gets a fair share of the revenue. Please patronize companies known for fairness and opportunity.

Families can be healthy. We hear about abuse and divorce; we are deluged with experts inventing new pathologies. In the midst of all this, millions of Americans are staying married, raising healthy kids, going to religious services and giving back to the community.

I guess this is a Thanksgiving essay after all!

Enjoy the food and the football - and make sure faith and family come first.

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