As we consider the choices we make in this election – for all offices – these words from Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King should help focus our thoughts on each candidate and on ourselves as individuals:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Like each presidential candidate, each of us speaks about values, about what's right and wrong. It’s easy to do, when we do that with others who agree with us. It’s not so easy to do, when we do that among others who disagree with us. That is why many will shy away from doing what’s right and rationalize in retreat.
Yet, what people say, including candidates, reflects what they think. What they think for-tells how they will act. Actions are the measure of every man. Inaction is an equal measure.
Dr. King's quote is telling us that a person's actions are how we should measure – and ultimately – judge them.
Do you live what you value or just talk about it?
Do you speak for what you value or remain silent?
Do you stand for what you value or shy away, rationalizing in retreat?
Do you confront those who are wrong and those who seek to undo what is right?
Are you willing to act – speak, stand, and engage – on something that might currently be an unpopular view?
Are you willing to act even if you may suffer consequences?
Or, when given this choice – with homes, comforts, safety and lives on the line – do you embrace inaction and sacrifice only everyone else?
Sacrifice is the link between personal responsibility and individual obligation. When we honor our responsibility for each obligation we freely accept that link. Sacrifice always brings out a person’s true nature.
Sacrifice is not easy. Some consciously substitute the word “hardship” in order to mine the emotions of others – especially voters – who do not want to fulfill obligations and want relief from their personal responsibilities.
One example of many in the campaign is the perceived hardship of paying back one’s own college loans. The candidate’s response to the college student, “we’ll have to do something about that.”
We shouldn’t be surprised by the candidate’s blithe response to the young voter given his “promises in extremis” and the fact that his spouse included the very same “hardship” in remarks earlier in the campaign.