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True Change Begins at the Dinner Table

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

In the many tributes given to Tim Russert following his sudden death, it was Tim’s own comments from a recorded interview with Bill O’Reilly on the challenge of being a good father that stays with me: “What did my dad teach me? That he and my mom loved me, but, secondly. that the world didn’t owe me a favor. And my challenge now, as the father of an 18-year-old son, is how do I teach him that he is always loved but never entitled? … How do I teach him that hard work, preparation, discipline are really what matters when he, in fact, lives in Washington, has met presidents from the day he was born, and lives in this rarified air. I’m just not sure how to teach my son the lessons Russ taught me.”


Mr. Russert learned much from his dad Russ and tried to instill those same lessons in his son Luke. In his Farewell Address to the nation, Ronald Reagan reminded Americans of that same important lesson, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” Here’s one father’s attempt to provide one such dinner conversation in an age of entitlement. We hope it helps you start one of your own!

Son: “The gap between the rich and poor just keeps growing! Executives get millions. In today’s economy, workers are supposed to feel lucky they have a job! In November, Obama’s going to change that.”

Dad: “Workers don’t need Obama. If a worker can earn more somewhere else, he should take that job!”

Son: “There aren’t many good paying jobs out there!”

Dad: “Life is difficult. It isn’t fair, but you are luckier than most. Because you were born in America, you have a bedroom that’s bigger than homes in most poor countries. You’re fortunate life isn’t fair, or you’d probably be living in a hut somewhere. Want to trade?”

Son: “No, but with gas and food prices so high, just taking half of a CEO’s salary in taxes and giving it to those in need would make a real difference.”

Dad: “So you want to give the CEO’s money, not yours.”

Son: “They have more than anyone could need!”


Dad: “That would seem true, but that’s for them to decide. Those ‘rich’ people donate the majority of the funds charities need. Bill Gates not only made billions with Microsoft; he’s made a difference with his billions.”

Sean: “Not all rich people give.”

Dad: “That’s their loss. When you invest in giving, the payoff isn’t in money. It’s in meaning. Good guys do finish first. If people don’t realize that, they don’t know what the finish line is.”

Son: “The poor are left behind!”

Dad: “In a world where rewards are distributed unequally, everyone is challenged to use their gifts to do something in a better, faster or unique way that people value enough to pay for. That’s why people create; that’s why they work hard, go to school or learn a craft.”

Son: “Some have dead-end jobs!”

Dad: “Politicians like to talk about hope but their policies are more likely to keep people in dead-end jobs. Liberals hate poverty so much that they reward it! Whatever you reward you get more of! So if my response to your entry-level job is to raise your minimum wage beyond its market value, you’re more likely to stay in that dead-end job. Why go to college or learn a new skill if you can get more money settling for a job with minimum skills? Capitalism is tough love. It fosters competition because it cares enough to challenge you to better yourself. A free-market economy rewards achievement and penalizes anything less.”


Sean: “Some people can’t get better!”

Dad: “Few can’t; many don’t. We need a safety net for the poorest of poor, but don’t make that safety net a hammock. Most Americans who politicians classify as “poor” have cars, multiple TVs and DVD players! Government studies show that only 5% of citizens remain chronically poor. Most are between jobs; many who were at one time poor become quite successful. We should reward them for achieving success, not remaining poor. That’s why income taxes should be kept low and government spending cut! A recent Tax Foundation study found that America's lowest-earning households received $8.21 in government services for each dollar of taxes paid. Middle-income households received $1.30 per tax dollar, and America's top earners $0.41. Is that fair?”

Son: “Everyone knows that the rich don’t pay their fair share!”

Dad: “Really? After the ‘unfair’ Bush tax cuts, the top 20% percent of income producers went from paying 81% to 85% of the total income taxes? The bottom 40% of Americans went from paying nothing to getting a subsidy! America can’t afford to punish success. The success of the rich helps everyone! I want everybody to get richer—the rich and the poor! I’m glad Bill Gates makes enough to give billions away! Even more important, his company has created jobs that support many families. With the Internet as the highway, his software advances have enabled many more to create unbelievable wealth all over the world. Microsoft’s success has also made good returns for investors. Just because someone becomes rich doesn’t make anyone else poor. In fact, in expanding economies, the more rich people there are, the more profits are created, the more people spend, and the more jobs are created.”


Son: “They should still pay more.”

Dad: “Since you make more money monthly in your part-time-job than many of the world’s workers make in a year, should politicians take 40% of your paycheck to subsidize them?”

Son: ‘No way!”

Dad: “Exactly! It’s more caring to help people earn their own money than to give them money. Obama and other politicians make it sound like it’s caring to take from ‘evil’ rich people and give to those making less.”

Son: “Isn’t giving the Christian thing to do?”

Dad: “Interesting! As a matter of faith, the Ten Commandments aren’t suggestions! It’s still a sin to covet the possessions of others. It’s a sin to take from others or to have someone do the taking for you. Jesus didn’t call on the government to care for the poor; that’s everyone’s job. The Good Samaritan didn’t tell the government to care for his neighbor; he paid for it himself. When you vote for politicians who will take more from your neighbor than what they take from you, I don’t call that Christian or noble.”

Son: “What are you doing now?”

Dad: “I’m writing a check for what Obama wants to take out of my wallet and donating it to elect a few more Republicans!”

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