"Many great ideas go unexecuted, and many great executioners are without ideas. One without the other is worthless."
- Tim Blixseth -
"God is not looking for alms. God is looking for action."
- Bono -
"Well done is better than well said."
- Benjamin Franklin -
We are often a nation of complacent and sometimes cowardly people. Many times we look the other way or say or do nothing as others around us engage in actions or practices harmful, or not beneficial to, the common good. We allow our elected officials to legislate, and our business community to forge ahead unchallenged against our best interests, and many times we simply take it, without so much as a whimper. Have you ever stopped to consider the cost of such complacency? Or thought about what would have happened had other courageous and visionary -people before us had been as complacent as we are today? Have you ever thought, for example...
What if Rosa Parks had meekly submitted to that irate Alabama bus driver's demand that she move to the rear of the bus to make room for white passengers up front? You know the answer: blacks and all other persons of color would still ne regarded and treated as second-class citizens, and would never be afforded the simple dignity every human being is entitled to.
What if Thomas Jefferson and our other Founding Fathers had complacently stayed on their plantations or in their shops and businesses instead of meeting to plan for independence by crafting its unprecedented declaration? The action they took was at great personal risk and could have cost them their lives. The United States would still be a colony, and the most democratic form of government ever devised, with its emphasis on individual freedoms, would never have come into being.
What if President Lyndon B. Johnson had not pushed for civil rights legislation or for expanded social programs like the War on Poverty or Medicare? He knew as he pressed for these things that doing so would cost his Democratic Party votes for years to come, especially in the South. To his credit, though, he rejected political expediency and fought for and got these passed anyway. The result? Institutionalized racism was overturned; millions of poor were lifted out of poverty; and millions of elderly were able to lead less worrisome and more comfortable lives.
What if Ralph Nader had simply graduated law school, kept quiet, and opted to become another play-it-safe corporate lawyer? From 1959, when he published "The Safe Car You Can't Get" in The Nation, through his well-known 1965 study called "Unsafe At Any Speed," to numerous other industry and environmental exposes over the decades, this man acted as a whistle-blower on negligent American industry for our safety and benefit. Alkong the way, he has become stigmatized by corporate America as a kook and opportunist, when in actuality, he has spotlighted negligent businesses and polluters and caused them to produce safer and cleaner products. Though I still blame him for George W. Bush becoming President, I nonetheless admire his guts and conscientiousness in looking out for consumers.
What if Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy had merely golfed their termns away instead of developing NASA and channeling our science and industry toward space exploration and a manned moon landing ahead of the Russians? Both gambled with possible failure and risked political criticism for making huge expenditures on untried projects without any guarantee of success. But the positive end results of their actions benefitted us in numerous ways: we eventually won the Cold War, there was rapid growth of computer technology, vast improvements in electronics and communications technologies, new discoveries in medicine and even agriculture were all spawned due to their efforts.
What if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had let polio defeat him? Or had become the benign, unadventurous President many in his upper class background had preferred he become? The answer to this is way too easy: there would be no time-and-a-half overtime pay, no unemployment compensation, no labor unions, perhaps no middle class (or a far more microscopic one), no Social Security for retirement, no protection for your bank (and therefore none for your deposits), and no regulation of the stock market.
The many good benefits FDR pushed for and attained for this nation are so vast and important to our quality of life that living without them would be incomprehensible!
What if the 1860 Republican Party and President Abraham Lincoln had just played it politically safe and had struck another in a series of meaningless compromises on slavery with southern politicians just as his predecessors had done? Yes, his life would have undoubtedly been spared, and yes, there would have been no Civil War, but slavery would still exist and the universal freedom and dignity of persons of color would never have been achieved in this country. The courage and justice practiced by Lincoln and his party helped make this nation truly legally become a "land of the free".
What if President Theodore Roosevelt had taken the easy way out and let the huge trusts and corporate bankers of his day have their way completely unchallenged as they had for many years? Simple: the concept of government taking a regulatory role over big business to protect small business and average people from the excesses of concentrated capital would never have come into being. Roosevelt instituted the federal government as a protective buffer between big business and everyone else. He also helped establish regulation over food and drug products to ensure public safety. Our National Parks and provisions against pollution were direct results of Roosevelt's influence, and the beneficial results of his activism remain to this day.
In contrast to many of today's visionless, play-it-safe conservative Republicans and Blue Dog conservative Democrats, the persons featured above were not lazy defenders of the status quo. They refused to accept unjust or backward-looking conditions as they were and strode to change them by taking individual action. They did so at great risk politically, physically, and economically. They acted toward fulfilling a more just and improved society for all. The same cannot, and will not, ever be said of mediocre, corrupted, and self-centered politicians like Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, or Ben Nelson, or of egomanaical demagogues like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.
We see the positive results of the actions of those pioneers pictured above all around us, every day. We know the "what if" of had they never acted. Ours would be a far bleaker and uncomfortable world had they not shown the courage to move as they did. This should serve as inspiration and impetus for all of us to leave our comfort zones once every so often to make a courageous stand for the benefit of others on occasion!