- - Friday, January 14, 2011

It has been said, and history shows, that societies and cultures are not murdered, but rather commit suicide. Have you noticed that?

As we celebrate the amazing life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, we should give pause to reflect on his civil rights achievements and also reflect on how King would lead us to reverse our society and culture from committing suicide if he were still with us.

We spend a tremendous amount of time and energy talking about how to expand the economy and create more jobs. No doubt that is an important topic that deserves our focus.

But I doubt that expanding the economy, creating jobs and growing the middle class would be King’s focus if he were alive today.

King would know and strive to point out that there are quality-of-life considerations much more important than just a strong economy.

King surely would tell us that it is impossible to create and sustain a vibrant economy without bright, talented and motivated young people. He would challenge and lead us to reverse the suicidal trend of so many of our young people dropping out of high school.

We can dream that King would tell us that we don’t have an economic crisis but that we are enslaving our young people in a life of poverty and crime by allowing them to quit school.

In some American cities like my beloved hometown of Detroit, well over half the students do not graduate. Detroit has the worst graduation rate of any city in America. Abysmal dropout rates are not uncommon - they are standard in cities across America. This is cultural, societal, spiritual and economic suicide.

We can dream that just as he challenged us to rise above bigotry, King would lead marches on public schools and condemn them for caring more about teacher tenure and teacher unions than student graduation rates.

I believe that the good doctor surely would lecture parents that it is immoral, unjust and cowardly for them to allow their children to drop out of school. He would tell parents that education is the path to enlightenment and true liberation. He would tell parents how allowing their children to quit school is compromising the dreams of those who worked so hard and sacrificed so much to achieve civil rights. Being dumb is not a right; it’s a chain and shackle.

King would say once again to both schools and parents: The time is always right to do the right thing.

In addition to challenging Americans to embrace education, I’m convinced King would have more than a few words to say about the state of the American family.

With roughly 70 percent of black youngsters and 40 percent of white youngsters being raised by single parents, we literally are jackhammering away at the foundation of what makes a strong and enduring society.

Let us dream that King would tell us that young people need both a mom and a dad and having so many children not living with both surely leads to disastrous results. The facts are irrefutable. Youngsters raised by single parents are more likely to get into drugs, drop out of school, get involved in crime and end up dead. We are committing societal suicide. America is better than eating its own.

These are two of the issues that I like to dream King would speak about: challenging us to change and leading us to a new promised land. Regrettably, they also are two critical issues that are given too little time, energy and focus by our politicians and media. Failing to lead is leading America to failure.

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