- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2009

President Barack Obama appealed to Americans anew to reach out to their communities during a taped message that aired during the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night.

His remains a half-measure that overlooks the power of personal accountability and self-discipline. Helping others goes only so far if people are not inclined to help themselves.

The NBA All-Star Game is a testament to those who have made it to the top of their profession in part because of their drive and persistence, because of their willingness to show up each day and put in the work that is necessary.

Take the improbable path of Pacers forward Danny Granger, who made his first appearance in the All-Star Game.

He was slated to attend Yale University, where he would earn a degree in civil engineering and proceed to live the good life. At least that was the plan of Granger’s father. The son was a gifted student who compiled a 3.8 grade-point average at Grace King High School in Metairie, La.

Basketball? That was just a child’s game. He was not going anywhere with it. That was obvious. No one in the SEC wanted him. Tulane ignored him.

His recruiting offers amounted to one Division III program and Bradley, a mid-major program. It was not easy to spurn Yale. You could have argued it was absurd, the folly of youth, as Granger’s father did.

What were the chances of Granger one day making the NBA? What are the chances of any star high school player making the NBA? You might as well bet on hitting the lottery.

Granger bet on the NBA and spent two seasons at Bradley before transferring to New Mexico. He worked on his weaknesses and perfected his game. He pushed ahead. He dared to dream. His long-shot proposition became a reality in the NBA Draft in 2005, when the Pacers selected him with the 17th pick in the first round.

Now in his fourth NBA season, Granger has emerged as a genuine lead player, averaging 25.4 points and 5.0 rebounds. The underlying message in Granger’s tale is empowering: Do the work. Chase the dream. And if you stumble, pick yourself up. You are not the responsibility of your neighbor or community or local government.

And it is all right if you fall short of your goals. It is doubtful Granger’s life would have turned bleak if he had not reached the NBA. He had an engineering degree from New Mexico that he could have put to use. He could have kicked around in the NBDL or played overseas and possibly elicited the interest of the NBA in the nomad’s fashion.

However it would have gone down if Granger had not received a call from the Pacers in 2005, it is not unreasonable to assume that something in his makeup would have produced favorable results.

This is not to minimize the value of those who are active in their neighborhoods, who hold trash days to pick up litter, who raise funds to maintain a playground or ball field. All these projects serve a function but should come with the question of accountability.

No trash day would be necessary if everyone discarded their litter in a proper place. No fundraising would be necessary if the Parks and Recreation branch of local government worked in a vaguely efficient manner.

“In this time of so much need in our communities and across our country, we are blessed with endless ways to restore hope and opportunity in places that yearn for both,” President Obama said. “Prepare a care package for a soldier. Read to a child. Or fix up a local basketball court, so the next generation can play and grow. I encourage everyone to join the NBA in the spirit of service to others.”

That is a worthy sentiment, so long as it is steeped in the realization that no one can improve your quality of life as well as you can.

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