Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Selfless Volunteer Candidate. Donald Trump?

Our country has a rich history of volunteerism. My name is Pat Parris, and I coordinate a leadership program at a cyber school in Pennsylvania (PALCS). Every year 20 of my charges learn to complete a selfless project in their communities that spurs volunteerism, while developing leadership skills. 

There is a rich history of volunteerism in America. The number one reason for government is to provide national security for its stakeholders. Most governments do this by recruiting armies, In the early years of our country we recruited militia. Militia are volunteers that meet this basic need of protecting our citizens from outsiders. But, we volunteer in many other ways as well. 
Perhaps the earliest form of volunteerism besides the militia are opportunities for people to serve in their local churches. Even before we were raising arms against the English we were fighting for freedom of religion. Ironically this freedom could be best described as a separation of church and state. Before the American Revolution the Church of England was punishing Christians in America who disagreed with them. There was a revival of the teachings of Martin Luther on the Princeton seminary campus at that time called The Great Awakening. Salvation by faith. and not the rituals and duties of the Church of England was the drive behind this revival. The Church of England had no separation of church and the state. The English saw this as a direct attack on their government. This is a well known story, but I find the side story even more interesting. The side story is the streams of volunteers who served in these churches with no reward of employment or patronage from their new found faith. They did things like feed the hungry, take care of widows and orphans, care for the sick, and educate the young. Who were these church workers who served so selflessly? They were countless volunteers motivated by a faith that few could understand apart from conversion. In my opinion, this lack of understanding led to overcompensation by our government to make these services into entitlement. 

During this time period we read about famous people like Jonathan Edwards and King George. We seldom consider the unsung heroes who volunteered selfless acts of service. I am writing this post to remind you of them. If these people were memorialized in history, then perhaps we would turn our ambition to be like them. As we travel through the sands of time if we remember these unknown heroes we may see a new ambition for volunteerism that could help unravel the entitlement problems in our country. Entitlements like food stamps. Medicaid, and public education could be provided by individuals motivated a higher purpose. This supplement of volunteer heroes would never take the place of these programs, but selfless acts of service could stem their growth. 

So here is my tribute to a selfless person who has gone before us. My mother was one of those volunteers. I was the 4th born of 5 children. She lost her husband to leukemia when I was 5 and raised our family on veterans checks, and the kindness of others. We lived two doors from my uncle and he watched out for us. My aunt would even remove my stitches to save money from an additional doctors visit. Our church provided an education at Saint Valentines Parish in Bethel Park. The veterans administration provided an earned entitlement of food and shelter for my mother and her family. When I aspire to be like her, then I find my ambition shifting to selfless acts of service.  

Perhaps the antithesis of my mother are self promoters like Donald Trump. Why then is the Donald so popular in his candidacy for president? Isn't he the opposite of the selfless volunteer? Could it be that he has tapped into a longing for transparency in our conversation? Many people have been caught in a period of salary and promotion stagnation, and have grown bitter. When they see Donald Trump saying what they are thinking they feel a sense of vindication, and pay back for wrongs they feel they have suffered. But, is this good government? 

Some people think that he is a joke, a late night talk show act, or a shocking youtube video. Donald will entertain them, and since they feel so disenfranchised by our government, then perhaps they will get something out of the election. If we govern this way then inconsiderate gaffs will become normative, and we will react and not respond. Even more scary we may become flippant about international relations. Presidents should be sober, slow to react and selfless volunteers that walk in the tradition of some of our best presidents. The best presidents in our history have won by a small margin, or have sought the office reluctantly. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln, Truman and Kennedy fit this tradition. When a self promoter assumes the office, then the benefit of the whole will be sacrificed to short term selfish gratification. 

Any decent leader knows that short term gratification can be sacrificed for long term benefits. We must take the hard road of self sacrifice to move our country forward. It is true that this will not be a popular campaign speech. However, this is what our country has done to move our people forward into a high standard of living and a peaceful life. That is why the best candidates say very little about complex problems, but solve them by including stakeholders in the process of solving them, and choosing the road less traveled. It can make all the difference.