Each weekday, except holidays, millions of Americans watch for the numbers that are reported from Wall Street. In the field of education, test scores tell us how well our children are doing in school. Most athletic contests are decided when an individual or a team has a higher number or a lower number depending on the sport or type of activity. The same thing is true when it comes to the numbers that are posted in our check book and other financial records.
For the most part, numbers tell us whether we win or lose. Sometimes the numbers are good and sometimes they are bad, but we can always look toward the next day, next week or the next year. In short, most of us live with the hope that things will get better.
The other day a friend sent me something that contains some numbers that I would like to have you think about.
First, this question. How would you like to work for the following company? It has a little over 500 employees with the following statistics: 29 have been accused of spousal abuse; 7 have been arrested for fraud; 19 have been accused of writing bad checks; 117 have bankrupted at least two businesses; three have been arrested for assault; 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit; 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges; eight have been arrested for shoplifting; and 21 are current defendants in lawsuits. In 1998 alone, 84 were stopped for drunk driving.
Now back to my earlier question. How would you like to work for a company that has a little over 500 employees with this track record? In case you have not figured out who I have been talking about, if you are an American citizen and pay taxes, these people work for you. These are the numbers for the 535 members of the United States Congress, the same group that perpetually cranks out hundreds upon hundreds of new laws designed to keep the rest of us in line.
This may explain why I was so distressed the other day when I heard a number during a newscast. The number was 40 million, which is not chicken feed in anyone’s book. In this case, this 40 million number was referring to people. This is the number of the American people who have a criminal record. This figures out to one in every seven of us being convicted of committing a crime. The good news is that six out of every seven Americans have not been convicted of a crime, but to me, this is still very, very distressing. It should make each of us stop and think about where we went wrong and what we can do about it.
While you may say that it’s not that simple, the right answer is leadership. The cornerstones of leadership are character and integrity, and it’s painfully obvious to me that we are just not getting this from many of our elected politicians. When Jesus said, “The love of money is the root of all evil,” He hit the nail on the head. It’s not the graft and corruption of many politicians that is doing us in so much. It’s the influence peddlers who put a dollar in the plate and take out ten dollars when the plate comes back around that is doing the greatest harm to our system.
What’s the answer? Obviously, it’s to elect people to leadership positions at every level of our government who have character and integrity, and who won’t sell out for any price. But when we think about those 40 million Americans who have been convicted of committing a crime, it really comes back to you and me.
The only person I can change is me. As President John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway AR 72034.)