Tuesday, December 23, 2008

National Goals

This is a quotation from a speech Robert F. Kennedy made a few months before he won the California primary and became, for a few moments, the presumptive Democratic candidate for the presidency in 1968.

He, of course, was assassinated that same night. Those who took his place in the White House (with the exception of Jimmy Carter) did all they could to focus America on the mere accumulation of material wealth and concentrating that wealth in the portfolios of the already wealthy. The Reagan revolution brought to completion by the Bush and Clinton Administrations.

Kennedy is talking about the fundamental purpose of the United States. It's such a shame we have so few leaders who can think and talk like Kennedy does here.

"Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.

Our Gross National Product—if we judge America by that—that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the Redwood and the loss of our natural wonders in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate, or the integrity of our officials. (Remember—Kennedy wrote this in 1968.)

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country.

It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

—Robert F. Kennedy, March 18, 1968


Anonymous said...

That's an inspiring quotation. It reminds me of the post you did a long time ago on that book, the Geography of Bliss.

I guess it's a good thing that the best things in life aren't things. With the implosion of the economy, we can all focus on the things that really matter, like caring for each other. Thanks for all you do to care for our children, Mr. Gurney. Your work should count in the Gross National Product!!!!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kindergarten, what's this got to do with kindergarten?

Dan Gurney, Mr. Kindergarten said...

Thank you Anon #1. The Geography of Bliss IS a fun read. The Dunham Book Club members are reading it for January. Happiness is largely about trusting and supportive community relationship, like RFK suggests.

Anon #2, kindergartens don't appear in isolation. The students I teach are immersed in a culture awash in violence and materialism. I feel that it's my responsibility to point out, from time to time, that the consumerist culture we live in is toxic to our humanity, especially our most vulnerable members, our children. I don't mean to offend anyone, just defend the generation to come.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to post this. I am amazed at pain that comes out as just plain meanness during this time of year (#2 poster).