WAGUESPACK: The Dog Days Of Summer

The dog days of summer are here.

July and August typically are the months where we Americans take our foot off the gas. The kids are out of school. Most professional sports are on break, with the exception of mid-season baseball and the occasional golf tournament. Congress is days away from their month long recess. People are typically directing more of their focus on preparing for family vacations, camps for the kids and other ways to recharge life’s battery and prepare for the second half of the year. These months have become our American version of an annual siesta.

Sure, there are things we would be focusing more on if occurring during a different time of the year. We have a border crisis going on in Texas, raging hostilities in the Middle East and acts of terrorism leading to American fatalities in the Ukraine. A seemingly indifferent President, whose family is soon leaving for their own two-week vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, is casually monitoring all of these events.

The soap opera playing out on Common Core would be triggering much more public reaction if it were occurring during the school year rather than during the middle of the summer. The procurement tripwire being wrapped around BESE and the Department of Education is preventing them from finalizing curriculum and testing plans. Teachers are left in the lurch and frustration is mounting. Most parents aren’t feeling it yet, but on the first day of school this confusion will lead to chaos if not addressed in the next few weeks. It’s time for the administration to start helping solve the problem rather than just throwing more and more gas on the fire.

But again, in the dog days of summer, all of that reality and consequence usually takes a back seat. This time of year, we put our smartphones down and read the paper only occasionally. We try to spend more time on the porch than in the office and family movie night usually replaces nightly TV news shows. We generally spend these months taking a breather, and quite frankly, most people don’t want to bother with those real world problems while relaxing on the beach or out on the water.

So, building off that “dog days” mindset, let’s focus on a few things we as individuals can do to improve our community that have nothing to do with enlarging government.

When at its best, America is focused on the power of its people standing together and leaning on the principles of our Founding Fathers to make a difference. It’s rarely government saving the day in our finest hour, it is usually our people rising to the challenge in those moments. We memorialize those historic moments of our people rising to the challenge, but we often forget to focus on the every day moments when our people need to be the ones changing America.

For instance, employers of all sizes tell me they need Louisiana workers who can read and write, have proficient technical skills, have good soft skills and can pass a drug test. Unfortunately, Louisiana ranks very poorly in those categories. As a result, we spend most of our time throughout the year discussing how government should fix those problems. While an important debate to have, we often overlook the every day contributions we also need to make as parents and citizens to help solve these problems.

Here are a few ways I personally think we need to better do our part:

Teach our kids good manners. The soft skills needed to succeed in the global economy sound a whole lot like good old-fashioned manners to me. Show up to work on time, dress appropriately, work well with coworkers, and follow instructions are now called “soft skills” that our young workers are increasingly lacking. As a kid growing up in Louisiana, all of these things were demanded in my parent’s house, every friend’s house, every business we entered and in every classroom. Bad manners were not an option and the entire community helped enforce it. That is not the society our kids are growing up in today, but it can become one if we adults do our part. There is no reason we cannot also raise our kids with that same level of respect for themselves and others.

Teach our kids how to pray. Most religions teach the golden rule of treat others how you want to be treated, along with the significance of charity and helping others. All of these lessons are important to help children understand that a community can benefit greatly by the efforts of compassionate and charitable individuals. Learning to appreciate these lessons at a young age will make kids better citizens and better workers as adults. Rarely do you hear a sermon minimize the responsibility we have as individuals to improve our community as compared to the need for more government involvement.

Encourage our kids to play sports. Playing sports teaches kids about teamwork, responsibility and the importance of practice. Sometimes the lesson of how great victory feels and the importance of winning gracefully will be learned, other days dealing with defeat and overcoming adversity will be the lesson. Learning about losing and the hard work it takes to avoid it is great preparation for the real world and critically important to development as an individual and citizen.

Talk to our kids about what makes America great. Children are impressionable and they are growing up in a much different country than we did. Right now, they usually see politicians that endlessly argue and news shows that use outrageous rhetoric to attack the perceived stupidity of others. Yes, our freedom allows and encourages spirited discourse, but don’t forget to explain to your children why the ability to publicly debate is important, why elections matter and why democracy is strongest with informed citizens making smart decisions. They will inherit this country sooner than you think and you better not just trust others to educate your children on the opportunity and responsibility that comes with that right.

During the dog days of summer, we usually ignore government and focus on family and relaxation. Too often during the rest of the year, we focus almost exclusively on how government can solve our problems. The reality is, government has never proved more important than the individual in this country and we shouldn’t fall into that trap now.

As government grows, personal responsibility and the role of the individual in making America great diminishes. Perhaps for the other 10 months of the year, we should start setting our priorities more in line with how we prioritize during the dog days of July and August. More focus on family and community throughout the year and less emphasis on how government should solve everything is the American way and is the outlook we should emulate all year long.

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