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A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

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Thoughts on government small and large. ..." Which is more wasteful: to let the land wash away, to let it lie arid, or to use it and use it wisely and to make those investments which will make this a richer State and country in the years to come? These projects produce wealth, they bring industry, they bring jobs, and the wealth they bring brings wealth to other sections of the United States...As this State's income rises, so does the income of Michigan. As the income of Michigan rises, so does the income of the United States. A rising tide lifts all boats and as Arkansas becomes more prosperous so does the United States and as this section declines so does the United States. So I regard this as an investment by the people of the United States in the United States. Therefore, I take pride in coming here today. I know that 10 years from now, if we come back again, flying as we did over the land, that we will see an even richer State, and I think you can take pride and satisfaction in what you have done. I appreciate the fact that we have had this opportunity to join together in dedicating this project, in committing it to the service of the people of Arkansas and to the service of the people of the United States. This project, and others like it, I think, must be developed in this decade, so that the United States will continue to be the most beautiful and best country in the world." President John F. Kennedy, Heber Springs Arkansas, 1963


Ship Wreck by PhotoRee

The quote," A rising tide lifts all boats" is from a speech President John Kennedy gave in 1963. Apparently he was not its creator. Yet, it stuck and has been used by Democrats and Republicans alike to push macroeconomic growth. To me, being innately and sometimes nauseatingly philosophical, it has a Zen or metaphysical quality. Republicans generally use the quote to defend tax cuts and benefits to the wealthy. Democrats to show that they are also for growth and to build support for government programs that assist economic growth. I believe it to mean that if I support my neighbor in his life's endeavors and he supports mine -- both our boats will be lifted because we will ultimately be part of a community borne forward by the rising tide. I know this is incredibly naïve. What if I don't like my neighbor's endeavor nor he mine? Herein lies the challenge.

We all want to believe that we are fair and open-minded. However, our vested interests, be they commercial or personal, inevitably get in the way. We, unwittingly, can become jaded, biased and unreasonable based on our associations, business interests or prejudices. Many of us waste precious time and energy being obstructionists, petit inquisitors or stalking horses for our churches, businesses or organizations. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Individually, probably not. Collectively it can lead to ruin.

When one looks to history for answers to this conundrum there are many shining examples. For me, the most immediate and compelling is the Presidency of Franklin Roosevelt and his and his administrations handling of the Great Depression and the Fascist threat. My grandfather was a Roosevelt Administration appointee as head of the Texas Gulf Coast region of the Office of Price Administration. The OPA was established during World War II to oversee price controls on commodities and rents and to administer the rationing of rubber, coffee, automobiles, nylon, sugar, metals and many other things that were in short supply during the war. Most were absolutely necessary to feed the war machine. As a kid it seemed wherever I went with my Granddad we were treated with great deference. We got preferential treatment at the shoe store, the filling station, restaurants, the grocery store and on and on. He had assisted in getting extra sugar here, a set of tires there, lowered rent or extra ration stamps for someone in need -- he was an integral part of the miracle that was the home front during World War II. The country came together, not always easily or uncoerced, not always without a fight or rancorous debate, but we ultimately came together for a common purpose and we prevailed.

The leader and facilitator of America's success was President Franklin Roosevelt in partnership with the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt is the archetype, good or evil, for a modern Progressive, Liberal Democrat. His wife was the precursor and model for all the Liberal female activists that followed. My Grandfather was a rabid Conservative Republican. After Roosevelt he voted for Eisenhower, Goldwater and Nixon. He cried openly when Roosevelt died and spoke of him always with great admiration and affection. Why, because FDR brought in the tide that lifted everyone's boat.

When I would get extra candy and comic books from the shoe salesman or my Granddad and I would get the best table and the best service in a restaurant or when we didn't have to wait in line at the grocery store -- it wasn't because these folks were recognizing a fellow Republican or repaying a debt, most of them were Democrats -- Texas used to be a Democratic state, no, they were simply acknowledging their gratitude and seeking connection to a time when labels, ideologies, prejudices and self-interest were trumped by common purpose and shared sacrifice.

I believe a rising tide lifting all boats happens when we are, not in the same boat, but consciously part of the same tide. This does not mean blindly or unquestioningly following or supporting a political candidate, an organization, a movement or an even an idea, it simply requires being aware of our shared circumstance and thinking and reacting as a member of the larger community.

The impetus for the tide may originate in Washington or a State Capital however the soul of a country lives out in its towns and cities. The key to lifting all our boats depends upon how we, as neighbors, see our relationship to each other and our community. As my friend Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Jimmy Dale is not yet aware of our friendship, put it, "You're just a wave, not the water."

Check Jimmie out below:

Kevin is (writing about yourself in the third person (illeism) is a trip) an artist/writer/carpenter and frustrated songwriter living in Johnson City, Texas. His latest frustrating songwriting attempt is titled, "I Touched the Hand That Touched the (more...)
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