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Why the Bailout is a Bandaid

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This piece started as a comment on the bailout plan. But then I saw that just about everything I wanted to say was being said by others, an embarrassing number of whom were better versed on the subject than I. 

Yesterday I gave a speech to 500 high school kids in Seattle. The 20 minute speech was about service and selflessness, about working hard and taking risks to solve public problems. I told those kids that they would add meaning to their own lives by making life better for others.

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I hit a chord with that speech. Those kids leaned forward in their chairs. They listened. Afterwards they cheered.

Driving home, I realized that what I’d just told those teenagers was what was missing in the national debate on the bailout. No offense to this country’s leadership, but some things are just true at any age. How did we get into this mess except by the near-absence of a concept of working for the common good?

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What needs to change in America is not the just the policies and rules. Leaving it there is sticking on a band-aid.  What needs to change is us.

I wish I could give this speech on the floor of the Stock Exchange and in Congress. Those people need to hear it more than the kids do. Here it is. Send it to a politician or financier or CEO that you know:

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University Prep, Seattle WA September 24, 2008

Speech by John Graham

Ask yourself this question: What do I care about? Family? Girlfriend? Boyfriend? Religious faith? Good grades? Making the team? Earning people’s respect? Perhaps it’s something you can buy?

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John Graham shipped out on a freighter when he was sixteen, took part in the first ascent of Mt. McKinley's North Wall at twenty, and hitchhiked around the world at twenty-two. A Foreign Service Officer for fifteen years, he was in the middle of (more...)
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