A4 THE HAYS DAILY NEWS OPINION WEDNESDAY, JuNE2l,aooe Flag etiquene Time for an eye-opening appointment Congress should not alter Constitution to 'protect' the flag N ot that we might have more salient issues to debate. But since the Senate soon is to weigh in on whether to amend the Constitution for the 28th time in our nation's storied history, we thought we'd wave our own flag as well. At stake is nothing less than the'pro- tection of our country's flag. Specifically, a measure that moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week reads: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." The full Senate will vote on these words sometime this month (and it's expected to pass), followed by the House of Representatives (where it's expected to pass as well), with the president ready to sign into law this supposed hot-button topic of national concern. We do not believe there is any justification for such modification to the U.S. Constitution. We do not see rampant flag-burning or trampling taking place throughout these 50 United States. And even if we did, such behavior does not rise to the level of voting rights, religious expression, procedural matters of the federal government, etc., that the originating document has been changed for in the past. In fact, enacting language the current proposal offers is in direct conflict with the free speech clause of the First Amendment. The last time a "Flag Protection Act" was made law was in 1989. The Supreme Court struck it down within a year because even flag-burning is protected free speech. And we have laws to cover all aspects of our national banner. It's called the United States Code. In face, Title 4, Chapter 1 of said code is titled "The Flag." The chapter covers what the flag should look like, how it should be folded, where and when It should be displayed, proper display of respect and so on. Paragraph 10 even outlines: "Any rule or custom pertaining to the display of the flag of the United States of America, set forth herein, may be altered, modified, or repealed, or additional rules with respect thereto may be prescribed, by the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, whenever he deems it to be appropriate or desirable; and any such alteration or additional rule shall be set forth in a proclamation." So we have in place a mechanism to change any of our traditions. The only area that is not touched on is punishment for violating this code; that's left up to the individual states — as it should be. So why is Congress obsessed with flag desecration? It's unfortunate because many Americans, including our elected representatives, would rather protect some symbol than protect the freedom it represents. We will be told it's "patriotic" to be In favor of such a constitutional amendment. Never mind we won't even define "desecration." (If you follow the U.S. Code, you'd know that President George Bush should not autograph flags for kids. You shouldn't display the flag on your automobile other than on the right fender or directly mounted to the chassis — which would make illegal every one of those magnetic red-white-and-blue ribbons adorning our bumpers and trunks.) This measure strikes us as nothing more than a feel-good, election-year hot button that needs no pushing. Seriously, we do have more pressing business at hand. Editorial by Patrick Lowry plowry0dallynews.net I returned home last week from one of the best vacations I've had In a long time. In fact, I thought about extending my trip a little longer. But I had an appointment — one of those you have to schedule weeks in advance, and if you cancel it, you don't know when you can get another one. So I came home and dug out my appointment card, just to make sure I got to the appointment on time. My appointment was at 2:15 p.m. But when I arrived, there was a woman ahead of me. Her appointment card said 2:15 p.m. also. I didn't think too much about that. Perhaps, I thought, they schedule more than one person for the same appointment time. However, the receptionist, who is also the appointment scheduler, had a look of consternation on her face. Her computer indicated the woman's appointment was in July. It wasn't just the month that was wrong, however. The dates didn't match either. The receptionist checked the computer to see If the woman had had an appointment on that date in.June last year. No. I went ahead and sat down. The receptionist apologized for the mistake and asked the woman if she needed to see the person in charge that day, or could she come back another day? The woman hesitated. Lowering her voice, she said she had a problem that needed to be addressed that day, if possible. The receptionist smiled. "Well, you go ahead and sit down, and we'll see what we can do," she said. The woman sat down a few seats away from me. A few minutes later, I heard the receptionist talking to the person in charge. "It's my mistake," she said. "I don't know what happened, but somehow I got the date down wrong. Is there any way we can work her hi?" I heard murmurings but couldn't UnnAnn Huntlnoton LOCAL VOICED make out what was being said. About that time two other people entered the office. One woman knew the lady with the mixed-up appointment. The two of them began talking. The woman sitting near me never mentioned the problem with the appointment. If she had any concerns about how long she might have to wait, she never let on. I glanced at my watch. I really didn't have anything pressing to attend to the rest of the day Perhaps I should tell the receptionist that the woman could have my appointment, and I would come back another day But perhaps the woman would think I was invading her privacy. I hadn't meant to eavesdrop. It was just a small office, and I couldn't help overhearing. But then they called my name, and I went In for my appointment. I don't know what happened with the other woman. But that incident has stayed on my mind ever since. I think one reason is I so admire the receptionist for the way she handled the situation. When she realized her mistake, she apologized to the woman. But then she did more. She tried to make things right. Yes, she was puzzled and concerned as to how the mistake happened. But she turned her immediate attention to taking care of the woman's problem. Owning up to one's mistakes and trying to set things right — that's just the way I would try to handle things, I thought smugly as I drove home that day Then I thought of the other woman. She didn't get angry. She didn't seem upset. She calmly carried tin a conversation with an acquaintance who was totally unaware of the situation, and she never said anything about the mix-up. She just waited patiently for the situation to be resolved. Would I have reacted that way In her situation? I winced. Suddenly I could recall more than one situation where a salesclerk, or a waitress, or a secretary made a mistake that inconvenienced me or my family and I responded in a loud, critical way — telling everyone within earshot that I expected better service. On more than one occasion I was probably justified in feeling irritated. But my ranting usually did not make me feel any better. Instead It usually left me with a knotted stomach and a sour disposition for the rest of the day. It occurred to me there were two people in that office that day that I admired — the receptionist who took responsibility for her error and the woman who graciously and patiently waited for the problem to be resolved. In a day and age when road rage regularly makes the headlines and people (including me) get bent out of shape If they have to wait more than five minutes at the drive-through window, this woman's calmness and serenity impressed me. Patience has never been one of my strong suits, and perhaps I need to change that. I'm glad I kept my appointment that day _ well, sort of. The incident has given me a lot to ponder. I hope that in the future, if a similar situation arises, I won't hesitate. I hope that I'll step forward, smile and say, "Why don't you take my appointment time?" Linn Ann Huntington is a longtime journalism educator who lives and works In Hays. The editorials represent the opinion and institutional voice of The Hays Daily News but are signed by the author for the reader's information. Guest editorials are from other newspapers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Hays Daily News. Other content on this page represents the views of the signed columnist, cartoonist or letter-writer. The Opinion Page is intended to be a community forum. Guest editorials and syndicated columnists are selected to present a variety of opinion. We're all aware that the cost of health care continues to increase, which keeps many Kansans from getting the quality care they need and deserve. There are a variety of reasons for the increase in health costs, but one of them is the huge proportion of healthcare dollars being spent on administrative costs. Thirty cents of every health-care dollar goes to paperwork. In Kansas, that adds up to over $3 billion every year that isn't spent on caring for patients. Kansas is working to change that by using technology to reduce administrative costs and reduce the chances of harmful medical errors. One of the best examples of the need for new thinking in health care can be found in our wallets. Most of us have ATM and credit cards that we can use quickly and easily anywhere in the world. Compare this to your health insurance card, which usually carries no information beyond what is printed on the card itself. The physical copying of health insurance cards when you go to the doctor costs time and money, and it increases the likelihood of errors, which then cost more time and money. COMMENTARY There's no reason the same technology that's used on billions of ATM and credit cards can't be used on health insurance cards. That's why we're working with health-care providers and business leaders to create an electronic health insurance card that would reduce costs and reduce the chance for errors to citizens. The use of "smart cards" also will reduce the need for duplicative tests and provide a doctor with important information in order to be more fully informed about your medical history, such as alerting her to the potential for harmful drug interactions. This is part of a broad initiative we have under way to use technology to provide more affordable, higher quality health care for more Kansans, and it's part of our commitment to promoting efficiency in the services Kansans use on a regular basis. Kathleen Sebelius is the Democratic governor of Kansas. REALLY WISH SOMETHINGS WEREN'T GETTING BACK TO NORMAL, Gates sets example for hundredaires Reader Forum Let's also teach abstinence from other things as well The 6-4 vote for teaching sexual abstinence in public schools reflects the rural-urban split among the state board of education members. (Is Hutch inson rural or urban?) This doesn't reflect a religious divide so much as it does a social one. The four board members who voted against teaching abstinence "before marriage" have given up on such teaching in the face of certain social realities. (In this case they are the more realistic.) In urban public schools, undesirable social-sexual behaviors even are more difficult to control than in rural schools, where "family values" are (perhaps) more likely to prevail. I think teaching sexual abstinence during children's high school years is desirable. But teaching abstinence from the use of alcoholic beverages during the same time in life is desired just as much. Often the problems associated with "premature" sexual behavior are coupled with the premature use of alcoholic beverages. To try to promote sexual abstinence "until marriage" as a worthy ideal might have something to recommend it, but this is quite unrealistic. Let's be honest, how many engaged couples, even deeply religious ones, abstain from sex before the "knot is tied"? The people who believe that many do aren't living in yesteryear; they are living in a world that never was, and never will be. The main reason for teaching sexual abstinence to our children until they reach responsible adulthood is the in' verse of the reason for teaching sexual education in our public schools. Until young people have reached the time of maturity when they can take responsibility for their actions knowingly, they should abstain. Too many unwanted, unintentional pregnancies and too much venereal disease caught unknowingly emphasize this point. For those whose religious convictions do include controls on their personal sexual behavior, including abstinence, 1 say more power to you. But this posture hardly appeals to the many who consider themselves truly religious otherwise. All of us should leave off the pretense that there ever has been a norm that precluded sexual behavior before marriage. What there has been, seemingly since the inception of Christianity, is hypocrisy surrounding sexual behavior. With the kind of thinking evidenced by many of the state board of education members, this tendency Isn't likely to abate soon — if ever. GaryJ. Whltesell ?13 W. 21st In the first place, I never knew Bill Gates was a SpiderMan fan. But his stated reason for transitioning out of day-today responsibilities at Microsoft two years from now to devote his energies to charity work (" ... with great wealth comes great responsibility ... ") comes suspiciously close to the creed by which the Webslinger has lived since 1962: "With great power comes great responsibility" In the second place: Wow. Gates' announcement last week that henceforth he will work full-time with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — founded with his wife in 2000 to confront global health and education issues — has the feel of a potentially seismic shift. Working part time, as it were, Gates has already given or pledged more than $100 million to fight childhood AIDS, $1 billion to fund scholarships for minority students and $750 million to buy vaccines against diphtheria, measles and polio. His work has changed lives and saved them and has earned Gates and his wife — along with Bono, lead singer of U2 — the distinction of being named Time magazine's 2005 Persons of the Year. It boggles the mind to think what Gates might achieve now that good works will be his full-time priority I will leave it to the people in the business section to analyze what his departure portends for the company he co- founded and the marketplace it dominates. I am more intrigued by the bar he raises, the example he sets. Not simply for Gates' fellow multi-billionaires, but also for thousandaires and hundredaires like A community is best served when residents are willing to discuss issues publicly. You can be part of the discussion by participating in the Reader Forum. Please limit your submissions to 600 words. They will be edited for length arid clarity. They must be signed and in- Leonard Pitts COMMENTARY you and me." And here, I should probably mention my mid-life crisis, I will be 50 next year, which makes me two years younger than the world's richest man. So far, I can report that I've had no desire to take a girlfriend half my age or to blow the kids' college fund on a little red sports car. But I do find myself pondering, with an intensity I haven't felt since my 20s, this project we call The Rest of My Life. I mean, if life's first act is about growing up, coming of age, learning the lessons that shape you, and the second is about acquiring things, getting ahead, building a career, shouldn't the third be about something bigger than one's own aspirations and comforts? Shouldn't it be about doing something, leaving something, creating something that makes life better for somebody else? Yeah, I think it should. Which is why I've always been a little envious of people who can write billion- dollar checks. Not for the luxuries and frivolities that kind of money can buy, though that would be fun. What attracts me more, though, is the idea of the burdens you could lift, the conditions you could improve, the educations you could •' ; wipuwwi ,,!mmwi iwpiHf j elude a name, address and daytime telephone number for verification. We reserve the right not to print a submission. We do not accept for publication on the editorial page poems, consumer complaints, business testimonials or give, the diseases you could eradicate, the enlightenment you could bring, the lives you could change. Standing on the doorstep of 50, though, has a way of disabusing a man of his illusions. I am never going to be point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, never going to be lead singer of the Temptations and I'm never going to write a billion-dollar check. Not one that clears the bank, at any rate. Not unless they give me a really, really big raise. It occurs to me, though, that maybe the lesson of Bill Gates' example — for hun- dredaires and thousandaires, at least — lies less in Spider-Man's maxim than in this one: Do what you can, where you are, now. Maybe that's why the Quran says, "Whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind." Maybe it's why the Talmud says, / "Whosoever saves one life, saves the world entire." Maybe it's why the Bible says, "Love one another." 1 can't write a billion-dollar check. But I can paint a fence, mentor a child, maybe even endow a small scholarship. BW Gates has me thinking with fresh energy about those and other things I can do — the responsibility I have — to change my corner of the world. As midlife crises go, that's not a bad one to have. Leonard Pitta la a ootumnW for The Miami Herald. group letters. Mail them to Reader Forum, The Hays Daily News, 507 Main, Hays K8 67601 .You also can send them by (MiwH at readerforMm«<lillynewi,wpt Please include an address and daytime telephone number.
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