The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 17, 1995 · Page 4
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 4

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Wednesday, May 17, 1995
Page 4
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A4 Wednesday, May 17,1995 the VIEWPOINTS The Salina Journal Salina Journal C_«.|AA t/«n«n« *>Inr.A < Ot 1 ^™^^ Serving Kansas since 1B71 HARRIS RAYL, Publisher GEORGE B. PYLE, Editorial Page Editor SCOTT SEIRER, Executive Editor JIM HAAG, Assistant Editor BEN WEARING, Deputy Editor TIM FITZGERALD, Sports Editor BRET WALLACE, Associate Editor MARY JO PROCHAZKA, Associate Editor BRAD CATT, Associate Editor Editorial Opinion Putting talent to use Ex-presidents can still serve the nation H arry Truman, as usual, was way ahead of his time with an idea that we should return to now. In addition to working for racial integration in the military — which was achieved — and promoting the idea of national health insurance — which was frustrated by the same forces that stand against it today — Truman noted and spoke out on one of the greatest wastes of talent in America. Ex-presidents, Truman said even before he was one, have a lot of knowledge and experience that we tend to discard the moment after a president's successor is inaugurated. And that is a shame. True, some presidents will ask the advice of their predecessors, as Kennedy did of Truman and Eisenhower, as Clinton has even done of Nixon and Reagan. But, for the most part, former presidents are put out to pasture, sitting like Disney automatons in their presidential libraries, waiting for someone to ask them a question. Former members of Congress are likewise often retired to uselessness or, worse to become lobbyists, selling their insight and access to the highest bidder. It is time to come up with a more official use for former officeholders. Truman's idea was that ex-presidents should receive lifetime, nonvoting seats in the Senate. There they could speak and argue in the best sense of the Constitution's charge that the Senate advise and consent to major presidential actions. That might be more than the Senate would be willing to swallow. But some way to put that talent to use would seem in order in a day when so many members of the Senate, instead of having the wisdom that comes with having been president, are weighed down with the baggage of trying to become the president. Ex-presidents, with nothing left to prove and no voters, pollsters or money-bags lobbyists to impress, would be more likely to give sage advice for the good of the nation. Witness Jimmy Carter's many ventures into peace-making all around the world and, more recently, George Bush's principled resignation from the National Rifle Association. Both men, without the need to raise money or satisfy various interest groups, are free to serve a higher purpose. Sen. Howell Heflin of Alabama has made a proposal that is the germ of a very good idea. He says the Senate Ethics Committee should be made up of ex-senators — people who know the real and the idea of life in the Senate but are released from any obligation to curry favor among senators or those who seek to influence them. Such a committee might be trusted, both by the people and by senators, to pass judgment on ethical matters involving the behavior of individual senators. Maybe a former president or two could join a joint congressional ethics committee, which could break the horrible logjams that have long held up meaningful campaign finance reform and clear bounds of ethical behavior. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, especially when it holds so much and has been freed of much weight. Commencement season opens Enough going forth into the world I t is commencement season. Last winter I foolishly agreed to make a commencement speech. Winter is when they get you for commencement speeches. In winter it's hard to believe in commencement. Winter is not a commencing time of year. In a good old Middle Atlantic winter it is only natural to believe nothing will ever commence again. The hunters who go after commencement speakers know this. So they strike in winter. The phone rings, a letter comes. Will you come in faraway May and make a commencement speech? Imagine! You — you of all people! — are invited to be a commencement speaker! Learned campus authorities want you — you! — to send their young produce forth into the world on commencement day. The honor is almost irresistible. And since May will probably never come, it's unlikely a speech will actually have to be given. Even if May should come, in the meantime you might get lucky and die and not have to make the speech. All this I know from long experience. Many times have I agreed in dead of winter to make commencement speeches. So far I have yet to get lucky and die before time to make the speech. Am I an incredibly slow learner or just a cockeyed optimist? Once again May has, in fact, come. The probability must be faced. What is to be said to American youth this year as it goes forth into the world? At the start of my commencement- speech career I labored under the influence of Gen. George Marshall, who took the occasion of a Harvard commencement to propose the Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of Europe. Lacking Marshall's position — he was secretary of state when he spoke at Harvard — I had to limit my commencement scope. Unqualified to propose plans for rebuilding other continents that were in bad shape, I confined myself to calls for the commencing young to go forth into the world and serve their country as nobly as Marshall had. Then, went the peroration, each of them, too, might one day propose something as noble as the Marshall Plan. It was the poet Ezra Pound who put an end to this phase of my commencement career. He turned up without THE OBSERVER Russell Baker THE NEW YORK TIMES warning as an honored guest at a commencement I had promised to harangue at Hamilton College. What to do? There was no time to revise the speech, to say something that wouldn't sound absurd to a man so finicky about words that he had edited T.S. Eliot for taste. I did what had to be done. I exhorted Ezra Pound to go forth into the world and do good works. Several years passed before I could face the commencing public again. In that time the world had gone noticeably downhill. It seemed logical to blame this decline on the hordes of commencing students we had been sending forth into the world spring after spring. Obedient to the command of thousands of commencement orators, they had been going forth into the world, all right, but had not been doing good. I resumed commencement speaking with a new theme. Instead of urging commencers to go forth, I pleaded against it, begging them not to go forth into the world. It had once been a very good world, thanks to the genius, toil and magnificent character of persons my age. Lately, however, it had become a highly unsatisfactory world, as an apparently endless stream of new generations went forth into it. Since this constant going forth of commenced persons was making a terrible mess of the world, I begged them to stop going forth. Many heeded the plea and moved back in with mom and dad. This has earned me many cruel letters from moms and dads. Some express threats. These must be taken seriously nowadays in view of the national dyspepsia resulting, no doubt, from the excessive going forth of recent commencers. The gist of these threats is that unless I resume urging graduates to go forth I had better give up commencement speeches. This I am perfectly willing to do. I never wanted to give commencement speeches to begin with, and never would if they didn't come after you in winter. Now here it is — May already, and still alive. And not an idea in the world. DMA DMA DEFINITELY NOT Figure out who you are while you still can T o: The Salina South and Central High Graduating Classes of '95. Dear graddies: You're probably wondering what to do first. Should you open cards and shake out checks from relatives who haven't seen you since you pooped in diapers? Should you spend tons of time with your friends because you may never see them again? Should you hug your dog (or cat or fish or snake) and try to avoid all the responsibility that is sitting around a corner, waiting to strap itself to your back? Here's what I think you should do: Take a half-hour out of your busy schedule and think about who you are. You can take notes if you want, but it isn't necessary. Just sit in your room, turn off Pearl Jam and think about your beliefs. .Because The Real World is a scary place. Whether you enter the work force or go off to college, there will be a lot of busybodies and loudmouths telling you that your beliefs are wrong. They'll try to swing you over to their side. Five years ago, my first day at the University of Kansas, I hadn't yet learned where the propaganda gauntlet was located. So I walked right into it. Students lined up in rows and pushed fliers into my hand. Those fliers screamed that I was going to hell, that it was OK to be aware of your sexuality and that pizza was better than burgers. It was shocking, having all these beliefs and ideas thrown at me. I wasn't prepared for it. SPEAKING ENGLISH Dan England THE SALINA JOURNAL My mind swirled around for months as I tried to decide just what I believed. I hadn't really ever thought about it before. You probably haven't either. That's OK. Almost all of you have lived in a home where many decisions were made for you. Decisions you didn't even know had to be made. That time is almost over. College campuses and the workplace were hot spots for expressing yourself long before talk radio became such a hit. Now that this country seems to be catching up, I'm sure both places will take it a step further. Groups will look even harder for new converts. They'll try to suck you in with all the subtlety of a super-charged vacuum. They'll look at your wrinkled brows and your frightened eyes and nudge one another as two leopards would after they spot an injured gazelle. But if you know what you believe, you won't be nearly as scared. The anxiety that you will experience doesn't come solely from being in a new location where you don't know anyone. It conies from not being comfortable with yourself. And how can you be comfortable with yourself if you don't even know who you are? College or the work force is promoted as a time for figuring yourself out. That's true only to a degree. It's not a time of discovery. It's a time to question what you already believe. I've never seen someone who called themselves a conservative walk out of college a bleeding-heart liberal. But I have seen people change their minds about certain issues. Too many times I've seen those fresh out of high school absorb everything they're told. Pretty soon, they're the walking dead. They have no fresh ideas. They can't speak for themselves. They're just wormfeed. How do you think Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich got started? We don't need any more zombies. We need people who know what they believe, challenge themselves and throw propaganda back into the gauntlet. We need leaders, not tape-recording followers who recite and believe everything that they hear. I especially don't want it to happen to you. You've inspired me more than you could imagine. I've made friends with some wonderful people in your classes. , . Actors. Musicians. Leaders of the future. ; I'll carry you with me always. So please, hang up your phone for just, a second, stop writing all those thank- you cards and think about who you are. I know what you're thinking: But, Dan, I don't know who I am. Maybe that's because you never asked. Warm regards, Dan England P.S. Class of '90 Rules! Hunters from a different time and place S ometimes, when the sun lies orange and low on the Kansas horizon, my thoughts reflect upon a time many years ago, a time that produces surrealistic images in my mind. For within my six-foot-five-inch frame rests the memories of moments that no one can dissect from my soul. There, deep-rooted feelings are embedded with emotions universal — feelings of warmth, togetherness, family, and love. It was a simpler time by a mile. No videos, CD's, microwaves or computers. Heck, we barely knew what a color TV was. Milk was delivered to your door in bottles by a milkman. And someone actually pumped gas into your car for you at a service station. Drugs, gangs and murders were something that took place in big cities. It would be years before mankind would set foot on the moon. The Beatles were kids, and the songs they sang were about wanting to hold a girl's hand. But there we were — two hunters, sitting high on the slick cloth seats, squinting across the lateral lines of land and vertical shafts of gold. The wheat which resides in the fields moves and sways with the wind — rustling with a high- pitched whistle of sorts. As the sun begins to set, shadows form. Not dark, but subtle shadows dancing across the ground. At times like these, movement is the most difficult to detect. The hunters' CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Tom Wilbur FOR THE SALINA JOURNAL eyes can be deceitful, and play tricks — teasing and taunting them to make their move — to blow their advantage. It's a green, four-door Oldsmobile. A Hummer for its day. Large and powerful, its 440 horses lean into the wind anticipating the signal from the accelerator above. Even though the sun continues to pummel the earth with unbearable heat, cool breezes jet forth from within the cockpit of the craft. The air conditioner's been set on max and it provides welcome relief to these big-game, prairie hunters. Shhh! Quiet now. "Grandpa, there he goes," squeals the youngster. As the jackrabbit races down the road, Grandpa sets the wheels of the Olds in motion, churning and kicking gravel from the dirt road high into the air. A cloud of dust rises as Grandpa honks the horn, the car reverberating from its blaring, piercing blasts. The poor jack leaps and bounds its way lickety split down the road for a while, and then dashes to the safety of the brush near the corner. You can only see its ears for a few more moments, and just as quickly as it appears, it's gone. "Wow, Grandpa, that was great!" Grandpa smiles a lot, and when things , are really exciting he lets out a "Woof!" like a big ole Spaniel. Grandpa barks twice more, and we laugh. The hunters will put on their stalking faces again in a bit, and get ready for . the next hunt. It'll be better — the next time. Better still, because they're together — laughing, wrestling, and carrying • on, and when I turned my back, he was gone. Grandpa Beringer left this world a few years later, in 1970. But he'll never leave my mind, or my heart. As the comic strip "For Better or Worse" said a few weeks ago when Farley the family dog died, "You just never expect a heart that big to stop beating." , Believe me, his heart hasn't. And as long as I have a breath to take, a song to sing or a pen to write, those memories of times spent with my Grandpa will live on — gifts to be shared with my children, and hopefully their children after them. Because I have pictures in my mind, and remembrances galore to share, over and over again. "Woof, woof, Grandpa." • Tom Wilbur is a Salina banker and* a member of the Salina Journal Board of Contributing Editors. Doonesbury By G.B. Trudeau LKBNPAKf M 5T&IUZIN6 ASfBiKW NOBOW5AIP ANYTHING ABOUTt&P- IS6ITHAT5 rr-i'M OUTAH8&! TH5H&U. XVAR£... \ EARL, GETTING \OURFIf&T 7ATJOO15 AH IMPORTANT KTfB OFMfiNHOOP! 00 WU THIHKlRAJSePYOUTO BCAUIMP* INSt&FOP. T&IMIN- UTK! WJ&K& £&> QUIT*

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