Bigotry – you have to be carefully taught (from “South Pacific’)

I shall let our friend Keith’s words speak for themselves, for he makes the case far more eloquently than I could …


I have often cited these words, but the following is from a post I wrote several years ago. I repeat it hear due to its relevance today.

For those of you who have seen the play or movie “South Pacific” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, you may recognize part of the title as a pivotal song in the story – “You’ve Got to be CarefullyTaught.” The play involves a woman who falls in love with someone and then realizes his children are half islanders. She has a hard time coming to grips with her bigotry as according to the song, we are not born hating; hatred has to be carefully taught. A sample of Hammerstein’s lyrics follow:

“You’ve got to be taught, to hate and fear. You’ve got to be taught, from year to year. It’s got to be drummed in your dear little head. You’ve got to be…

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Good People Doing Good Things — Little Things Mean a Lot

Ever notice how, as a general rule, it’s the people who have the least that give the most?  I find that both inspiring, but also depressing, for what if every single millionaire/billionaire decided to give 10% of their net wealth to humanitarian causes every year?  There would be no more poverty!  But anyway, that isn’t how the world works, but today I am bringing you two young people who are giving of themselves.  Today I’m focusing on young people, for it is they who hold the keys to the future of this planet.  If we teach our children the importance of caring for others from a very young age, then there are no boundaries for how far they might take those lessons.  Today, I will introduce to you two young people, both from Louisville, Kentucky, whose parents obviously began teaching this lesson as early as they could.

Andrew DunnMeet Andrew Dunn.  Andrew is 14 years of age and lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he has made a big difference in his community.  In 2012, when Andrew was in fifth grade, his parents gave him an advent calendar which required him to perform one act of kindness a day in order to receive a present.  From December 1st thru the 25th that year, Andrew thought up and performed small acts of kindness, and by the end of Advent, Andrew was so caught up in the spirit of giving, of doing, that he didn’t want to stop.  So he didn’t!

Andrew didn’t want to have all the fun, however, he wanted to share the joy of doing small kindnesses, of putting a smile on someone’s face, so he started his project that is called Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Louisville.  RAK is a social movement with the goal of creating a community where service activities are the norm.  It started small, just Andrew and a few friends doing little things like mowing a lawn, making a food box, etc.  While the movement has grown, Andrew’s ultimate goal is for RAK Louisville to become an integral part of every single one of the Jefferson County Public Schools, the schools that serve students in Louisville.

RAK Louisville’s mission is to make service and acts of kindness a part of Louisville’s culture, by removing barriers to service, such as age, fear of doing projects alone, or not knowing where to start. Andrew and the RAK team design monthly challenges that highlight a need in the community. The organization partners with nonprofits in the city to create service events. Andrew has partnered with organizations, such as The Forgotten Louisville, Furniture for the Forgotten, and The Burrito Riders to serve immediate needs in Louisville, such as collecting, delivering, and providing services and goods for transitioning homeless families and veterans in Louisville. Through these partnerships, RAK Louisville has provided over 3,100 breakfast burritos to homeless individuals, along with 250 food boxes to people transitioning into housing after homelessness. One of their bigger projects was organizing a Thanksgiving dinner for 168 homeless people.Andrew Dunn-3Last year, Andrew’s good works came to the attention of Nickelodeon’s HALO awards.  HALO stands for “helping and leading others,” and honors teens making a difference in their communities. In 2017, Andrew was one of four teens so honoured.  As part of that honour, RAK Louisville received a check for $20,000 and Andrew received a $10,000 scholarship.  And just this month, Andrew was chosen as an Everyday Young Hero by Youth Service America (YSA).

Anna-Maria BeckIt was through Andrew that I met today’s second good person, Anna-Maria Beck.  Anna-Maria was only 7-years-old when she was first diagnosed with brain cancer.  All in all since that day, she has undergone no less than twelve surgeries on her brain, and eight rounds of chemotherapy.  Anna-Maria spent hours upon hours sitting in doctors’ waiting rooms and chemo clinics, but she didn’t spend those hours feeling sorry for herself, saying “Why me?”, or indulging in self-pity.  Nope … Anna-Maria spent that time thinking … thinking about how she could make a positive difference for the other patients she saw there.

“Sitting as a patient in a hard, uncomfortable chair, my emotions and ideas overwhelmed and prompted me to take action.”

Anna-Maria Beck-Mitch McConnellSince she loved baking and sweets, Anna-Maria decided to hold a bake sale at her school. Joined by friends, schoolmates and family members, she spent a whole week baking and raised $8,000 in a single day for a pediatric oncology clinic. Subsequent sales more than doubled that amount. In 2014, she shared her story at the Norton Children’s Hospital’s annual fund-raising dinner, which raised nearly $400,000 for the hospital. Recently, Anna-Maria traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress on behalf of young cancer patients, and has recruited a third of her school’s student body to participate in a dance marathon that will raise money for clinic needs and research.  Whew!!!  This young woman puts me to shame!!!

Andrew and Anna-Maria shared the stage in May 2017 when they were both honored in the nation’s capital for their outstanding volunteer service during the 22nd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Anna-Maria and Andrew – along  with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Both were interviewed by John Ramsey of Louisville’s Wave3 NBC-affiliate television station … take a look …

These two young people are doing good things … small things?  Sure, they are not moving mountains … yet.  Check back in ten years or so, and you might just see a mountain shifting slightly to the left.  But their hearts are in the right place, and they are shining examples of what we need our next generation to be.  My hat is off to both of these young people, but also to their parents, teachers and community that taught them to be humanitarians first.  Our friend Keith often quotes a few lines from a song in the old movie South Pacific …

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear
You’ve got to be taught from year to year
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade
You’ve got to be carefully taught

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You’ve got to be carefully taught

Maybe … just maybe … it works the other way too, yes?