Saturday, March 19, 2011

A long way to go...

I'm disappointed. In us.

In 1607, the English established its colony at Jamestown. Many earlier attempts had been made by Europeans in the 16th century, but none took. (And, of course, what would be come to be called our "Native American" population established civilizations well before that.)

But, for the purpose of this discussion, let's begin with Jamestown. Since that time in early 17th century, we've come a long way by some measures. Big cities, huge skyscrapers, interstate highways, airports, and trips that would take many months to make by ox and wagon now take but a few hours by air.

While we've come a long way in structures, mechanics and, obviously, technology, alas, we still lag horribly in the real measure of progress: being truly civilized.

Throughout the world, bigotry still exists.

Look through history (and, even, religious texts), and bigotry is a central theme -- with the urging that we rid ourselves of it and treat others as we would treat ourselves and as we would want to be treated.

And here in Kansas, bigotry and the abandonment of civilized approaches raises itself again.

Rep. Virgil Peck, a Republican from Tyro, suggests -- he says he was joking -- that we should treat illegal immigrants like feral pigs by shooting them from helicopters.

He, and others, serve as an important reminder of just how far we have NOT come. And, as important, how far we still have to go.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The real value of money...

I've never worked for money.

Good friend and my main mentor, Ed Johnson, editor of The Gainesville Sun at the time, would tell Joyce when I got a raise. He knew that I'd never looked at my paycheck, didn't care, because it went straight to her. Always has.

I also joke, but it's true, about the time I went to work for the Associated Press in Miami. As I was walking out the door for my first day on the new job, Joyce said: "Don't forget to ask 'em how much you make."

Never crossed my mind to ask. It's what I wanted to do, what I needed to do. And I was confident that we'd have enough to live on. Nothing lavish, of course. (But one great benefit was that our apartment was next to a restaurant -- a crab shack -- that was wonderfully "lavish," if "lavish" is eating off old newspapers, which we did often there, and where the garlicky fragrances of the "shack" always wafted throughout our apartment in south Miami.)

Four times in my career (including the AP job), I've taken significant pay cuts to do what I thought was best for my career and my family (including, the biggest cut of all, when I came to the University of Kansas to join the faculty at the journalism school).

Shoot, I've even taken nothing!

Each year, the Social Security Administration sends a reminder of my earnings throughout my career. For 1993, taxable income earned that year is zero. Yep, nothing. Nil. Nada.

What a great year that was!

I had left a great job that paid well -- my dream job really -- as executive editor of The Gainesville Sun. But I had decided that teaching was what I wanted to do. And, yes, as sappy as it may sound, the main motivation was that I wanted to try to give a younger generation of journalists the same passion for journalism that I have always had and was instilled in me by folks like Ed Johnson.

So, I gave notice and, a few months later, started graduate school at my alma mater, The University of Florida.

That year proved to be many things, but mostly about renewal (and the loss of retirement savings) with absolutely no regrets.

I encourage each of my students to find a passion and follow it. That's what I've done. And I've virtually loved every day of work. And, I am confident, my family was better for it, too.

Simply put, it ain't work if you love what you do.

It's why I haven't retired -- and am struggling with the thought of retirement -- because I still love going to work every day.

And that's the biggest paycheck you can receive.