By David Anderson
“The youth that comes up, and replaces you will either carry the values that you want them to — or they won’t. And they don’t learn them by themselves — they learn them through EXAMPLE and through MENTORS. That’s what this whole program is about.” Tony Robinson, speaking at the Champions for Youth Breakfast, March, 2011.
Indeed kids do learn values by mentoring – the reason I work with two boys at Woodbrook Middle School through the Communities in Schools program. These two young men and I have discussed integrity, honesty, principle-based decision- making, initiative, perseverance, obstacle-orientation, goal-setting, and resolve. These are values that develop character in kids, and these values-oriented kids then we guide into leadership positions for the future of our community. And since communities should be values-driven, these future leaders then learn the importance of making decisions that reflect those values.
It is also true that kids learn not only by mentoring but also by example. And how ideal when the two – mentoring and example – match.
That’s why it is interesting to watch recent developments in a city near here in contrast to our own.
This past February 22, the City Council of Tukwila banned gambling. Speaking of values and community, and ensuring decisions for the latter match the former, here is an excerpt from a Tukwila Councilmember’s position paper reflecting both the majority opinion as well as articulating those principles: “The short-term pain of loss of revenue will result in a long-term gain for the health and vitality of our city for future generations to come.”
Interesting the context of that statement given Tukwila had the dubious distinction of having within their city limits the top revenue-producing casino in the entire State of Washington in 2010.
Even so, the council stayed true to their values, and made an admittedly tough decision in keeping with those values – anyway.
One of Tukwila’s residents, an educator in public schools, wrote, “Do we really want to count on income that is based on risk and loss? Couldn’t we provide our citizens with forms of entertainment which do not ultimately jeopardize the welfare of families?”
That educator’s question of course is really a statement, one that years ago was similarly emblazoned on the front cover of a book recommended by a member of Lakewood’s Promise Executive Board. Authored by Dr. Suzanne W. Morse, it is entitled, “Smart Communities”, subtitled “How Citizens and Local Leaders Can Use Strategic Thinking to Build a Brighter Future”.
Building for tomorrow often requires forgoing easier options available today – surely a lesson we would want to impart to those we mentor, “The Three Little Pigs” fairy tale illustrating that principle. One saw life as a party; another as a picnic; the third was willing in affect to forego cable TV and invest instead in quality construction materials – the only plan – principle-based – that proved profitable long-term.
Principles – a synonym for which is ‘backbone’ – should be non-negotiable and ultimately will prove to matter more than short-term preferences.
Perhaps borrowing on the third-little-pig’s principle, Carl H. Neu, Jr., Director of the Center for the Future of Local Governance, observed that this “exercising (of) wisdom, judgment and courage to be stewards of the quality of the community’s future” will be tested as to the council’s (and mentee’s) will and commitment to what is “great and exciting, rather than (a) ‘good enough’ future.”
“People expect their leaders to stand for something and they expect them to have the courage of their convictions,” write Kouses and Posner in their book “The Leadership Challenge” adding, “The first milestone on the journey to leadership credibility is clarity of personal values.”
Personal values and example. Indeed they do matter. Especially when they match. David Anderson