If writing a letter to all of Arizona seems pretty presumptuous to you, I’m right there with you. I wrote most of this in February, called some good friends and asked them to read, comment, and promise not to forward. They did. And then, I procrastinated.
A few weeks ago, I was encouraged by several to follow through. And this is the result of a choice to put this call for common sense in your hands.
I know nowadays that most people don’t read things more than a page long - everything is 30 second sound bites and “tweets”. In this too long email, I’ve poured out my truth, from the heart, because I think it’s time to be bigger than ourselves and reclaim our communities, schools, and government. I hope when you get to the end, like a good book, you’ll feel like it was worth your time and energy. (BTW, it’ll take you less time to read than watching one inning of a D’Backs game and it could be more fun.)
I’m frustrated, big time, by our legislature and political leaders. Our state is headed in the wrong direction and most everyone I know agrees that is so. I’ve shared some of my frustrations and then offered up a way for common sense to be recognized. I hope you’ll join me. I know you have your own frustrations and the action I suggest we all take is intended to provide thousands of us the opportunity to offer solutions to Arizona’s challenges with some heavy doses of common sense.
So, here we go.
In short, while we have some true statesmen, too many of Arizona’s legislators and elected leaders take actions that result in legislation that is silly, self-serving, ill-considered, and, at times, borders on being corrupt. Too few possess common sense, the courage to lead, or are focused on the will of Arizona’s people as their top priority. A man whose business is getting people elected in the state once told me that, “our politicians generally are all nice people to start with and then when they get to the Capitol, they pump all the oxygen out of the room.” For some reason, once elected, our “leaders” become partisan politicians and common sense suddenly becomes uncommon.
There are many, many thousands of Arizonans who feel similarly frustrated. Over the last few years, I’ve heard much of that frustration, felt it, and seen it in initiatives and petitions. I think it’s time we come together and make our voices heard for the good of the common people who makeup what ought to be a wonderful Arizona.
For perspective, I’m a Viet Nam vet, was a long-time Republican (I just recently registered Independent), and am close to retirement at my Beatle age of 64. I’ve been a teacher, coach, principal, and school superintendent, as well as a business owner - all in Arizona over the last 40 years, but it’s only recently that I’ve gotten more forward in advocating for some common sense across our state.
A few years ago, I wrote another too long email calling for Respect for Regular Folks that made the rounds a bit and led to about 2,000 of us addressing the legislature’s desire to drastically cut education funding in 2009. About a year later, I made a fairly naïve and quickly aborted run to be state school superintendent. But I learned.
The most discouraging thing I learned is that the folks that control the Republican Party in Arizona not only don’t support public education, if they had their way, there would be no public education. Zilch, nada, none. This is reflected nationally in the 2012 Republican Party Platform calling for the elimination of the Department of Education.
In my world growing up in Sierra Vista, America was the land of opportunity. It didn’t matter how poor you were (I was) or where you are born, you could succeed. And, education - whether college, trade, vocational, or just a good high school experience—was the key that opened the door to success. But in the last few years, that story is slipping away; and that story, I believe, is foundational to America’s and Arizona’s success.
My Arizona is one where we pull together on big challenges across political, religious, or other differences. I don’t believe in big government and am financially conservative -- but I believe in common sense more than anything else. I think most people are pretty reasonable and pretty smart. In my Arizona, compromise is not a sin, moderation not evil, and shared communication a necessity. Our politics have become so hateful, divisive, and unproductive. We have to be able to do better than this, don’t we? I think it’s time we insist.
I was born in West Virginia, so I like to joke that perhaps I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But, I do have strong foundational values and I know when they’re being violated; as do you. I simply can no longer see how our children, families, and communities are a priority in our politics. What civilization is great that does not make its children a priority? Presently, Arizona does not.
The well-being of our children and their education is the driver of economic opportunity and innovation. It is also the heartbeat of our communities - the place where we not only gain skills and knowledge but also about what makes us different and connects us. Our legislators and leaders don’t seem to get it, don’t care, or are so heavily corrupted by high concentrations of money and power that they no longer reflect a government that is of, by, and for the people.
So, I come back to Choices. We really can make a Choice and insist on some common sense. The greatest waterfall in the world starts with a single drop of water. You are the single drop. Each of us are one single drop. Together we can change the story of Arizona and show how, when folks with common sense pull together, anything is possible.