The Role Of Personal Responsibility by Russell Simmons

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    Obama, Former Presidents Commemorate 50th Anniversary Of MLK's March On Washington

    I was recently asked, “Where do you look when you want to improve yourself?” and my answer was simply, “inside.”

    For me, being a better person is all about being a better servant – whether it’s in my business ventures or my support of philanthropic, social or political initiatives that improve the lives of others.

    On the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s historic march, I would like to suggest that most of the people present for the speech that great day in history, as well as today, are present to improve the lives of their children, neighbors, brethren and sistren – as well as themselves.

    If we are to look to improve the next generation, we must spend less time judging them and more time changing structural or systematic problems that have become their obstacles.  In saying this, I note that the sons and daughters of bankers wear the same hoodies and low-cut jeans as the kids who some among us are preaching to.  They don’t get busted because they’re in gated communities, inside and outside our cities.  And I’m going to quote, not a rap poet, but an icon of the rock era, David Bowie writing in 1971, to show how consistent this message has been over the decades.

    And these children that you spit on

    As they try to change their worlds

    Are immune to your consultations

    They’re quite aware what they’re going through

    Today, as Dr. King did 50 years ago, we are asking our leaders to look at what they can do to improve the lives of their supporters.

    Let me humbly suggest a few things that I am dedicated to that our leadership can address or in most cases, re-address. The school to prison pipeline must be imploded, as we should the direct shipment of children from under-funded schools to over-crowded prison.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 must be restored after the Supreme Court showed they are willing to make it more difficult to vote than to buy an assault weapon.  The criminal justice system needs to be cleaned of its policies that allow the police and strangers to profile young black men.  Our planet must be treated with kindness and compassion and no longer destroyed by multi-national greedy corporations trying to stuff their oily pockets with gold.  The wealth gap between the rich and the poor should not be increasing, especially the gap between whites and blacks.  And lastly, and certainly not least, if we are to cure the disease that is Washington, DC, let’s get the money out of politics and overturn the Citizen’s United verdict that has allowed for increased legal bribery of our politicians by selfish wealthy people and their businesses.

    As for most of us who are just citizens here is a historical tidbit, at the end of the Million Man March, there were tens of thousands of applicants for the NAACP, the Urban League, and thousands of other community organizations who got great new supporters.  Each one of us can join an organization and make a difference, and for those who think they are suffering or need help themselves, I would like to offer these words of encouragement from Yogic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist scriptures: You can never suffer while relieving the suffering of others.   Put your head down and do the work. And above all, don’t blame the kids who are trying to change the world.

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