Common Good

November 23, 2011

During the first week of July in 1995, I read an editorial by Judith A. Ramaley, president of Portland State University in Oregon, that seems as appropriate for today’s events and public policy environment as it was then. Perhaps even more so.  Ms. Ramaley wrote:

“I used to think that character is how you behave when no one is looking.  For most of us that may still be true.  For public figures, however, character is how you behave when everybody is looking . . .

“. . . Nearly a century ago when President Woodrow Wilson was still a college professor, he said:  ‘A great nation is not led by a man who simply repeats the talk of the street corners or the opinions of the newspaper.  A nation is led by a man who, rather, hearing those things, understands them better, unites them, puts them into common meaning; speaks not the rumors of the street but a new principle for a new age; a man for whom the voices of the nation . . . unite in a single meaning and reveal to him a single vision, so that he can speak what no man else knows, the common meaning of the common voice.’”

As our “modern” nation heads into the heart of yet another election season, with earlier and earlier primaries leaving little separation from the last acrimonious campaigns, it is this quality above all others that I’m seeking to find in the candidates for public office:  the uncommon heart and mind to unite us for the common good.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.