Imperfect Patriots

July 12, 2017

Perhaps the most loyal thing a patriot can do for his or her country is to point out its flaws.

Even before this country’s Independence Day, people were at work to form a union that was imperfect at its start and remains so today. Some of its many flaws have been corrected, even as new flaws have been revealed.

We have imperfect patriots to thank for forming this nation and for helping this nation improve itself. Flawed people of conscience and courage have helped a young nation see itself as it was and also as it could become.

Some patriots have been famous, a few infamous, but most unrecorded in any historical account as they lived and labored in ways that improved their local community and, unknowingly, contributed to change they might not have imagined possible, improving everything from race relations to recycling to renewable energy.

This nation’s patriots are not merely those who lived at the birth of this nation. Every generation has had patriots who have been as important for nation-building as those in the 1700s. Patriots are found in and out of government. In homes and places of worship. They are found in the for-profit business world and in nonprofit organizations.

When, out of sincere loyalty, a person brings constructive criticism to a cause, that person helps to build and better the enterprise. It is as true of this imperfect organization as it is of our nation.

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.