None of This is New

October 31, 2011

Those commenting on national affairs keep saying that our political processes are too polarized to get anything done; but political parties were every bit as divided in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries as they are today, and public debate was even more strident than the lack of civility we see today.

The grilling of Supreme Court nominees, Wall Street bankers and British Petroleum executives can seem sensational, but this has been nothing like the early 1950s when Senator McCarthy of Wisconsin conducted hearings into Communist sympathies of employees in government and Hollywood.

It is almost laughable to assert that modern political debate is disintegrating.  Heck, in 1804 our nation’s vice president, while in office, challenged a critic to a duel.  And shot him dead!  Now that’s discord!

My point is that the political process didn’t break recently.  If it’s broken, it’s always been broken, always contentious and acrimonious – from the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, to the War Between the States, until today:  corrupt politicians, polarized political parties, bitter debates, contentious elections.

None of this is new, except for the increased media coverage.  None of this alone is to blame for today’s inability to solve problems.  And all of this together is not to blame for today’s problems.

Perhaps closer to the heart of the problems today in Michigan and our nation is a lack of heart in “we the people.”  A lack of passion, principle and – most of all – common vision and purpose.

Maybe we’ve just had it so good for so long that we’ve forgotten to dream for better days and fight for a better future.

Maybe these tough times will refresh our dreams and reignite the fight.

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.