Politics makes for strange bedfellows. That’s probably the case here. But today’s subject deals with the rights and obligations of our citizens if we are to make our Nation a better place.

For the most part we are all sensitive to our rights. Mylan had the ‘right’ to raise fees on the Epipen. It wasn’t illegal. Colin Kaepernick had the right not to stand for the National Anthem. Our children have the right to a public education. Perhaps most of all, we pride ourselves on the rights of democracy and all that means.

But, in too many instances we do not think about our responsibilities as citizens. Sure, we value our military and their willingness to put their lives on the line for our freedom. Most of us don’t serve in modern America, but we appreciate those that do.

But, as a society, we set a very low bar relative to our own obligations to our Nation. It is election season so let’s take voting as one example. In ancient Rome elections could take more than a day because so many people voted. But in 2012 45% of eligible voters failed to vote in the national election. Off year election turnout is even worse. The fact that huge numbers of Americans fail to accept this most basic responsibility necessary for a robust democracy is a horrendous problem. President Bush used to speak about an ownership society. Electing our leaders is the most basic ownership right of our democracy and everyone must participate for it to remain so.

Today, 82% of Americans graduate high school. But, America ranks 35th in the world in test scores for math and 27th in science according to a Pew Research Study done in 2012. It’s a little dated but it certainly makes the point. Twenty years ago the U.S. ranked number one. Is it little wonder that our citizens don’t understand their civic responsibilities? America’s public school systems and too many of our parents have failed in their efforts to provide for America’s future.

Colin Kaepernick sat down several weeks ago during the playing of the National Anthem to protest the treatment of African Americans. By all accounts he did well academically in both high school and college. But effective citizen participation requires more than simply silent opposition. It requires active intelligent participation. Having raised awareness through his actions, continuing to silently take a knee is denigrating to our flag, our troops and our Nation. To be a responsible citizen requires engaging in the difficult discussions that lead to change. Only by doing so can Mr. Kaepernick be a leader.

We know for certain, however, that Heather Bresch, despite being the CEO of Mylan is not a leader. She claimed to have completed an MBA at West Virginia University when, in fact, she did not. Having graduated both high school and college the Centrist is 100% certain that one knows when one has graduated. What Ms. Bresch does know is what earnings objectives are necessary for her team to bonus. Despite her protestations to the contrary it appears that those achievements are far more important than saving the lives of children. Her lack of honesty and integrity represents everything an American leader cannot be.

America’s continued success is not guaranteed. It is dependent upon the active participation of all of our citizens, privately as well as in government and industry. It is only going to happen if, at every level, we focus on the betterment of everyone. That can only happen if we all truly lead.

How can we do that? Well, the Centrist has some thoughts and we’d love to hear yours as well.

First, we cannot continue to attack those with whom we differ. Great institutions respect all of their members and actually seek diversity of opinion. We can’t allow our politicians to pander to hate. We must demand more of them. Think Donald Trump and his treatment of a Blue Star family.

Second, we must have a sense of right and wrong that goes beyond simply not breaking the law. Think Hillary Clinton and the emails or Ms. Bresch and the Epipen. We must demand much more of ourselves and of our leaders. Too many politicians are beholden to special interest groups; too many of our CEOs think only of themselves and their stock price. Think Wells Fargo, which will be the subject of our next post. To insure America’s future requires caring about all Americans.

The centrist argues that the first step in this process lies with the education of every child so that they are as prepared as possible, not to just take a knee but to be active and meaningful participants in society. In far too many instances both parents and our public school systems are failing on that score.

Parents must accept more responsibility for ensuring that their children go to school, study and get passing grades. They can’t ignore it or blame the school system. Nevertheless, only a quality education can break the cycle of poverty and thus improve our nation. Our public schools are not providing that level of leadership and teaching based upon the test scores noted above. We must hold both parents and educators responsible and accountable for changing this.

Similarly we, as citizens, must do a better job of participating in our democracy. Every citizen over 18 must vote in every election unless they are ill. In ancient Rome they stood in line for hours to vote. The excuse that “I” don’t like any of the candidates is just that, an excuse. In our Presidential election this year there is a third party ticket, a green ticket and even a write in candidate authorized in all 50 states. Everyone can find someone to vote for.

The more we talk about and take seriously our collective roles and responsibilities the better off we will be. It is up to us to create better leaders than Bresch, Clinton, Kaepernick or Trump.

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