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A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance Co. Waco, Texas Bernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer The Pursuit of Success BY BERNARD RAPOPORT It seems the dominant subject of conversation among so many of us today is “What’s wrong?” Why this feeling of malaise? Why all this uncertainty? Why the feeling that things are not as good as they used to be? Reference is made to the good ol’ days, but any society possessed with this conviction is, indeed, in great trouble. Always, for healthy societies, the tomorrows must promise better than the todays. That is what living is all about. The question is how we define the word “better.” This was brought poignantly to mind in a book I recently read by Stephen Covey entitled, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It is supposedly one of these so-called self-help books. Generally, I look upon them with disdain because they provide simplistic answers to very serious questions. Mr. Covey posed some difficult questions and his answers were not simple, but rather very thoughtful and complex responses. He pointed out an excitingly stimulating concept which was to characterize the prevailing ethic prior to World War I as being a “character ethic” and subsequently we have become imbued with the “personality ethic.” The delineation between the two succinctly stated is: Within the character ethic, success is very important, but how it is achieved is even more important; Within the personality ethic, success is all-important and the means of achieving it is not subject to analysis. We all suffer from the greed instinct, but one of the things which occurred during the Reagan Administration was its glorification. We sit and ponder about the savings and loan scandals and the LBOs and all the financial machinations that occurred during the ’80s. We are engaging in a lot of self-flagellation as we look to find out who is responible. We really don’t have to look any further than it takes to look into ourselves. During the Reagan years, the “bitch goddess” held sway. We let the greed instinct run rampant and when it did, we neglected the most important attributes of what is required for those who are concerned with character. Certainly this does not make for a better society. Remember Emerson’s definition, “Character is that which can do without success.” Our wonderful Constitution says, “All men are created equal.” A fundamentalist approach belies the intent of what the founders meant when they wrote it. There is a good reason why we are not created equal or alike. We are different with varying proclivities and talents. It is those differences that provide the excitement for living. John F. Kennedy captured the essence of what is meant by that wonderful phrase when he said, “Our Constitution is founded on the principle that all men are equal as citizens, and entitled of the same rights, whether they achieve citizenship by birth, or after coming here as immigrants, seeking to find in America new freedom and new opportunities.” Coming from immigrant parents and being raised on the so-called wrong side of the tracks, I had one tremendous advantage. Serendipitously, we lived in a good school district in San Antonio. There were some districts which were inferior in the sense that they were not funded as well and had a lower standard curriculum. I am certain there is much to be said about independent school districts, but certainly it is inexcusable that one school district should be able to provide better education for children than another, especially for the reason that one district has a wealthier constituency than another. First and foremost, our Constitution stands for equal opportunity. The incongruities in our thinking seem to be overshadowed by this greed that possesses us and is increasingly manifesting itself. We ask “What is wrong?” To all questions, there are always answers; though sometimes they are more difficult to ascertain, the answers nonetheless are there. Too often, we don’t want to accept confrontation with them. Generally, the cause relates to an unaddressed social ill. This is especially true when we don’t recognize the organic nature of a society. There is one answer so far as the school district problem is concerned and it is a very simple one, but too often we don’t want to listen, especially those of us live in the more affluent school districts. Every school district should have an equal amount of money for each student enrolled in that particular district. Most people will agree until the solution is proposed which obviously requires more money taxes, if you please. A fairer society requires a mitigation of the greed instinct, but how much do we really care about future generations? Our caring is not demonstrated with words, but with deeds. It is an established fact that a higher percentage of dropouts end up in prison than the percentage of people who contract cancer from smoking. It brings to mind the politician who says, “Vote for me; I won’t increase taxes.” That particular politician is a product of the personality ethic. She or he wants to get elected and how is not important. How about a politician who says, “I won’t increase your taxes, but you won’t have better schools. We won’t be able to fix the streets or pick up your garbage. We won’t be able to provide proper police protection.” Would you vote for that particular individual? Come on, face up to it. At this point, too many of us wouldn’t and yet we are the first ones to ask, “What’s wrong?” Don’t take comfort in saying, “I am a liberal or I am a conservative.” The issues of today are not liberal or conservative. No, the answers are not that easy. The problems confronting us are far too perplexing for serious consideration of programs advocated by do-gooders, fundamentalists, and those who have the quick-fix. The worst drug to have infected our society is not cocaine or heroin. No, far worse is the unrelenting pursuit of greed. 18 JANUARY 25, 1991