Celebrating a wonderful life

Published 5:15 pm Monday, November 7, 2005

By By Tray Smith
Over the course of the past two weeks, our country has mourned the loss of Rosa Parks. Citizens have turned out in large numbers to take advantage of the opportunity to pay their respects to Mrs. Parks. She has been honored at her funeral services in Detroit and Montgomery, and her body was placed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
Together, we have come together to honor the life of one of our nation's greatest heroes. It would be an enormous waste of time, however, for me to focus on what Mrs. Parks did to end racial injustice. By igniting the flame that became what is now known as the Civil Rights movement, Mrs. Parks no doubt helped our nation to end a sad chapter in its history. Her courageous stand for equal rights and equal opportunity will always be a great part of her legacy.
We are all already aware, though, of the great change that she brought to our country through her actions. Now, instead, we must focus on principles upon which her actions were based. By standing up for what she knew to be morally right, Mrs. Parks not only helped begin the Civil Rights movement, but she showed us all what we can do as individuals to help our nation. She displayed to us what we can do to lead.
The truth is, Washington has proven itself time and time again incapable of meeting the needs of its citizens. For years, our government tolerated slavery. For years more, it tolerated racism, discrimination, and segregation. While the irresponsibility and incompetence of several of our politicians is certainly a contributing factor to these deplorable policies, citizens of the United States must realize that people in a democracy have rights and with those rights are responsibilities. Those responsibilities are not just voting and serving jury duty (though those are very important responsibilities in any democratic society.) But those responsibilities extend to challenging authority; standing up for what is morally right, and defending whole heartedly our personal beliefs.
While not everyone can start a movement as historical as the Civil Rights movement, everyone can work hard to strengthen the foundation of our democracy. Everyone can work hard to expand and protect our great freedoms.
Everyone can fight for an important cause, lead that cause forward, and help get the entire nation to rally around that cause. Everyone can participate in our democratic society. Through becoming active leaders in our communities, in our schools, and in our nation, we can hold our government accountable and we can uphold the freedoms that are the strength of America.
People like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin led the fight for independence from outside the British government that ruled over our colonies. Susan B. Anthony fought for the rights of women, though she was not involved in the government. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. led the struggle for Civil Rights, though they were individuals, not government officials. The contribution of these people to our society proves that we would not be where we are today if we listened to our political leaders all of the time. We would not be where we are today if individuals did not speak out and stand up for our God-given freedoms. And with all of the controversy surrounding the issues of today, we must realize that our problems will never be solved and our issues will never be addressed unless we, as individuals, speak out now.
President Truman had a sign on his desk that read, "The Buck Stops Here." While that phrase of responsibility has added great credibility to his administration and to his legacy in general, the truth is that in America the buck stops with the people. That is the bottom line.
In my first column in August, I wrote about soaring gas prices. They had just reached $2.45 a gallon for the first time in my memory. Since then, they have skyrocketed even higher to the $3 range, and finally they have come back down to $2.18 per gallon at last check. At this time last year, that would seem like an outrageous fee. Instead, now I hear people cheering at the price decrease. What a shame!
President Bush still needs to form a real energy policy that will solve this crisis, and I am hoping he will present that policy in his State of the Union in January so that we can have energy relief before next summer.
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance. He is a freshman at Escambia Academy. He can be reached for comment at tsmith_90@hotmail.com. His column appears weekly.

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