The Edmond Sun

February 11, 2013

You can learn a lot from a fifth-grader

By Brian Bush
Special to The Sun

EDMOND — My son, Tyler, attends Chisholm Elementary School in Edmond. This week, the Chisholm fifth-graders present their “living history museum,” where each student has been assigned a historical figure to study. Tyler is studying Nathanael Greene, and our family has been spending evenings together learning more about this incredibly interesting man.

Aside from being called a trusted friend of Gen. George Washington (a feat unto itself), Greene led a fascinating life as an early American hero. A true life-long learner, Greene was known for saving money to add to his library, and he was particularly interested in military strategy. Knowing that war with Great Britain would come soon enough, he organized a militia while in his early 30s. His love of books served him well as his pronounced limp caused some in the militia to challenge his participation. However, no one could deny his keen military mind, and he remained very involved.

I was struck by Greene’s unconquerable spirit. Unwilling to be held back by physical limitations but willing to fight for good regardless of the consequences, he was a dedicated patriot. As I beamed with pride, Tyler then pointed out a statement Greene made after experiencing setbacks during the Revolutionary War: “We fight, get beat, rise and fight again.” Tyler said it summed up Greene’s life and that it was a motto by which he wanted to live also.

The Marquis de LaFayette would later say that in Greene’s very name “are remembered all the virtues and talents which can illustrate the patriot, the statesman, and the military leader....” Undoubtedly, that sort of spirit was a necessity in those times, and thankfully that strength of character that was common in our nation’s early leaders. That same spirit continues to show up in America when it is needed the most, and now is one of those times when we desperately need it.

For many of us, life is pretty good, but some of our friends and neighbors are struggling. Some need better-paying jobs, and some would just be happy with any job. Others are discouraged by schools that are not meeting their needs, and still others are trying to run a business in a climate that sometimes seems to produce more failure than flourishing. So, how can we actually help them without simply perpetuating the problems or irresponsibly spending money we don’t have?

In Oklahoma, the answer is simple:

• Replace our costly, broken, adversarial workers compensation system with an administrative system that will justly compensate workers for their injuries while allowing employers to save money, expand their businesses and better provide for employees.

• Reform our tax code by lowering the rates, and let citizens keep more of their hard-earned money, even though it means we must cut spending.

• Reform our education system so we can stop limiting children and forcing them to attend certain schools, regardless of that school’s performance or quality.

These reforms are not easy. The fight to achieve them may even knock us down. But we are Oklahomans, and we know — just as Nathanael Greene knew — how to rise and fight again. Besides, our friends and neighbors, our children and our state are worth fighting for.

BRIAN BUSH, an Edmond resident, is executive vice president of Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and a member of The Edmond Sun’s Community Editorial Board.