Smashing the glass door of our little ice cream store, the rioters stormed inside. Just seconds before they broke in, I hurdled the counter, ran out the back door and jumped into my car.
I was a scared sophomore in high school. It was 1968, the year the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I was living in Portland, Oregon.
Portland had its share of civil unrest that year.
Our store was in a poor part of the city. The rioters and protesters were mostly young blacks. They were angry and mad. They were very upset about the death of Dr. King, but they were also intensely disturbed about how they had been treated for years.
As a 16-year-old white kid, I didn’t quite get it. I do now, but back in the 1960s, things were not so transparent.
I have believed through the years that education is the key to a successful life.
My grandfather was a very successful businessman. When I was born, he set up a college trust fund for me. He did the same thing for my three other brothers. When I was ready to enter college, I had all my money for tuition, books and dorm room. I never paid a dime for my college education.
How lucky I was to have such a generous and kind grandfather? I thanked him every time I saw him for his thoughtfulness. His magnanimous gesture helped me to enjoy a wonderful, 39-year career as a teacher. My point? I was a lucky white guy who had a wealthy grandfather. How many other white or black students were as fortunate?
As I said earlier, education is the key to a happy, successful life. However, if you are living in poverty, how do you get an education or find a career?
College is not for everyone. Having said that, there are lots of trade schools where you can get training to be a machinist, electrician, plumber, etc. It has been my experience that if you have a job or career that you really like, it gives you a sense of positive self-worth. You feel important and purposeful. You can eagerly, joyfully focus on how you can improve your life in ways like buying a home, traveling or starting a family.
We, as a society, need to put money into the education of young people. Educated kids are better adjusted and happy. We need grants, loans or even free funding for students who are at the poverty level or who simply need assistance.
Most people never get to the top of their careers without the help of someone else. I think funding higher education of any type is much more productive than spending billions of dollars on a wall or a bullet train.
We need to think outside of the proverbial box and make changes. “Nothing changes, if nothing changes,” said Joel Libaua.
The time is ripe for change and we can’t just talk about it anymore, but do something about it now. Whether you are white, black or brown we all want the same things in life: love, career success, good health, a happy family and economic stability. Education is the major road to all of those hopes and dreams.
Ray Matlock Smythe is an author and retired teacher. He wrote “Tips To Improve Your Retirement Experience.” He can be reached at [email protected]
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