A call for humility

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“The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here . . .”

Some of you will know immediately what famous speech I quoted there. But few of you have ever heard anybody in your lifetime say such a thing. Imagine, in today’s society, somebody of prominence admitting in the course of a speech that their speech is probably not important in the grand scheme.

It’s not just that we don’t have enough humility to recognize our limitations — we have actually become a world that rewards brashness, even vulgarity. Our culture, I am sad to say, puts way too much emphasis on being able to command the camera and be interesting, and too little on dealing with facts, truths, and solutions.

Our political commentary is dominated by the likes of Laura Ingraham and Rachel Maddow, who regularly make it their task to say the most outrageous things--regardless of accuracy — to drive ratings. One “news” anchor went on the air with tampons hanging from her ears last week to make ... I don’t know — some point. Several months back, the airwaves were dominated by avowed atheists and non-Christians presuming to advise the Catholic Church on the type of person it should choose to be the next Pope. And everywhere you look online, people who make little or no effort to inform themselves on the issues pontificate ad nauseum on solving all the world’s problems.

The adage “there is no such thing as bad press” has been taken to absurd extremes. Why, I heard the other day that the price of a replica jersey for erstwhile New England Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez has actually increased since he was arrested and charged with murder. Can’t wait to see what the Von Miller signature bong starts selling for.

Of course, I could go on and on in this vein. And I know some of you out there have caught the irony of me writing about this in a public forum such as this. Such is life.

But I have to wonder if our world wouldn’t be better if occasionally we heard a Senator or President say out loud “I don’t know all the answers, but I’m willing to listen.” I have to wonder if our world wouldn’t be better if, rather than $100 million taxpayer-subsidized junket/vacations, more of our ruling class took the example of the new Pope and lived in apartments and travelled modestly. I have to wonder if we wouldn’t be better off if we taught our children that a great pass is better than a slam dunk, a sacrifice bunt is just as good as a home run, or that hard work and accomplishment is worth more than being popular.

I have to wonder if our world wouldn’t be better if we all had the wisdom of the speech writer who, just prior to the line I quoted above, also said “The brave men, living and dead, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.” After all, if Abraham Lincoln can admit that he didn’t believe the most famous speech in American history would ever amount to much or was sufficient to make a place holy, then maybe we can all stand a little more humility.

Michael Alcorn is a music teacher and fitness instructor who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. He graduated from Alameda High School and the University of Colorado-Boulder.