Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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January 5, 2017

Sullivan’s Salvos     1/10/17

In this edition:

*Goodbye, BJ!
*American Dream, Chapter 2
*Did You Know?

*Goodbye, BJ!
         Good luck to my son BJ as he sets out on a big adventure! BJ is a sophomore at Kirkwood, but recently left for an internship at Walt Disney World in Orlando. He will go through the highly regarded Disney customer service training, and should be back in May. Good luck, BJ! I love you and I’m proud of you!

Next Monday marks the federal holiday celebrating the birthday of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior. I am so pleased that our country has chosen to honor this great man, and I hope you enjoy the holiday in his name. As usual, the Board of Supervisors will be doing a proclamation in his honor; this year, that will be Thursday, January 12 at 5:30 PM.

         We often hear about Christians who feel that Christmas has lost its meaning, and workers who feel the same about Labor Day. I fear that this could be happening to MLK Day as well.

         We would like to think America has come a long way since the 60s. After the 2016 elections, I’m not certain I feel that way any longer. Race was a HUGE issue in the 2016 election, and the team the racists supported won.

         Look at America today. Black Lives Matter is a response to the epidemic of black men being killed by police. The US Supreme Court killed much of the Voting Rights Act, and they are likely to kill Affirmative Action. Black men are more likely to go to prison than college. The list goes on and on. Our society still has a deep racial divide.

We also need to recognize that King was a radical. America grudgingly accepted racial reforms because they were less dangerous to the status quo than the other issues King championed. King took seriously the Biblical teachings that the love of money is a sin, and that rich men will not be welcomed into Heaven. (Yes, King was a Social Democrat!) He proposed seismic changes to the political and social structures that exist in America. In addition, King was adamantly anti-war. To the status quo, he was the most dangerous man in the world.

         Take some time this week to read some of the great books that are out there on Dr. King. More importantly, take some time to read the things he wrote himself.

And if you are so inclined, there are several worthwhile local celebrations. Here are just two:

The Consultation of Religious Communities is holding its annual MLK service on Sunday, 1/15 at 7 PM at First Mennonite Church in Iowa City. We go every year, and every year it restores my faith!

I would also urge you to attend the community celebration held Monday, January 16 at Grant Wood Elementary in Iowa City. From 10-3 will be a time of “giving back”; food, children’s activities, and performances are part of the event. The event is co-sponsored by Johnson County, but for more info contact Raquisha Harrington at 354-7989.

We have SO much work to do. We cannot forget that. But we also need to take the time to celebrate our successes. Happy MLK Day!

*American Dream, Chapter 2
         We are all familiar with “The American Dream.” While there are several different versions, they are all about the same thing: If you just work hard enough, you can hit it big. This can happen to anyone, so long as she/he is willing to work for it.

         Wikipedia defines the American Dream this way: “The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.”

         Horatio Alger, Abe Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bezos… American history is full of successful, famous, wealthy people who started life with very little. All of these people rose to prominence through some combination of grit, hard work, brains, and good luck. We hold these folks up as examples, and say, “They did it – so can you!”

         I love this part of the American Dream. It offers hope to a lot of people, and that is a great thing! But I would argue that this definition of the American Dream is far too narrow.

         Obviously, for every Oprah Winfrey, there are literally millions of poor women who did not achieve the same success. Is she just that special? Perhaps. But if the American system is so good at producing these rags to riches stories, why don’t they happen more often? More importantly, why don’t we see more people move just a few rungs up the ladder of success?

         This gets to what I consider “Chapter 2” of the American Dream. While we certainly want to be a place where a few individuals can go from rags to riches, I would argue that it is much more important that we be a country that helps each person achieve her/his potential.

         The other problem with that definition of the American Dream is that it puts all the onus upon the individual. Society has nothing to do with your success or failure; it is all about individual effort.

         We know this is untrue. One only need look back to the period between 1945-1980 to see that things can be different. We all know people (probably our parents and/or grandparents) who did pretty well during that period. Some were small businesspeople, some farmers, some factory workers, some government employees… their occupation really didn’t matter. They worked hard and followed the rules, and in exchange, they earned decent salaries and benefits.

         These people could work 40 hours, own a home, own a car or two, retire at or before 65 with a pension, put kids through college, and maybe take a family vacation. Often, this was accomplished with only one parent working! Usually a labor union of some sort was involved.

I am not describing Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous here! The lifestyle I described was available to the vast majority of Americans. The American Dream was less of a dream and more of a reality.

         We need to adjust our thinking. End the focus on one special person and her/his rags to riches story. The focus needs to be on creating a positive story for as many Americans as possible. Not only do we have a moral obligation to do this, but we all benefit when it happens!

*DID YOU KNOW?  MLK was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. The site is now incorporated into the National Civil Rights Museum. My daughter Jordan now lives in Memphis, and I have visited the museum – it is worth your time!

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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