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'The American Way': Speak Up When Something Isn't Right
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'The American Way': Speak Up When Something Isn't Right

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Over the years, I have stumbled across a number of parables that seem fairly relevant to current circumstances. One of my favorites is the following:

Taylor’s parents were convinced their son was going to be brilliant. He was an extremely observant child, blessed with an extraordinary sunny personality. At times, he would play alone by the hour, sometimes listening to classical music as he played and invented new games.

There was only one problem. At age 5, Taylor still had not spoken a single word. Alarmed, his parents took him to every specialist, speech therapist and child psychologist for miles around, but nothing could get him to speak. His parents were desperate.

Then, one morning, as his mother was making breakfast, Taylor suddenly yelled, “The toast is burning!” Crying tears of joy, his parents hugged the little boy and asked, “Why haven’t you ever said anything all these years?” “Because,” he replied, “everything was all right up to now.”

Like Taylor, it’s up to each of us to speak up when we see things askew. That is the American way. When we see others in need of help, we stop and help. When we take time to listen to other’s problems or worries, we empathize and seek a way to lend a hand. We don’t have to agree with someone’s beliefs or ideas, but we should acknowledge that everyone has a right to speak and an equal value as a person. We can agree to disagree, but let’s do it respectfully and with the aim of finding common ground.

Sometimes, it takes a 5-year-old child to remind us of our responsibilities. It’s easy to look back and say everything has been all right till now, but it’s time now to embrace the words of the late, esteemed John Lewis: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” 

Benjamin Ola. Akande is the former Assistant Vice Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Akande, a long-time St. Louis resident, currently serves on the board of Saint Louis Art Museum, Forest Park Forever, Girls Inc. and Argent Capital.

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Benjamin Ola. Akande is the former Assistant Vice Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Akande, a long-time St. Louis resident, currently serves on the board of Saint Louis Art Museum, Forest Park Forever, Girls Inc. and Argent Capital.

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