Friday, May 1, 2015

I Try Not to Get Political - But....

"I Have a Dream" - the MLK Step at the Lincoln Memorial at sunrise
Once again, I was honored to have been chosen as part of a delegation to represent Colorado dentists and attend the Washington Leadership Conference put on by the American Dental Association. It is an opportunity for leaders in dentistry to meet with our national legislators to educate and advocate best practices and trends that we are seeing.  In a time of such flux with the delivery of healthcare, we offer perspective that hopefully will help shape health care and ensure that we can best serve our communities.

It was an interesting social and political time in the area.  A man named Freddie Gray was killed while in police custody shortly after being arrested.  Sadly, a much too common occurrence not just limited to Baltimore, but across the nation. The protests began peacefully but soon turned violent.

I was Baltimore to attend the Orioles game on Saturday evening. There was a palpable energy inside and around the stadium due to a strong police presence. At the game’s conclusion, the fans were not allowed to leave for their own safety until the riots had calmed.  

As time marched on, the riots continued. Buildings were damaged and looting ensued.  People were injured.  The National Guard was called in, and a curfew was instituted. CNN and Fox News were having a paparazzi feeding frenzy with a countdown to the mandated curfew. There were several more arrests and a public outcry….The entire situation was sad to witness.

Order was not restored quickly.  It wasn’t safe to be in the area.  The following day the Orioles game was cancelled.  Oddly, the next day’s game was played to an empty stadium.  Never before has a Major League baseball game been played in an empty stadium.

Pictures from the game which no one watched

Back in DC,  we dentists were meeting with our legislators.  Several of our legislators mentioned that they were invited to various “State”events (dinners, lunches, etc) with the President, who was hosting the Japanese Prime Minister. 

The Japanese Prime Minister (Shinzo Abe) must have been wondering about how the free speech thingy (1st Amendment) is working for us….I am sure that President Obama was thinking the same thing.  At a press conference to introduce the PM, POTUS took a few minutes to address the rioting. 

He recognized first that the rioters who were committing unlawful acts were not helping the situation.  They were no better than criminals and thugs taking advantage of an opportunity to be destructive. 

He then balanced his displeasure at the fact that some police officers/departments are not doing what is mandated that they do -"to protect and to serve”.  They too needed to reform and be held accountable.  

He continued to address the core issue with some of the most profound and inspiring words I ever heard him say.

"Without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty, they’ve got parents often because of substance abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves can’t do right by their kids, if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead that they go to college, in communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to the young men, communities where there’s no investment and manufacturing’s been stripped away and drugs have flooded the communitiy and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks… In those environments, if we think that we’re just gonna send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation asking what we can do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunities, then we’re not going to solve this problem.

America, the land of opportunity - has no opportunities to thrive. 

Without opportunity, there is no hope to dream. Frustration ensues and more riots are going to occur. 

We must return to our roots- the ideals that serve as our country’s foundation - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  

We need to take back our freedom.

We must accept that to right the ship, there are no simple answers.

We all are going to need to sacrifice for the betterment of the whole.

The finger pointing needs to end now.  

We need to work together to figure out solutions that spur opportunities for everyone to contribute. Americans have always had the creativity combined with the spirit to make this happen.  

We real solutions, not more riots…

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Thanks for reading!  BK