American middle and high school students everywhere should be required to
watch videotape of the poor people stranded by Hurricane Katrina. Teachers
should point out that many U.S. citizens without the financial means to get
out of New Orleans wound up floating face down in the water or, at the very
least, were subject to gross indignities and suffering of all kinds.
The teachers should then tell the students that the local, state and federal
government bureaucracies failed to protect those poor people even though
everybody knew the storm was coming days in advance. The lesson should then
segue into how the most powerful nation in the world was powerless to stop
9/11 and scores of other natural and manmade disasters throughout our
After presenting those undeniable facts, the teachers should then present
two questions: Do you want to be poor? And do you believe the U.S.
government can protect you if you are poor?
For far too long, charlatan ideologues and dishonest politicians have sold
the concept that government can and will make your life better. Well, if a
cot in the Astrodome is the standard, maybe the promises are true. But if
you expect the government to provide you comfort and protect you - P.T.
Barnum had your number when he said, "there's a sucker born every minute."
The affluent of New Orleans had options. Most of them got out ahead of the
storm simply by turning their ignition keys. But a professor friend of mine
stayed. However, when things got rough and the levees breached, he was able
to drive right out of town in his SUV.
But if you couldn't afford a vehicle, you might have wound up in the
Superdome, where there were few supplies and little security. With 20,000
folks in the building, bathrooms quickly broke down, and so did civility. I
covered the story almost nonstop for days. I didn't see one affluent person
in the Superdome. Not one.
The Bible says "the poor, they will always be with us," but it doesn't have
to be that way here in America. Here we have compulsory, free public
schools, scholarships and aid galore for higher education. We also have
affirmative action, job training, GED opportunities, military training and
options all over the place.
It is no accident that millions of poor people from all over the world sneak
into America because they can make money here if they work hard. There are
opportunities for people who can't even speak English.
Yet the racial hustlers and far left demagogues continue to sell
victimization to Americans living in the poor precincts. The poverty pimps
can't blame the establishment fast enough for ghettos and deprivation and
even hurricanes. But you rarely hear the words "personal responsibility"
when it comes to attacking the poverty problem.
Here's the end zone on this: The government can force your parents to send
you to school but can't force you to learn. If you do not educate yourself
or develop a marketable skill, chances are you will be poor and powerless.
If you react to that situation by committing crimes or becoming addicted,
you will sink further into the swamp of hopelessness and your life will be
Let the kids see the poor in New Orleans and the suffering they endured.
Then prod the children to connect the dots and wise up. Educate yourself,
work hard,and be honest. Then, when disaster occurs, you will have a
fighting chance to beat it.
If you don't do those things, the odds are that you will be desperately
standing on a symbolic rooftop someday yourself. And trust me, help will not
be quick in coming.
BY BILL O'REILLY
Published Friday, September 9, 2005