Jeff's Journal: Life Lessons from the Presidential Election

1 Jan 2001

As I am writing this article, the 2000 presidential election has taken place, but the results have not yet been determined. This is, by far, the most unusual election I have ever experienced. Just like most homeschool parents, my wife and I are using this national election as a teaching opportunity for our children.

Since both of our children are teenagers during this election, we were able to focus a great deal of attention on the electoral process. We discussed the difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives, the number of years each office serves and their primary responsibilities.

However, the presidential race certainly takes center stage during our teaching sessions and discussions. The campaign advertisements open a series of discussions about honesty and integrity. There seemed to be a great deal of effort by every political advertisement to introduce the general public to the “truth." One lesson to our children dealt with drawing the line between revealing the truth and hurting someone. At what point does a person decide that hurting another individual for personal gain is wrong. These decisions are made on an individual basis depending on the circumstances. Of course, honesty is always at the top of our priority list for individual qualities. We teach that honesty is paramount in all relationships. My wife and I demonstrate honesty in our everyday relationship with each other, but sometimes silence should prevail over speaking. We teach our children that a person should never give a dishonest answer when asked a particular question. We teach that sometimes there is more than one way to answer a question without hurting a person’s feelings. For example, a person may ask for an opinion on a new clothing outfit. If the person was a very close friend, we could say it looks terrible and that may be an appropriate response. If we did not know this person very well, then we may indicate that it is not an outfit that we would ever wear. The point of all this is to teach our children to use discretion in responding to questions, but always be honest. We see many political candidates “stretch” the truth. This means that they are not actually telling a lie, but they are not telling the entire truth either. We teach our children that this policy is also not acceptable. If a person gives an answer to a question that leads the other person towards an incorrect answer, then that is not being honest.

Another important lesson to be addressed from this political exercise deals with the question of authority. During any election there is only one candidate declared the winner. Sometimes it just takes a little longer than other times. Our responsibility as parents is to teach our children to respect the authority of a position. We may not always like the person elected to a particular office, but we need to respect the position. Our family has had many dinner discussions about the current president of the United States. He has done things and said things that we do not believe are respectable actions for any person. The point we make to our children is that we still need to respect the office of President. The current election is no exception. We still do not know who will be leading this great country as President. Regardless of the man, we teach our children to respect the office.

A final thought on the current election confusion deals with problems versus opportunities. It is very easy to focus on the problems we are having declaring a winner in the presidential race. I use the term “we” instead of Florida because this election affects the entire country. This is a wonderful time to point out to our children that we usually face “problems” every day. The important point to make to our children is to ensure we do not get too caught up in the actual problem. We need to identify the problem, discuss the problem, then move on to a solution. My wife and I try to incorporate this process into our everyday lives. We teach our children to spend the majority of their efforts in the solution phase. When we do this we immediately change any problem into an opportunity for improvement. I have no doubt that all of these election problems will turn into opportunities for election improvements in future elections.

Finally, during this time of the year, we try to spend time giving thanks for the many blessings we have received. I recently had the opportunity to hear Josh Harris address a group of homeschool leaders from all over the country. The major point of his message was to give thanks to all the homeschool leaders for the time, dedication and love that they put into raising children that will someday be the leaders of this great country. That was a powerful message. Even though I have not met most of the readers of this column, I feel that I know every one of you. I could not have said it as well as Josh, but I do want to echo his comments. I am thankful for all the parents that paved the way for the current homeschool laws in North Carolina. I thank all those parents who helped Cindy and me during the early years of teaching our children, Casey and Amy. I also want to thank those parents who are currently carrying the homeschool torch. Sometimes I look at the current times and think that America is sure heading in the wrong direction. Then I take a look at the homeschool parents and children and realize that we are raising the next generation of great leaders. For that, I offer my thanks to all of you.

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