Mitt Romney spoke for 3 and a half minutes last night after what what he rightly described as an insurrection at the US Capitol. I should confess that I have long admired Senator Romney as a family man and public servant—not because I agreed with everything he said or did but because I have always seen him as a man of integrity.
All of his speech is worth watching but two lines jumped out for me. First of course is the one about his 25 grandchildren who were watching the Capitol building under attack and wondered if their grandpa was ok. That one pulled at my heartstrings as I imagined my own children scared and worried for the safety of their Pop Pop and Gampa.
But the line that really resonated for me did so because it is not only true in the context of yesterday’s events but because it is always true.
“The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth.”
I may seem like a one trick pony to some in the way I seem to make everything about education—guilty as charged, but only because I remain steadfast in my belief that access to a quality education and the freedom to choose it is the only way to open up to all people the opportunity to become the best version of themselves.
As soon as Senator Romney uttered the words above, about the connection between respect and truth, I thought of parents who feel disrespected by their children’s schools. The parents who find out years after the fact that their child was not reading anywhere near grade level. But no one told them. All they heard was, “he’ll be fine, this is normal, he’ll catch up.” The parents who were repeatedly told by special education officials, “dyslexia isn’t a thing” when they knew, without a doubt, that their daughter was dyslexic and would never learn to read in their classrooms. The parents who were told that if they just waited long enough, their child’s school would improve. That more funding was the silver bullet but as more dollars poured in, nothing visible to them changed. The parents who saw teachers who had verbally, physically and even sexually abused their children protected by teachers’ unions at every turn. Parents who knew their child’s behavior problems were not because of a “behavioral disorder” that required special education but because nobody would admit that he did not know how to read and was therefore unable to do any of the work they demanded of him. The parents whose children were given As and Bs throughout high school only to find out in college that they were woefully unprepared.
I have long been a fan of the oft-used refrain that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Senator Romney is calling for sunlight even though, like a disinfectant, it will sting a lot for some.
As we move away from these surreal moments of fellow Americans scaling the capitol building like Spiderman and smashing windows with the goal of derailing a sacred constitutional process, I will carry Senator Romney’s words with me. Not because they represent some new concept but because they are a hugely important reminder during a grim moment in our nation’s history. If we change the word “voters” to “people”, they represent a universal truth:
“The best way we can show respect for people is to tell them the truth.”
Truth and respect. Two words that can absolutely propel us to that more perfect union if each of us takes responsibility for doing our part and making a commitment to truth and respect.