Success and the Paralympics 09.05.12 Search

It's about overcoming disadvantages.


To charge anyone with being against success is to challenge their goals, which requires that one examine the goals. Therein lies the difference.

Romney Obama

In the current American political race, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has charged his Democratic opponent Barack Obama with being against success: "The centerpiece of the President’s entire re-election campaign is attacking success."

To form a reasonable position on this assertion requires that we all examine the word success and what it means.

success Noun:
    The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
    The attainment of popularity or profit.

Of these two common definitions, it can be surmised that Romney means both, where his aim or purpose is the second definition, i.e., popularity and personal enrichment, and with it, power. Obama, on the other hand, probably primarily means the first, but his aim or purpose must be different.

The clearest differentiation between the two parties is that one is more self-oriented while the other is more other-oriented. Romney, in closing, highlighted this difference when he said, "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise... is to help you and your family." Clearly Romney's higher priority is to appeal to voters' self-interest.

In contrast, while addressing the UN Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Obama said, "We come here in Copenhagen because climate change poses a grave and growing danger to our people. All of you would not be here unless you—like me—were convinced that this danger is real. This is not fiction, it is science. Unchecked, climate change will pose unacceptable risks to our security, our economies, and our planet."

So the two sides argue short-term self-interest vs. long-term well being and species survival. So what is success in these terms? What good would lower taxes be in a world whose climate has spun into the unlivable range? But what good would it do us to ameliorate future climate change, if our home gets foreclosed next month? Bills need to be paid now, while climate collapse can be discounted into a distant future that perhaps needs no attention today.

So what is success in these terms? Perhaps it would be useful to consider the sports analogy of women's volleyball, recently highlighted in the 2012 Olympics coverage.

Kerry and Misty Americans Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor defeated all opponents and achieved success, as exemplified by their third consecutive gold medals. One opponent they did not face was...

Martine Wright Brit sitting-volleyball player Martine Wright, who lost her legs on July 7, 2005, when four suicide bombers inspired by Osama bin Laden detonated explosives on three London Underground trains and a bus, killing 52 commuters.

It would have been no contest. One does not deem it "success" when the so-called "winner" has an enormous initial advantage over the so-called "loser." Martine's success was that she was alive and able to compete in sitting volleyball at all.

Success is not about who wins the game when advantages are ignored. Success is about achieving goals, about overcoming disadvantages. Success is relative, not absolute.

Tammy Duckworth Tammy Duckworth, who lost her legs when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded in her lap as she piloted a Blackhawk helicopter in service to all Americans, Mitt Romney included, achieved success when she was able to walk onto the podium and address the Democratic National Convention. She will not be racing against

Sanya Sanya Richards-Ross. It would be a farce. Would we say that Sanya Richards-Ross was successul if she beat Tammy Duckworth one-on-one in the 400-meter dash? Of course not.

Rowan Atkinson Was Rowan Atkinson successful in his Olympic daydream when he led the best runners by being dropped off near the finish line? Was King Midas successful when everything he touched turned to gold? Remember that King Midas starved to death, being unable to digest gold. That cannot be successful by anyone's definition.

In my humble opinion, all compassionate human beings want success for all people, on their own terms. We all want success for our species as a sustainable life-form on this planet, so our descendents can have a habitable and beautiful planet to live on and to be successful in.

Environmental educator David Orr, in Earth in Mind, said it eloquently: "The planet does not need more 'successful' people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it."

So are the Democrats against success? Is anyone? You make the call.

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