So, what is the content of 'our' character?

Jan. 18, 2014 @ 11:47 AM

This weekend marks an important and solemn observance, and, with your indulgence, I will match that tone in today’s column.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

What an amazingly wonderful sentence, not to mention an aspiration, a goal, a dream. I wish I could have met the man who wrote that sentence, and that whole speech. I wish I could have gotten to know him, to sit down with him and talk for hours, to probe the intellect and innate wisdom of the man who could put himself out there, in danger, on the front lines of a fight that had to be fought, just as the Revolution, the Civil War and our World Wars had to be fought. 
No one wants to fight a war, unless they have a screw or two loose. No one wants to HAVE to fight a war. I believe most people on this earth -- unfortunately, not all -- would be happy to be left in peace to live their lives in their own quiet, private pursuit of happiness, whatever it is. But, as William Shakespeare said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
I believe the heroes of all our wars -- including the war on racial inequality -- may have had greatness thrust upon them. Think about it. Would you choose to put yourself in harm’s way -- say, in front of a bullet -- if you didn’t have to? It’s simply a question of what makes one man “have to” and another man not.
I’ve asked myself that question repeatedly in the last few years. There are things happening in our country that scare and infuriate me. I’m frightened that my country, and everything for which it stands, is being methodically and intentionally -- or perhaps mindlessly -- attacked and dismantled, on many fronts, from many sides, in ways of which many of us are ignorant.
So, I have worried and seethed and yelled at the television knowing that this would most likely be the extent to which I could, or would, go. I’ve always told myself, well, what can I do besides vote? What impact could I, Ms. Nobody Special, have on the direction of my country, except, perhaps, praying as fervently as I can? What must happen before I realize there’s a war I have to fight? When would I take a stand, put myself out there, perhaps in danger, perhaps, even, in front of a bullet?
And, I think I’ve finally answered myself: It’s right about now. 
Although there are countless reasons, one of the most important has to do with our children. I am a teacher. I’m a good teacher. I think I was born a teacher; I forced my siblings and friends to sit in “desks” and “play school” throughout our childhood, and even then I think I knew my fate: A job I would love, making very little money! But, love it I did ... and do.
So, watching growing numbers of children lately -- their behavior, their work ethic, their morals, their basic education -- sliding inevitably downward, this is one sign of my war approaching. 
Regrettably, this is NOT the same thing as our parents decrying their children’s trip to hell on the wings of rock ’n’ roll, mini-skirts, bra-burnings, or the Beatles. This is a fundamental shift in what more and more children are learning from their parents and, to a great extent, from society in general; things Dr. King would never have “dreamed of” or wanted for his own children, or my children, or any child. 
But I wish I could ask him so many questions, not just about the direction of our country, but about the frightening assault on our children by an increasingly destructive, manipulative, indoctrinating and degenerating community: disrespect and scorn for their elders; contempt for religion and the religious; mockery of moral, restrained behavior; demand for total respect from and equality with parents and teachers; expectation of indulgence for lazy, unproductive and undeserving work product, having been steeped in a plethora of “victimhood” mentalities; entitlement to tolerance by adults of foul language, sexual experimentation, backtalk (I know, I’m dating myself!) and self-determination from an early age.
Were these the values that Dr. King espoused? No, ma’am. I believe he would have “taken up arms” against this culture, especially against its decreasing belief in, and  guidance by, God. Because, if we love our children, we MUST fight it. 
I know Dr. King believed we are one nation “under God”; that without Him we would fail.  And, if he were to witness this systematic moral corrupting of our youth, I know it would be another war he’d “have to” fight. Right beside me ... and you?

Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker.  Readers may contact her at, or by visiting her website at