Friday, November 07, 2008

The Paradoxical Commandments

I ran across this piece, written in 1968 by Kent Keith, when he was 19 years old. It's crossed my mind a lot in the last few days, as people of this country both celebrate and lick their wounds. I've heard and read a lot of responses to the outcome of Tuesday's election. I have smiled at McCain supporters who have graciously, and even humorously accepted defeat. And I've been shocked and incensed by ignorant and hateful responses that I can't bring myself to link to here. I'm watching actual friendships struggle when prejudices are revealed, and turmoil amongst family members that can't bring themselves to agree to disagree.

This writing, especially the first line and last lines, comforts and calms me, while I sit back and watch these new days unfold.


People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith


  1. Inspirational, timely words...

  2. StFarmer3:05 PM

    I read your twitter post from the other day. Absolutely jaw-dropping.

    To those that may have been against Obama because of his politics, I have no problem in supporting their right of political dissent. However, I continue to be dismayed, but not surprised, by bigots and racists. I wish we as a people and a country were over the prejudices of our ancestors.

  3. Rachel4:09 PM

    Great post; I was for McCain
    for many reasons none of which have to do with race,
    but I will say this
    that as an American and a Christian, I will stand behind
    my pesident and pray for him and
    our country and support both.
    I think what we all want is the
    same thing and that is a better
    place for us and our kids/grandkids! God Bless the USA

  4. Hello I found you through Stephen Bess' and I've enjoyed scanning this and your other blog "toys for troops". Before this I had credited Mother Theresa with this poem. But I just googled it and found that she had actually put the words on the wall of her children's home under the title "Do it anyway" with no author listed. What beautiful words. Bets wishes.

  5. Thanks for the kudos. I'm sorry you've had to endure the shamefully ungracious yahoos out there who don't understand that our system is built upon the ability of the people to bring about peaceful revolution and are hellbent on reviving the xenophobic and racist notions of our imperfect history.

    I'm a child of a child of the civil rights movement, so this election was win-win for me, though others felt far more polarized over it. I think both candidates had the potential for greatness, though I agreed with one more than the other in the proposed paths. But my vote was based on anything but race (my personal favorite among the Democratic contenders was Richardson) and I doubt your vote had anything to do with the skin pigment levels of either. We both made up our minds on what we thought the best guy may be... you because of your son... me because my little brother is following in my footsteps and enlisting... either way, whoever the next Commander-in-Chief may be will affect our lives far more than most.

    Though we may disagree on many issues, my conversations with you thus far have revealed many common-ground issues as well. Our disagreements aren't an issue of animosity... they're a part of what makes this nation great. Good people, with differing opinions, get a say in the direction of this nation... and we get to do so without having to fight each other to death over it. But instead voting for it and co-existing, usually as neighbors and friends and family and loved ones in spite of our difference.

    A big issue for me is genocide. I've had to study genocides, ethnic cleansing, or whatever you want to call the same thing the world over. The fact that others often mutilate children over the level of disagreements we have here that we'd consider petty... that's saying something. Even though the partisans are often nonsensically spiteful... most of us can recognize that our motives are far better than what we think of the other's judgment.

    America prevails because we can disagree and still love our neighbors to no end. Americans will run into burning buildings for complete strangers... regardless if they're Tutsi or Hutu... Bosnian Serb or Muslim... Chinese or Mexican... Republican or Democrat.

    We'll disagree to no end and be passionate in our disagreement. But the greatest Americans, all Americans can recognize, are the ones that would die to defend the rights of those who they disagree with.

    I disagree with Obama. But I couldn't be more proud of how this election turned out. I've heard my mother's stories of the 60s my whole life. Our progress is amazing. Liberty is an ideal that will probably never be perfected... but the progress we've made in pursuit of our ever idealistic ideals is impressive.

    I supported John McCain in 2008. But I doubt I would have cried in absolute pride and joy if he had won. My ideological opponent won this time. But his victory stands for far more than just his platform. It stood for what makes this nation great. It stood for the ideals we rarely come close to, but endlessly pursue as a people and nation.

    It stands for America. And right now I couldn't be any more proud. Hail to the chief!


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