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If You Can’t Count It, It Doesn’t Count

A Moment In Time With RFK

Here in America, one of our tragic flaws is that we measure everything in dollars and cents. If you can’t count it, it doesn’t count. This problem was never addressed more eloquently than when Robert Kennedy spoke the following words at, of all places, the University of Kansas on March 18, 1968.

“Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product … if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
“Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”

Can you imagine these words coming from the lips of any politician today?

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  1. Linda
    August 4, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Thank you.

  2. Joshua
    April 16, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Thank you for posting this, Don. The words of politicians these days ring so hollow, so it’s refreshing to hear something with depth and importance. These are timeless principles we can reclaim. This superficial sickness we find ourselves engulfed in is an epidemic, fueled by the uneducated and unscrupulous. I hope we can find our way out and back.

  3. Don
    April 13, 2010 at 2:03 am

    Reading this makes me remember how I felt, as a quickly evolving 17 year old, in Chicago in 1968, when we lost Bobby Kennedy. He seemed like he was evolving at a far more rapid rate, toward a special kind of understanding of what the country needed. He had gotten to know Martin King and spoke eloquently in front of a crowd of mostly black people the night of Dr. King’s assassination. I thought at the time that he would make a great president; later, maybe more so than his brother. Looking back from the distance of 42 years and reading this excellent speech from that same deadly year, the thought recurs. No one can know how much of a difference he would have meant, had he become president in ’68, instead of that conniving paranoid brooder we got instead.

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