Wish I’d sad that, I mean originally. The pun is attributed to Groucho Marx, but my first encounter with it came when it rolled off the tongue of John Lennon as he exited a NY courthouse having finally received his permanent residency green card.
You see prior to receiving the green card, the iconic Beatle had been mercilessly harassed for some five years by the likes of John Mitchell, J. Edgar Hoover et. al. for essentially mixing politics with music in an effort to get young people to register to vote. In this age of real life terrorists it seems, well, almost silly. But allow me to digress.
By today’s standards, the child John Lennon would likely have been classified an LMI (low-to-moderate income) kid. His dad left when he was 2 and he was pretty much raised by an aunt. John’s mother was killed when he was a teenager. From all accounts, Lennon, like so many in his neighborhood, was kind of a scruffy street kid. “Hoody” was the term they used to use. It’s “thug” now since they have guns, here anyway.
John somehow managed to stay in school, studying art and music. I suspect that the aunt who raised him was an important adult in his life who provided the encouragement and support he needed keep moving forward. Of course John Lennon became one of the greatest influences in music and pop culture of the 20th century. Still is.
All kids need support and so much the better if it is loving support. Poor kids need an extra dose, and the number of children living in poverty in Delaware and throughout much of the US is rising. In fact, of the seventeen wealthiest nations in the world, the US has the greatest number children living in poverty. Little Delaware has more than 36,000 kids living at or below the poverty level, with more than 15,000 living in extreme poverty. Hard to concentrate on learning your multiplication tables when you are hungry, maybe dirty, lonely, scared.
We spend A LOT of time filming in Delaware’s public schools. Recently, a downright heroic principal in an elementary school with a very high poverty rate told me that, contrary to popular rants, many of the parents are actually over-employed, working two and three jobs just to break even. Hard to have the energy to read to your kids each night, if you are even home.
So why do guys who have made it, guys like Paul Ryan, continue to get digital ink for blaming the poor for being poor? No one blames the rich for being rich, we celebrate them! Does Mr. Ryan not understand how much talent we are wasting here? All those John Lennons who are languishing in poor circumstances may never develop their abilities without adequate support.
Just like in the 60s, it may be time for the people to take matters into their own hands. A great start would be for all of the adults who have an hour a week to spare (c’mon, we can all find an hour) to contact an organization like Delaware’s Connecting Generations and participate in school-based mentoring. (Full disclosure: We just shot and edited their story which you can see at www.ContentDelaware.org).
Mentoring has almost magical powers especially for children in need. Everyone wins but mostly the kids. It could become the cool, new, all-American pastime. Are you with me friends? And as for you Paul Ryan, you’re probably a nice enough guy, so stop acting like a heel or instant karma’s gonna get you!