In 1963, Martin Luther King dreamed of people judging others by the “content of their character” rather than external characteristics. The news from Flint, Michigan, reveals, though, that we still don’t understand King’s message.
Michigan residents elected Governor Snyder to run their state, to keep the people of safe, to be a man of character. Today, however, we find that, the Governor authorized, for the sake of cost savings, Flint’s water supply to be re-channeled from the Detroit Water System to the Flint River and then through lead main lines. Now, Flint’s brown, brackish water is not safe to drink.
In July, the Governor and the state Environmental Quality Department knew about the rise in lead in the water. They chose – nothing, despite knowing high levels of lead, when ingested, could be deadly. Who responded to the tragedy? While other Republican candidates remained silent on the issue, Michigan native, Ben Carson, was the first GOP candidate to weigh in on the crisis. Michigan needed a governor who could step back from the crisis, who was more thoughtful, who was more…Carsonesque.
Character counts more than experience. Experience aids us in knowing facts relevant to a topic. However, experience alone can also trick us into sweeping things under the carpet. Character, however, takes knowledge, wraps it around core ideas, and delivers wisdom. Experience knew water mains were available. Character knew it’s not wise to use lead mains, putting people at risk – all for mere money.
Ben Carson, of all candidates, polls as the candidate with the most noble character. He would have stepped back, looked at the facts and refused the use of lead mains in the first place.
MLK guides us to elect leaders based on the content of their character, not the volume of their speech. King would have endorsed Ben Carson’s thoughtful style both for state and federal leaders.