BY DAVID PERRYMAN
We are often told that diversity makes us stronger. Tom Perez, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, said, “Our workforce and our entire economy are strongest when we embrace diversity to its fullest, and that means opening doors of opportunity to everyone and recognizing that the American Dream excludes no one.”
But are we really striving for diversity? Does America share a common goal in anything?
NASA was once a monument to national pride accomplished by great scientific minds from many countries that were divided by their heritage and united by their research. Consequently, America attained a goal that was promoted by President John Kennedy’s vision of sending a man to the moon.
That feat was not easy. The science was hard and so were more than a few citizens. Many claimed that a space program was not an essential function of government and many, like our neighbor, believed until the day they died that any moonwalk was “fake news” and that the footage was filmed on the back lot of some Hollywood movie studio.
For whatever reason, the envelope was not pushed further and the news now tells us that the most recent American to walk on the moon died last week … at age 83.
For diversity to work, we must engage in the pursuit of a common goal. It doesn’t matter that the common goal involves a space program or even a world cup championship. Without a common purpose we are but individuals whose pursuits tend to be short sighted and self-serving.
Oklahoma is losing, or has lost its commonality. As a result, education and healthcare and infrastructure suffer.
Without commonality our public school funding is diverted into vouchers and educational savings accounts. Sen. Ron Sharp authored an article on the editorial page of the Oklahoman last week, the gist of which was that “Charter Schools are bad for rural Oklahoma and for poverty areas and for other public schools.”
Despite this knowledge, a very powerful lobby continues to assault the education of Oklahoma children though the promotion of charter schools.
Without commonality, diversity no longer resides in our past, but in our future.
Another example is that many point toward a stock market with record earnings as proof that our economy is strong and vibrant. However, concealed by those record gains is a stark fact with which we must deal. Low wages, stagnant wages and slow wage gains may be beneficial to industry but not to employees across Oklahoma. This past week a business page article in the Oklahoman explained that “Modest U.S. Hiring, slow wage gains keep Wall Street happy.”
Another article disclosed that an Oklahoma corporation posted a first quarter profit of $11.4 million. While that was great for the corporation, it didn’t do much for employees whose benefits do not include health insurance or any form of health care or paid time off for sickness.
While the Oklahoma governor and Legislature refused to accept federal dollars to provide health benefits for working Oklahomans whose employers neglect to do so, the scant benefits that were available 10 years ago have been eliminated or pared back to ineffectiveness.
Oklahomans are hurting. While the business climate is touted to be the 12th best in the country, many jobs that are available fail to provide living wages and are not sufficient to allow families to be independent or take care of even minor health problems. Compounding the problem is that many young Oklahomans who have tried to better their situation have mountains of college debt and are now in dire situations that thousands are unable to climb out of.
Diversity should be defined by where we have come from and not where we are headed.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House