The Meaning of Life?
In the simplest terms, our responsibility as humans is to leave the world a little better for the next generation. Any small good you can do is a step in the right direction, but I believe the two big challenges for my generation in America are:
- Restoring the American Dream so that every citizen and legal immigrant has a fair shot.
- Ending –finally– the racial divides that prevent America from reaching its full potential.
Tackling those two challenges are My Mission. It has driven my work as an entrepreneur and a civic leader. It’s why I decided to run for Congress. Are there myriad other problems to solve? Yes, and I will work earnestly to put those fires out, but the American Dream and racial reconciliation are my driving goals.
The American Dream for Every American
Some people say America was never fair. Some people are born rich and have an advantage. That’s true. Some people are born with financial resources, just as some people are born very smart, athletic, talented or beautiful. If you have been taught your disadvantage makes you a victim, chances are you’re going to lose the game.
Unfortunately, many people are raised with the wrong vision and become ensnared in the spiderwebs of socialism and government dependency.
I judge no person based on her or his financial status. I have no problem giving fellow citizens a hand up – that’s what Americans do. Indeed, my father’s family was so poor that his mother put cardboard in their shoes to cover the holes in their soles. They were on relief (welfare). Being Irish and Catholic, they also faced discrimination – though not nearly as bad as my father’s black peers.Despite these disadvantages, my father never lost faith in America. He got a good public school education. He had access to jobs – three of them at once. After more than a decade living in small apartments and saving, he and my mother bought their first tiny home. Eventually, they traded up to the house in Belle Harbor where they lived until they passed. In other words, despite the system’s flaws my parents got to live their American Dream.
In his I Have a Dream Speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
Opportunity comes from freedom and justice. It also comes from the infrastructure that my parents benefited from –that every American is entitled to– good education, the chance to apply their skills for profit, funding for homeownership, funding (if they so chose) to start a business.
These building blocks of opportunity do not come from a social welfare program; they come from a healthy, freedom-based and market-based society. Safety net systems are vital and must always be available. Socialism and government dependency on the other hand ultimately erode life’s potential and kill off upward mobility. They kill the American Dream.
As someone who learned his grandparents’ American Dream and witnessed his parents’ American Dream, who got a good public school education and earned my family’s first university degree, who started his own business, and whose profession is analyzing and improving systems, I am uniquely qualified to fix the systems of opportunity for every American.
A lot of people –understandably– rail against the system. I have 30 years of experience fixing systems for living.
So that is the first part of my mission Congress: Making sure the American Dream is available for every American
Ending Racial Divisiveness – Finally, E Pluribus Unum
Over the last 250 years, America has lived up to its original motto (Out of many, one) in fits and starts. Certainly, immigrants from Ireland, China, Italy, etc. faced difficult challenges on the road to assimilation. However, due to slavery and Jim Crow, the journey of African Americans is unique.
When I was in diapers, we still had apartheid conditions in the South. My first decade of life saw civil rights legislation, race riots, assassinations, the Great Society, affirmative action, forced bussing and much upheaval. 50 years later, America has made enormous progress. However, some people –especially in our inner cities– have been left behind. At the beginning of the 21st century, we seem to be on a steady march toward racial harmony – even before Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. Now, the voices of divisiveness are emboldened and on the move.
All Americans need to take a role in ending this unnecessary and completely counterproductive reality.
As an analyst and techie, finding solutions to support the American Dream comes easily. To some degree closing gaps or perceived gaps in opportunity will reduce racial tensions. However, harmony has a lot more to do with human relations than government policies or finance.
In many ways, it is bizarre that black-white racial discord still plagues America. The Irish, Italians and white Jewish people each faced significant discrimination. Even if it wasn’t Jim Crow, you would think people would acknowledge common ground. Culturally, black Americans have an outsized role in music, sports and the arts. What kid was not wearing Air Jordan’s back in the day? How many white people list to music by black artists every day. In Belle Harbor, the sight on black kids and white kids playing basketball in the schoolyard each summer is normal.
So, how do we get to a place where comity between white and black communities is normal? Well, I won’t trot out the overused “honest conversation about race” – even though that needs to happen. When these conversations are facilitated by activists, actual conversations are not allowed.
When the leader has an agenda, mutual understanding is an unlikely outcome. People who voice unapproved opinions or ask “stupid” questions are chided. Honest communication ends. Negative assumptions are silently reinforced. We get nowhere.
I had a similar experience at a recent civic meeting. I offered an opinion on a matter on the table that affected black neighborhoods in Queens. Later in the Zoom meeting, an elected officials said, “Our white allies should take care in telling black people what to do.” Since I was the only white person on the call, I guess he meant me.
First of all, I do not want to be an “ally.” That word has been poisoned for me. Instead of meaning someone who will stand by you and go to battle with you, in social justice circles it now means a white person who will stay quiet, nod along and agree with whatever a black activist wants.
I would much rather be a friend. A friend offers ideas and feedback, respecting the fact that you will make your own decision. If a friend strenuously disagrees with you, she may pull aside and share those concerns while staying supportive in public. A friend cares about you. An ally cares about being perceived as the good guy.
How do we build understanding and friendships across the divide?
The best way to do that is to get people together, be it working on a common problem or just having a barbecue. Again, it is not about some government program or “reeducation.” On a small scale, I go to civic meetings outside the areas I normally travel and attend social or sports events where I can interact with people outside my bubble. As your Congressman, I will use my office to create those opportunities for you – and then stand back. I trust the American people to take it from there.
Who is Paul King?
To learn more about Paul’s life story and how it shaped his Mission, click here.