No. 711



Are you old enough to remember a day when parents would say to their children, “Before you go outside to play or go over to your friend’s house, you have to do your homework”? Of course, today most children are not going outside, they are stuck in the house on a computer or playing video games. As a result, we have far too many fat bodies and empty minds. I say this in love, because I truly care about our children and their futures. While you may disagree with what I am going to say today, I have some ideas that I truly believe will help to change our culture for the better. At this point you may say, “How do we go about changing our culture?”
Something happened this year during March Madness that has truly inspired me. As you may know, the Final Four for 2009 was played in Detroit, Mich., a city that has only a 30 percent graduation rate in their high schools. During this time, there was a feature about an African-American man and his wife by the name of Willie and Norma Johnson. They had come to Detroit from Morehouse Parish, La., back in the 1950s and had worked in the automotive industry and raised five children. When they were back in Louisiana there was a man by the name of Mr. Lucky, where Willie and his friends gathered to play basketball after school. As he said, “There were 15 to 20 kids and it was always serene.”
That concept stuck with this couple and, after talking to about 100 parents in their neighborhood, they paved about half of their front yard and built a basketball court where kids could come and play. However, Willie had rules and he posted them on a big sign for all to see. His rules were No Profanity, No Fighting and Keep Your Grades Up. Every semester they had to show him their report card. The kids who came to his court had to abide by his rules, or they could find another court. The great feature about Willie’s court is that it was safe, something that could not be said for most of the city parks which were infested with drugs and crime.
Willie said something during a half-time report on CBS Television that every parent in America needs to hear, understand and believe: “No kid was born bad.” The kids that become bad do so because of the role models they are around (those are my words, not his.) The bottom line is that Willie and Norma Johnson raised five great kids, and inspired and helped hundreds of Detroit youth to have a better life and a brighter future. The reason this was possible is because, though he was tough and enforced the rules, Willie loved these kids and they knew it.
What inspired me is that I realized that Willie had the answer to many of our nation’s social and even economic problems. While it’s not easy to change our culture, all we have to do is change our priorities. The only people in America who can do this are called parents. Kids can play athletics, talk on cell phones, text message, play video games and other activities, but these things have to be down the list of their priorities. In reality, we can change America for the better by putting reading, literacy and education back in first place.
Hopefully, especially if you are a parent or grandparent, you will give some serious thought to what I am saying. For any person to succeed in our society they must be able to read, and without acquiring a passion for reading and the skill to make it fun, they are going to be severely penalized. They will also penalize others, because they will not be a winner and a contributor, but rather a drain on society.
They tell me that about a half million people read this column each week and together we can begin a movement that will spread all across our nation.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)