“We must learn to honor excellence in every socially accepted human activity, however humble the activity, and to scorn shoddiness, however exalted the activity. An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society that scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.” – John W. Gardner, author and leader (8 Oct 1912-2002)
There’s a certain degree of irony in that Mr. Gardner was responsible for launching so many Federal programs under Lyndon Baines Johnson that did not work. Still, I could not agree with him more that we should honor excellence.
Equally, to be true to our integrity we must mark with distinction that which has not worked well at all. With respect to Mr. Gardner’s fingerprints on our society two such failed programs are abundantly evidenced. The Great Society programs in their ill fated attempts to ‘wage war’ on poverty have gained little at the expense of billions. Not a good investment as pursued. Then there is education. There is a reason that so many are for vouchers and school choice. The teachers unions and maladjusted propaganda disseminated by so much of our public schools is little short of ruinous for our nation. Common core math, much of our history taught falsely, the idea that anyone should be awarded for simply showing up and participating. None of this and so many other aspects are less than helpful in building our national greatness.
So, while I fully stand behind this quote, I must apologize that I found these words written by the pen of a person that I do not admire. In fact, I hold him accountable for our nation’s decline not it’s rise to excellence. Be it as it may, I encourage all to honor and pursue excellence in all that you do!