‘THE COMMON GOOD’ by Robert B. Reich is a medium-sized book that you can leaf-through in thirty minutes, yet fully absorb the essence of it — especially because one’s attention is captured by the two quotes on the soft cover:
“What are the American ideals? They are the development of the individual for his own and the common good: the development of the individual through liberty; and the attainment of the common good through democracy and social justice.” – Justice Louis D. Brandeis
“To work for the common good is the greatest creed.” – President Woodrow Wilson. This pithy statement so engulfed my heart. See the title of this article. The greatest creed is not Catholicism or the varying faiths in Protestantism. Nor Buddhism. Not even atheism, nor any of the dogmas you are beholden to.
The flight from Inang Bayan to the U.S. of A. was not a bore because Robert Reich’s book was biblical to this reader. It was a gift from my son-in-law Timothy Yee, a cum laude of the University of California where author Robert Reich himself is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Oh well, not to be outdone is Timothy’s wife, my daughter Rose Penelope, a scholar at AIM (Asian Institute of Management) where Asia’s intellectually-gifted enroll for their Management degree. Rose Penelope made it to the Dean’s List.
Long intro, dear reader, but who am I to discount the brain where it matters most?
In the introduction of his book THE COMMON GOOD, Robert Reich mentioned John F. Kennedy that made me goggle more about Kennedy: “When Kennedy was elected he gave one of the most stirring inaugural speeches in history. In this speech he said the famous words “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Can our current President Rodrigo Duterte ask himself of the same? Or ask our own selves, for that matter?
I wish I can promote the same principle to our school children in the elementary grades. We have a treasure trove of heroes – from our National Hero Jose Rizal, to Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, et al. All ours, for young and old, for inspiration and guidance.
Snatches from THE COMMON GOOD to entice you to read Robert Reich’s book: “A concern for the common good – keeping the common good in mind – is a moral attitude. It recognizes that we’re all in it together. If there is no common good, there is no society.”
“Truth itself is a common good. Through history, one of the first things tyrants have done is attack independent truth-tellers – philosophers (Plato), scientists (Galileo), and the free and independent press – thereby confusing the public and substituting their own “facts.” Without a shared truth, democratic deliberation is hobbled.” I couldn’t agree more.
In pursuit of the common good, Reich quotes Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” Food for thought to those who dwell in the cozy comfort of their meek indifference.
“Education is a public good that builds the capacity of a nation to wisely govern itself, and promotes equal opportunity. Democracy depends on citizens who are able to recognize the truth, analyze and weigh alternatives, and civilly debate their future… When education is viewed as a private investment yielding private returns, there is no reason why anyone other than the “investor” should pay for it. [Think of the stockholders of private universities.] But when understood as a public good underlying our democracy, all of us have a responsibility to ensure that it is of high quality, and available to all.” Reich could very well be referring to my Alma Mater, the University of the Philippines.
We are all members of the great family of humankind: We pray, we learn, we laugh, we love.
Postscript: Robert Reich allotted space for Ayn Rand’s “virtue of selfishness.” He quoted Ayn Rand that “man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest
moral purpose…” Reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, I was her adherent for a time, but my mother Cristeta utterly debunked my belief in Ayn Rand. In her lifetime, my mother was an embodiment of kindness. ([email protected]/PN)