While participating in a press conference recently with the members of the Building Industry of Greater Louisville, a reporter asked Gov. Matt Bevin about the gun violence across the state and especially in Louisville and Lexington.
The governor said that the escalating gun violence has his attention: “You have a cultural problem, you have a spiritual problem, you have an economic problem, period, end of sentence.”
Bevin said we need to address the root causes and that it is going to take a community that does serious soul-searching. Commerce Lexington for the past year has been having internal discussions already asking some of these hard questions.
The discussion became more focused after the Charleston, S.C., tragedy at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. On the visit to Charleston last June there was a “Courageous Conversation” with community, business and elected leaders from both Charleston and Lexington.
Commerce Lexington was the impetus for a seed of an idea that developed on a Leadership Trip to Madison, Wis., in 2009. Out of that seed was born the non-profit InfantNurture, Inc. that developed and wrote “My Baby Handbook.”
It is a simple handbook to guide parents on nurturing their new baby to a world of wonderment and learning, which the path to success is all about.
The basic assumption about crime and social unrest is, “This isn’t my problem; let the legislators deal with it.” That won’t work.
This problem actually begins with how we are raising our children. A person’s character is set by the age of three. By the age of five, intelligence is set. How we — as parents, the community and educators — teach, train and discipline the youngest is going to determine what kind of community we get to live in.
Those babies and youngsters are future students, consumers, workers, taxpayers and leaders of our society. If we don’t do it correctly, we deserve what we get.
The evidence is overwhelming. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study has discovered predictable health issues as well as anti-social behavior. An example of adverse childhood experiences is outlined in “Hillbilly Elegy” by J. D. Vance. Vance is one of the exceptional individuals able to escape a downward spiral of government dependence and anger through education — insisted on by grandparents and teachers.
The cultural problem the governor cited can be addressed with each employer, elected official, service provider and educator being aware of the youngest among us.
Is the human resources department of a business, government office or school paying attention to the families of their employees? Are they setting an example for good conduct? Are they insisting that everyone treat others as they themselves would like to be treated?
Do we accept the premise that we, as human beings, learn the social graces and respect for others? Should we accept that good manners, respect for others and social graces never go out of style, no matter which time we live in?
Comparative religious studies should be considered part of classroom studies. The better each individual understands the spiritual needs of others, the better we can get along. There are more conflicts and human suffering going on around the world over religion than for any other reason.
The economic problem Bevin addressed can be solved with education. The better educated the five-year-old is when they enter school, the more successful their educational outcome will be. If the baby isn’t read to and talked to and taught the alphabet by the time they enter kindergarten or first grade, chances are he will not be able to read at grade level by the third grade — a prescription for dropping out and failure.
We all recognize that better-paying jobs are occupied by an educated workforce, and jobs are the antidote for a society in distress.
Alan Stein is president, CEO of SteinGroup, LLC consulting firm. Robert Riggs is co-founder of InfantNuture, Inc.