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Joe Battista: The Fourth of July, With Meaning

by on July 06, 2011 10:14 AM

I hope everyone enjoyed their July 4th holiday. I don't just mean picnics and parties and fireworks. I mean that you enjoyed and celebrated the freedoms that come along with being a citizen of these United States of America and perhaps took the opportunity to think about the sacrifices others have made to secure those freedoms.

I say this because I fear that too often we simply take those freedoms for granted.

Did you wear your red, white and blue with pride? Are you still proud to be an American?

Perhaps as I get a little older (about to turn 51), I am a little more sentimental, so I like watching shows on the History Channel and movies like "1776" just to remind me about all that is good with our country.

Sunday's church service was another inspirational time for me. It included patriotic songs, and everyone suddenly sang louder and with more passion (even if it was a bit off key). There were people in the congregation with tears in their eyes as we helped send off one of our young men to basic training with rousing applause.

This year at 4th Fest we enjoyed seeing old friends and hanging out with family. The show was spectacular, and the folks we were around seemed to really enjoy themselves (in a controlled manner, I might add).

So why are so down on ourselves as a country? Why are we so disenchanted with our politicians and government leaders? Why do we get bombarded with all this negative news all the time? Is it time for an attitude change? Is it time we all stopped griping and tried to work together seriously to feel good about America once again?

I was never more proud than when I had the honor of coaching our World University Games team and representing our country. It wasn't about comparing us with the other nations. As a matter of fact, we got along great with everyone who was a part of the games, regardless of their nationality.

So here is a challenge to you: Have a better attitude about the country. Accept the fact that it's everyone's duty to make sacrifices for the common good. We got ourselves into this deficit-spending mode and $4 trillion debt because too many people want something for nothing.

Those who have prospered over the years must remember to be philanthropic and to give to those who are less fortunate. Those high-net-worth folks who have cheated the system (the Bernie Madoffs of the world) are as bad for our country as the worst criminals out there and deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. They shake the faith in our system to the very core.

But not every successful business or entrepreneur should be vilified for making a profit, either. We like to blame the wealthy for all our problems or look to tax them as a simple solution to fix our economy. An old Scottish saying makes great sense: "We will not speak poorly of the wealthy in this household because the poor ain't hiring."

Those of you (and you know who you are) who are taking advantage of the system and making a minimal effort to become productive are just as guilty as the Madoffs are. I know many people are really trying and are willing to work, but there are also many who have become accustomed to getting something for nothing. If you are capable of finding work or taking the steps to be retrained or to get further education, then just do it! Many times it's a matter of just taking a first step. Becoming self-employed or working more than one job (my father worked three jobs when times were tough).

A message to us all: Quit spending money you don't have. Sacrifice. You (and your kids) don't need to buy the latest electronic gizmos as soon as they come out. Ask yourself if you really need or just want something. If times are tough, forego vacation or your vices that just make it tougher (that goes for our politicians as well).

Financial independence starts with financial discipline. That affects rich and poor, educated and uneducated, young and old alike.

In coaching we talk a lot about "shared sacrifice," "persistence," "dedication" and "commitment." Come to think of it, that's what made America great in the first place.

I am still proud to be an American. I hope you are as well.

Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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