In The History of Rasselas, the astronomer states that "integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful." I often have thought of this phrase by Samuel Johnson when I have waged a particular battle or have voiced a loud concern on a particular issue. If there is one single moment when I make the decision to be for or against something, though I am not convinced with me it is one moment, but rather an accumulation of many moments, I always think back to this quote and question whether I have the integrity as well as personal knowledge on an issue or if I am jumping into a battle with either one or the other alone.
In the last several days I have found myself referring often in my mind to Samuel Johnson.
Saturday I met with a man who did not particularly care for my article on the plight of assisted living in Idaho. Basically what he had to say to me was that I am young and stupid. There are a few things I don't take lightly and easily take personal, being called stupid is one of them. My greatest accomplishments have come following accusations like that.
As my meeting continued with this man, who I had not met until Saturday, not only was I told I was stupid based on my age, it was mentioned that I did not have sufficient experience in the assisted living business. Now, I realize that I am a mere twenty years old, but I also realize that for the last ten years of my life, the assisted living business has been my life. When I was ten, my family built a facility for developmentally disabled adults. And when I say built, I mean we were out pounding nails, laying carpet, and painting walls. We built that place from the ground up, moved in before there was carpet and managed that facility for six years. Every day of my life for six years I lived with that population and grew to consider them to be just like family. My younger brother, who was three when we built the group home, until recently thought everyone had a family like this. At the age of sixteen we moved to Declo. I continued coaching Special Olympics as I had since I was twelve, as a senior in high school I became the President of the Declo Special Olympics Partners Program (DSOPP), and I was a teacher's aide in the Special Education classroom at Declo High School. I was accepted to a prestigious university in Ohio on a full ride scholarship to study Special Education, which I walked away from and enrolled at Idaho State. Here in Pocatello I have worked for the last three years in the assisted living and developmental therapy business. Not enough experience?
Since my article ran in the Idaho State Journal, I have taken a great deal of criticism and yet I have spoken to administrators across the state who would have loved to speak out against the Idaho Assisted Living Association, but can't because it is the only organization they can rely on, despite its many shortcomings. Just this last Thursday I received a phone call from a man in Moscow who hopes to form a new organization specifically representing the developmentally disabled homes in the state of Idaho. He wanted my recommendations, my advice, and offered me a job. I hate talking about myself, I honestly struggle to even write a resume, but it seems to me that all I have said adds up to a lot, none of which is inexperience or stupidity.
I will freely admit that there are things I know nothing about. Today I filmed the Bannock County Democrats show with Allen Andersen and the topic was property taxes. I know nothing about property taxes. I know nothing about numbers. I took Math in Modern Society not once, but twice at ISU. I am horrible at Math. There are periods of World History I know nothing about. I'll be the first to tell you that I am no genius, but I'll also be the first offended by any statement that questions my intelligence. There are too many things I know quite a bit about and the assisted living business is one of them.
Having thought a great deal about my article, before and after I wrote it, I began to realize that usually when I stand up and speak out about something, it contains both integrity and knowledge on my part. No matter what it is, when I speak out, it is with great knowledge and integrity. It has been a busy, crazy day and yet when I picked up a copy of the Idaho State Journal this afternoon, I didn't hesitate to voice my concerns with Special Olympics of Idaho moving the State Summer Games from Pocatello. I placed the call to the Executive Director of ISO without thinking twice. I realized that when I am making that big decision over what battle I will wage and what stand I will take, as long as Samuel Johnson crosses my mind, no one, not even some big whig in Boise, can tell me I am a young, stupid, and inexperienced kid. Integrity with knowledge is a beautiful and powerful attribute that can make a statement not easily dismissed.