Indian Scouts Show What They Can Do For Their City


One of the most notable, and best, quotes from Pres. John F. Kennedy came near the end of his inaugural address on January 20, 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

Unfortunately, for most of the past half-century since Kennedy spoke those words, too many people came to see government at every level as an ever-expanding cornucopia of benefits large and small.  Only some of the worst economic conditions since The Great Depression have finally caused some to reconsider such a view of government.

So when the Park Ridge City Council cut somewhere between $30,000 and $45,000 (depending on whose numbers you believe) of decorative holiday lights out of the City’s 2009-10 budget, more than a few people who have come to expect more from government than just basic services promptly whined about how the absence of lights would hurt the community’s…wait for it…”quality of life.”

But then a strange and wonderful thing happened.

The Indian Scouts program stepped up and, with the aid of a few local businesses, volunteered to put up the lights; and Park Ridge sparkled pretty much as usual last holiday season.

If you have been out and about over the past couple of weeks you have been able to observe the Indian Scouts’ handiwork again this year.  And the taxpayers have saved another $30,000 – $45,000 that can be put toward the essential services that government should provide in return for the taxes it collects.

Of course, there are some residents who view this scenario as evidence of a decline in our…wait for it again…”quality of life” because private volunteers, instead of the government, are doing the decorating.  And we expect others – such as Alds. Jim Allegretti and Robert Ryan, for example – to dismiss these savings as another meager fraction of 1% of the City’s $50 million-plus budget, just as they did in denouncing Mayor Dave Schmidt’s vetoes of the giveaway of public funds to private community organizations.

Apparently they were missing from grammar school the day the teacher opened Poor Richard’s Almanack and taught about how “a penny saved is a penny earned.”

Whatever money is saved by volunteers soliciting and contributing private funds and labor as a substitute for public funds and labor truly is money “saved” and, therefore, money available for more important public purposes.  And even small amounts of money, when added together, can be significant – as reputedly noted in the early 1960s by Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen in talking about federal expenditures: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

Even more important than the actual savings, however, is the lesson this kind of volunteerism can teach those special interests for whom the expansion of government and government spending seems inevitable, if not even desirable.

Unlike those private community groups with the entitlement mentality who have become accustomed to getting handouts from government that they can’t get (or won’t make the effort to get) directly from the taxpayers themselves, the Indian Scouts and their parents are giving handouts to government.  That’s the kind of “volunteer” spirit we need more of, especially in these difficult economic times.

And that’s why we offer to those volunteers a hearty “Well done!”

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