President's Corner

The Rule of Gold
By Alton L. Frailey/School Administrator, April 2017

Growing up in a small rural hamlet instilled in me a keen sense of community and helped me appreciate the importance of community values. One of those values was the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That meant treating others with honesty, fairness, truthfulness, respect, consideration, neighborly assistance and integrity. That tenet was taught in my home, my school and my church. Most importantly, my mom expected me to live by the Golden Rule.

Have I always lived up to the Golden Rule? Absolutely not! Yet, it remains a major principle driving my daily life as a person, friend, husband, father and superintendent. In today’s society, I strongly believe it should be elevated to a position of even higher regard.
As I’ve grown older and perhaps wiser, I’ve sadly seen a significant shift in the guidelines people choose to live by. In today’s self-centered culture and highly toxic, divided political environment, society is guided less and less by the Golden Rule. It’s been replaced by “he who owns the gold makes the rules.”

The gold is not the gold bars stored in Fort Knox or material wealth. This gold is the gold of influence and authority. Those who possess these currencies make the rules we live by — for better or for worse.

The pursuit of this gold, the quest for influence and power, is evident all over the world — from communities with dirt roads and piney woods to urban centers. When we trace back what informed most decisions, we find they are frequently rooted in the pursuit of influence and authority.

In our representative form of government, we must be wise in choosing to whom we entrust this precious gold of authority and governance. We must do so with a sense of hope and intention, not revenge or protest. Our decision must be based on our mutual interests as a community, driven by a sense of informed and shared purpose. Ours must be a decision based on high expectations, hope and resolve.

My mother taught me many wonderful and useful things in addition to the Golden Rule. One of the most important lessons came when I was in junior high school and, like many young adolescents, I struggled to gain the acceptance of my peers. She said to me, “You can’t stop folks from saying bad stuff about you. Just make them have to lie.”

To carry that lesson into today’s world, I believe that as education leaders, we must use our gold as our foundation and our path as we respond to challenges, fair and unfair, truthful or not, that come our way. We all know not everyone has a positive view of us and our public education system. But we must rise above the negativity.

Those of us who have been entrusted with the gold of leadership must prove worthy of that trust every minute of every day, even in the face of tremendous and often unfair criticism. We must understand that the weight of responsibility is far greater than the glamour of authority or fame. We must accept our responsibilities and carry them out with integrity.
As a community, we owe it to ourselves, our children and our future to hold ourselves and our leaders accountable, but we also must give our appointed and elected leaders our respect and support. We must use our respective gold — our character, our integrity and our leadership — along with the Golden Rule of treating people well, to build and maintain a strong foundation for our schools, our community and our society.

Join me in the conversation on Twitter at @altonfraileyC4S or #tellyour story.

Alton Frailey
is AASA president for 2016-17. E-mail: Twitter: ­@altonfraileyC4S