In my last article, The Woman In the Arena, I quoted an excerpt from Teddy Roosevelt’s “Citizenship In A Republic” speech that he deliver in 1910. When I wrote the article I looked up the entire speech and found another excerpt that has tremendous meaning for where our culture and economy is today. I think this excerpt gives women a great sense of peace, purpose and direction.
In our current culture we are told that to be “successful” we need to aspire to become part of the plutocracy, to climb to the top of the corporate ladder. In my article “Should Women Strive For The Top 0.1%?”, I questioned why we should and if there is a certain amount of futility in it. Teddy Roosevelt, over 100 years ago, drive home my point.
Nevertheless,…there must be a basis of material well-being for the individual as for the nation, let us with equal emphasis insist that this material well-being represents nothing but the foundation, and that the foundation, though indispensable, is worthless unless upon it is raised the superstructure of a higher life. That is why I decline to recognize the mere multimillionaire, the man of mere wealth, as an asset of value to any country; and especially as not an asset to my own country. If he has earned or uses his wealth in a way that makes him a real benefit, of real use- and such is often the case- why, then he does become an asset of real worth. But it is the way in which it has been earned or used, and not the mere fact of wealth, that entitles him to the credit. There is need in business, as in most other forms of human activity, of the great guiding intelligences. Their places cannot be supplied by any number of lesser intelligences. It is a good thing that they should have ample recognition, ample reward. But we must not transfer our admiration to the reward instead of to the deed rewarded; and if what should be the reward exists without the service having been rendered, then admiration will only come from those who are mean of soul. The truth is that, after a certain measure of tangible material success or reward has been achieved, the question of increasing it becomes of constantly less importance compared to the other things that can be done in life. It is a bad thing for a nation to raise and to admire a false standard of success; and there can be no falser standard than that set by the deification of material well-being in and for itself. But the man who, having far surpassed the limits of providing for the wants; both of the body and mind, of himself and of those depending upon him, then piles up a great fortune, for the acquisition or retention of which he returns no corresponding benefit to the nation as a whole, should himself be made to feel that, so far from being desirable, he is an unworthy, citizen of the community: that he is to be neither admired nor envied; that his right-thinking fellow countrymen put him low in the scale of citizenship, and leave him to be consoled by the admiration of those whose level of purpose is even lower than his own.
This excerpt reminds me of the saying “with great wealth comes great responsibility.” It gives us a sense of purpose and great wealth a valuable meaning.
I have often wondered if the reason women aren’t clamoring to the top the top of the corporate ladder or to the plutocracy is because we find no purpose in it – when we get to those lofty positions we become too disconnected from the rest of society which is contrary to what women strive for. For us, this disconnection associates wealth with being low on the scale of citizenship.
But what if we take a different perspective – that we need to climb the corporate ladder and the ranks of the plutocracy so we can lead men there too. If we believe we have a moral obligation to keep our companies and the plutocracy connected to the real world then we must have parity within those arenas. We must work from the inside to ensure everyone remains good citizens of the community.
I know I have sat in many a conference room and listened to men sacrifice their values for either money or to make another entity feel inferior. I felt an obligation to steer them back to the moral high ground. This is why we need more women who understand this role in the conference room at all levels of companies.
With more women high on the scale of citizenship in all aspects of society, maybe then there will be less men low on the scale. As women that is our moral responsibility to our communities, our nation and our world.
Empowered women are high on the scale of citizenship and lead men to do the same.
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