COLUMN: Volunteering in America makes us exceptional

Farm Forum

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

That is a declaration from Vladimir V. Putin, Prime Minister of Russia from his Op-ed column in the New York Times on Sept. 11. His column was an attempt, of course, to school and take advantage of President Barack Obama’s attempts at drawing red lines in Syria’s sand.

Too bad. I get the feeling that our current foreign policy is in utter disarray. Example: Not one nation would step up and back Obama’s efforts to garner support for his “Johnny-come-lately” call for military action because of Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its’ own people. This get-out-of-here world attitude is probably the result of five years of a rather apologetic stance Obama has offered regarding who and what America stands for.

During President Obama’s address to the nation on Sept. 10, he said, “But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.”

Well, that is one thing our nation could do, but someone has to make the decision. Have we ever seen such prolonged mishmash of passing the buck of foreign relations governess to someone else? The bomber is all talk while the to-be bombed is moving his troops and stuff to safer places. Tactically, these efforts display a shocking incompetence.

Prime Minister Putin’s suggestion that, if you call people exceptional, they’ll make you pay for it is what one would expect. Socialist reasoning? Indeed!

There are many things that surely make our nation exceptional but the most profound of them is us, our nation’s freedom-loving people, working within a system called capitalism that inspires us to excel because we can profit from our efforts. Profit? Surely, it’s not only material profit but the reward of personal positive self-esteem, which is a product of nurtured attitudes of personal responsibility both in secular and spiritual pursuits. We are further gifted by the warm-blanket feeling that we are, indeed, a worthy part of the committed, focused community around us.

This brings us to Cindy Beard, the director of RSVP/Foster Grandparent Program of the North Central region of South Dakota. I felt privileged to entertain at a recognition party for something over 200 attendees of the 513 RSVP volunteers in this region and Cindy was kind enough to give me some stats covering members of these organizations efforts’ during 2012. During these 12 months, 513 RSVP volunteers provided 52,065 hours of service to 50 partnering agencies and 63 foster grandparents served 39,802 hours working with children at 32 partnering agencies in 2012. That’s 91,867 hours!

Mr. Putin, I’ll loudly and confidently exclaim: That is exceptional! President Obama, I think Putin has opened the door to your offering another speech to the nation applauding the exceptionality of the American people.

My accordion beckons. . .

Perk Washenberger, Aberdeen, a retired real estate broker and business owner, now musically entertains people in senior living and care centers and at community events. Please write to him at