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  • Don Walker

Talents, Opportunity, and Their Distribution


There is a commercial for Southern New Hampshire University. You may have seen it. This particular commercial was of a graduation ceremony. There is a speaker asking various demographic groups to stand. He called upon those who were the first in their family to go to college, single parents, military members, and others who might have had to overcome difficulty in their personal lives to get the degree. This I am sure was meant to be encouraging. But what the speaker next said was, “the world in which we live equally distributes talent but does not equally distribute opportunity.” What? The first time I heard it I thought I misunderstood him. But I have heard it several times. How could someone make such a ridiculous statement and not be challenged on it?


Whether you believe in God or just random acts of nature creating and controlling this world, there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty, our world does not equally distribute talent in any way shape or form. If that were true, there would never be Michael Jordan or a Tiger Woods, or a Patrick Mahomes who stand above others in their chosen sports. There would never have been an Einstein or Tesla. A Bach or Beethoven, a Rembrandt or a Herman Melville. They would not have stood out in their fields and nobody would stand out in any field because we’d all be equally talented in every way shape and form. Clearly we are not. My son has mechanical ability that I lack. I know people who can add a column of figures in their head, I have to use a calculator. Let's face it, we have not all been equipped with same I.Q., or the same physical abilities. I think you can all agree with me on this point, talent is not equally distributed.


The second part of his statement is a little more accurate but not in the way I believe he meant it. This country distributes opportunity more equally, though maybe not perfectly, than any other country in the world or for that matter in the history of the world. It’s true that people in Third World countries do not have the same opportunities to attend college, gain access to adequate healthcare, gain access to adequate sanitary facilities or food as countries such as America or numerous Western nations. I have been in a number of these Third World countries and I know this is so.


But I believe he was talking about the opportunity to get an education in America when he made that statement and he could not be more wrong. With the number of colleges available including the financial aid available, the only thing keeping people from taking advantage of the opportunity to attend college is themselves. We all have heard stories and probably know someone who got themselves in difficult situations whether through their own life choices or those of others that put them in situations where it would not seem to be an easy decision to attend college, but they did anyway and were able to get a degree. So to say that that opportunity is not equally distributed is actually wrong because anyone in America can attend college, they may not succeed at it for various reasons but they can attend college. That does not mean a college degree will secure you a high paying job. But the opportunity is there.


But you know what underlies his statement? A belief among the educational and political elite that so many people in our country are victims of oppression or bigotry or some other force that is outside of their control and is put upon them by another group of people who are privileged. That my friend is the underlying perspective that many have accepted without question. This is the "victim mentality" that guides a major portion of American politics today, and it under girds the drift toward socialism.

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