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Thomas Sowell, Richie Parker, and the Left’s War Against Achievement

In a recent Investor’s Business Daily editorial, Thomas Sowell discusses the political left’s war on achievement. As an example of the kind of achievement he sees as an affront to the left, he describes the accomplishments of “an upbeat young black man who was born without arms.”

Sowell cites an inspiring video about this young man, Richie Parker, in which we see that his parents chose to raise him to deal capably with the world, and that Richie chose to become fully independent and self-sufficient in life despite his handicap. He is now an engineer at a race car company. He drives himself to work, operates a computer, rides a bicycle, and does pretty much everything that anyone else can do—just without arms.

What does this mean with respect to the left? Sowell explains:

The last thing the political left needs, or can even afford, are self-reliant individuals. If such people became the norm, that would destroy not only the agenda and the careers of those on the left, but even their flattering image of themselves as saviors of the less fortunate. . . .

The real war—which is being waged in our schools, in the media and among the intelligentsia—is the war on achievement. . . . What would happen if Americans in general, or blacks in particular, started celebrating people like this armless young man, instead of trying to make heroes out of hoodlums? Many of us would find that promising and inspiring. But it would be a political disaster for the left—which is why it is not likely to happen.

As for Parker, whatever his politics, his attitude toward life couldn’t be clearer or better:

Every step of the way in life there have been people who said that I can’t do things. Said that I couldn’t ride a bicycle. There have been people who said that I couldn’t live on my own, couldn’t get a good job and support myself, or I couldn’t go to college and graduate. I don’t listen too much to people when they tell me I can’t do something. There’s not a whole lot that’s going to stand in my way.

Kudos to Parker for his inspiring independence, exuberance, and earned prosperity; to his parents for raising him as a thinking individual capable of figuring out how to navigate the world and live self-sufficiently despite his missing limbs; and to Sowell for showcasing the virtue of independence and its threat to the left.

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