As a former high school teacher and an alderman, I have read the evaluation of the students’ performance at Rockford Public Schools with anxiety. Everyone dances around the issue and plays the same tune of the need for money and programs to solve these problems.

This attitude has failed in the past and will continue to fail in the future. I have yet to see the mainstream offer any meaningful root-cause analysis in this regard. Education first and foremost begins at home. Period. Far to often I see young students with their eyes glued to some idiotic electronic device and not glued to a book.

No government program or action can ever be a substitute for a good home environment. Ever. I would dare say that on a wholesale assessment, no government program is able to fully overcome the damage from a poor home environment. Significant adults coupled with individual effort may.

Not long ago, my father died. In the aftermath I did my own soul-searching. I recognized that I own no achievement. Anything positive in my life is due to good parents, a gracious God and significant adults/teacher,s all of whom I have far too often disappointed — at times even resisting their wisdom. I am not unique. I have benefited from others for which I am thankful. As we enter this Thanksgiving, we all have folks we are thankful for.

After my father’s death, I came across a note that he wrote some time ago to my sisters and me while he was at work the day after Thanksgiving.

This Thanksgiving, in thinking of the students of Rockford I wanted to share some of the wisdom that made a difference in my life. Perhaps my father’s words will make a difference in others.

I’ll share some perspective. My father grew up an urban-poor, Chicago kid. At times, he and his family had to live in Salvation Army housing. His father was disabled. All of this occurring in an era devoid of social programs or safety nets. He grew to become a corporate executive and a leading innovator in information systems management — for the youth, information technology. His story is not unique. His background does not make him unusually distinctive or deserving of some accolade, but it does give his words and thoughts some credibility.

11/28/1980

To: The Durkee Kids

While I was in my office this afternoon waiting for the Elk Grove phone to be available, my mind naturally focused on the “Durkee Kids.” My thoughts and greatest concerns are “what are they doing with their lives?” I suppose in years to come if they feel that they haven’t accomplished their expectations, they can always blame someone else; circumstances, luck, ability, etc., but who is the loser?

My children’s attitude doesn’t seem to be much different than the run-of-the mill offspring today. Their problems or difficulties always evolve around something or someone else ... or even, maybe they don’t like that kind of work, or that company ... or something.

Since I haven’t heard or seen any positive departure from this copout and time to do something about it is growing short, I thought it might be appropriate to impart some of my vast experience and wisdom in the form of a little note.

First, I want you to all understand that success does not happen — you must work for it. Success is actually available to everyone that wants to grasp it. If you really want to succeed, you must first form the habit of doing the things that those who are failures DON’T LIKE TO DO. Since success is achieved by the minority of people, it is therefore unnatural and not to be achieved by following our natural likes and dislikes. You must be able to do the things that you do not like to do and what others do not like to do. Most importantly, you should not be guided by your natural pretenses and/or personal prejudices. Therefore a logical conclusion is — if you are to be successful in your life, you must form the habit of doing things that failures do not like to do. Your purpose in life must be strong enough to permit you to form the habit of doing whatever it takes to get the job done.

In closing, I might add that you all must reach beyond conversation for satisfaction — you must show results.

Thank you for taking the time to read this note — I hope some part of it made sense to each of you — if it would only cause you to stop and think ... "time is running out — where am I going?" You still have a chance.

Future Good Luck

Dad

Study hard. Knowledge is power.

Tim Durkee, R-1, is a Rockford alderman.