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Living dreams and making choices


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As we continue debate about the direction in which our young people are headed, it is just as well that we contrast current newspaper reports of two young persons from overseas. We draw attention to these accounts  as reported, not because they come from abroad, but more so because there are  two instances of the choices made  by two youngsters at different ends  of the spectrum. Last Sunday morning, newspapers  in Australia carried a front page story  of a ruddy-faced young lady who had been welcomed home the previous day after sailing around the world alone  for some 210 days. This level-headed young lady was not yet 17, but had faced the sternest tests  of courage and character as she pitted her skill, learning, discipline and desire  to achieve against the awesome power  of nature. On arrival, when asked about her stupendous achievement, this young lady spoke a mouthful, which many other young people might wish to adopt as their mantra.She said: “You just got to have a dream, believe in it and work hard!”  How heart warming.Then on Monday, the United States Supreme Court split 5/4 when delivering  a judgment in the case of a young Floridian, one Terrance Jamar Graham. This young man was convicted of robbery when he was 16. He received a short jail term and probation, but was arrested again at 17 for taking part in a home invasion, and was sent to jail for life. The Court ruled that the sentence was “cruel and unusual punishment”, while pointing out that there were some 129 juveniles in 11 states serving sentences of life imprisonment without parole. 77 of these juveniles are in Florida prisons.The contrasts could hardly be sharper, for while the young Australian lady was preparing herself for her trip by passing the relevant examinations of proficiency as a seafarer, and sharpening her other marine skills, Graham and his like-minded youngsters must have been expending energy and, dare we say it, courage of the wrong kind while engaging in vicious criminal enterprise. The options, paths and choices are clear. Little more than a generation ago, there was a deep and pervasive poverty of a kind which had the capacity to tear this society apart, and we did not allow it to happen! The prevailing ethos then was similar  to those inculcated by the young Australian sailor, but nowadays all kinds of excuses, including “poverty” are used to justify  the deliberate choice to engage  in criminal activity. Sometimes a society has to take the bull by the horns. Pernicious influences penetrate our culture in every form of communication, and it now seems that advocates of wholesome and virtuous moral exhortation cannot do otherwise.