Readers’ Forum June 22


Three-fifths of an understanding

Were the founding fathers racist? Judging from the Constitution, we must conclude that they were. At least that’s the assertion of the Rev. France A. Davis, who spoke at BYU last January.

In making his assertion of racism, however, he perpetuated a common error among civil rights activists that racial inequality is reflected in the words of the Constitution because it “defines those who are considered a whole person . . . and those who are considered three-fifths of a person.” But this conclusion is historically inaccurate, perpetuates civil discontent, and taints the good names of the founding founders — things that Americans should not allow to continue.

Slavery was a heated topic at the Constitutional Convention. The southern states wanted to count their slaves as part of the population in order to increase their representation in Congress and thereby push their proslavery policies. The northern states thought otherwise. James Madison questioned why the slaves, whose “rights . . . have been taken away,” should be used as a political advantage by the very men who enslaved them? Abolitionist Northerners didn’t want to count the slaves at all, which would radically curb the proslavery power of Southerners in Congress.

The three-fifths clause was a compromise to encourage the southern states to sign the Constitution, uniting the young nation and ensuring that Southerners be given smaller representation in Congress. As Robert A. Goldwin has observed, “The humanity of blacks was not the subject of the three-fifths clause; voting power in Congress was the subject.”

— Michael Morris

Spanish Fork, Utah

Start a company (even if it fails) 

My past has taught me that it is best to experience real-world work from many angles before you jump into any specific career. My advice: start a company. The expected result: Failure. But this is good. Why? Trying is the only way to learn.

Here are a few things I learned from my own company’s failure:

  1. Direction. A common question is ‘how am I supposed to know what I should do for a career?’ In a start up, you learn everything from people skills, to strategy, to marketing, to decision making, to negotiating, to random skills you wouldn’t imagine you would need.
  2. Experience. I have found that anyone wanting to be a boss, a manager, or a leader needs to get experience before they have too many responsibilities and the risk is “too big.”
  3. Set apart. Your experience doing this will separate you from your peers, and will open doors for you. (Surprisingly, I got my consulting job after college specifically for the stories I told about my failing company.)
  4. Confidence. Your confidence in yourself will increase … and then probably decrease (when you fail), but will ultimately be much higher because you tried. You will be able to talk business confidently because you have actually done business. You tried and nobody can take that experience from you.
  5. Wisdom. The experience of failure allows you to take a serious look at yourself, analyze your weaknesses, be humble, and face the world knowing that it’s OK that you are “less than amazing.” With this understanding, your perspective on life will deepen.

If you are in college and want to ultimately be an entrepreneur, a leader, or just change people’s lives: start now. Do something simple, something you can attempt without losing too much money, maybe something that could be side income. Frankly, there are many ways to fail. Get out there and who knows; maybe you’ll get lucky.

— Wesley Marriott

Holladay, Utah

Stop complaining and serve

Have you ever found yourself complaining about things (big or small) that just aren’t important or don’t matter that much? I have.

While I was doing Saturday chores with my wife, little complaints about what she was doing wrong or how she was doing them came to my mind. Of course, when I told her my complaints it didn’t go over so well. After thinking about this experience and how I could better serve people in my life, I realized that I could turn my selfish complaints into acts of service. This simple thought changed my feelings from anger and frustration to ones of love and caring.

Complaints should be turned into acts of service because doing service usually makes people happier. If you look for these opportunities for service in your own life, you will be happier too.

— Spencer Johnson

Salt Lake City, Utah

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