News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 15, 2006

Pete Chalos: Lack of opportunity raises concerns for future


Over the years, I have been invited to speak to numerous service groups, church groups and political organizations within the community of Terre Haute. After sharing a few of my own thoughts and ideas, I always take the opportunity to answer questions from the crowd. I look forward to these question and answer sessions. In fact, it’s my favorite part of the meeting.

I like hearing what friends and neighbors have on their minds and I like sharing ideas with them on subjects they feel strongly about. Often, a question or a comment from the crowd will spark a meaningful dialogue or allow me to address a subject that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to address otherwise.

Politics is the art of listening to the concerns of your friends and neighbors and finding a way to create better conditions for them. The way to tell if a politician or public servant is interested in more than his own advancement is to watch closely his interactions with others in the community. Does he like it when people ask him questions? Does he address concerns from the old and the young? Does he visit groups that aren’t promising him campaign funds or support? Is he involved?

My most recent opportunity to speak was to a senior citizen group at Maplewood Christian Church. Seniors have a unique perspective when it comes to seeing the big picture. Having lived long enough to see a number of changes, and get a sense of the direction our country is heading in, they can often anticipate coming storms.

Listening to the concerns and questions of our seniors is a good way for this younger generation to prevent future storms from catching them unprepared. Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. Those who ignore their elders are ignoring the testimony of eyewitnesses to that history.

Having lived through The Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam and Ronald Reagan’s economy, I guess I could be considered a senior myself although I certainly don’t feel that old. When speaking to others in my age bracket, it becomes obvious that many of us share the same concerns.

One of the main things many are concerned about is losing their children and grandchildren. I’m not necessarily speaking about losing them in the war. The fear is that our young people will be forced to move all over the country in search of job opportunities. These young people will be forced to live in faraway cities with no family there to support them.

Many of our full-time jobs in the private sector are being sent overseas. A recent example being IBM’s decision to send 10,000 more jobs to India this past month. Meanwhile, the largest areas of growth in employment are in government jobs. We need more social workers, more welfare workers and more staff to work at the unemployment offices. Over half of Americans now work for the government. It’s beginning to look a lot like communism. At least, we seem to be heading in that direction.

The state has become our largest employer. In some communities, the military becomes the only option for a decent wage for many. Our young people either have to move across the country to find a job, and settle for one far beneath their qualifications at that, work for the government, or volunteer to be sent to Iraq.

Putting our future in the hands of corporate America is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. It’s corporate America’s job to make money just like it’s a kid’s job to raid the candy jar. Our government seems to be asleep at the gate while corporate America is making off with our future. Waiting until the next crisis or the next great economic depression would be irresponsible. Our government must take action today to produce legislation that will protect American workers and regulate foreign investment.

There should be an even playing field between American labor and their foreign labor competitors. If American companies are going to do business abroad, they should be required to abide by American standards for wages and benefits. If a company is willing to do that, then we’ll know for sure that they are interested in the growth of foreign economies instead of merely interested in taking advantage of slave labor.

It is the responsibility of our leaders to prevent catastrophes. Even the best effort to handle a catastrophe with courage and efficiency is a failure when compared to prevention. Steps must be taken by this generation before it’s too late. Reverse the trend now. Rebuild the strength of this great nation now. Stand up for the American working man and his freedom. Do it now!

Wherever private opportunity is taken away and replaced by government service or employment, be it mandatory or a necessity created by decreasing our opportunities elsewhere, liberty will soon be replaced by servitude. Safeguarding the freedom of the American worker is safeguarding Democracy. America is often hailed as the land of opportunity. Let’s keep it that way!

Pete Chalos, a longtime teacher, coach and public servant in Vigo County, was mayor of Terre Haute for 16 years. Send e-mail to pchalos@netscape.com.