Leaders are those who will put it all on the line

by

Published: April 2,2007

The Mississippi Association of Partners in Education honored former Gov. William Winter and Tupelo businessman Jack Reed at a dinner last week for their untiring leadership in promoting public education in Mississippi over the past half-century. It was our privilege to help sponsor the event, which was held at the Hilton Hotel here in Jackson.

Readers of this column know how much I admire both of these gentlemen. The subject of education is a popular topic today, with just about everyone recognizing that Mississippi can’t progress up the economic ladder without a sound education system. However, that wasn’t true back 40 years ago when Reed and Winter took their stand for public education in the early post-segregation era.

Important point

During the tribute to Gov. Winter, Dr. Andrew Mullins, editor of the recently published collection of Winter’s papers, made a point that I had not heard before and it had a profound impact on me.

In order to persuade the Legislature to pass the Education Reform Act in 1982, Gov. Winter had to propose the tax increase that would pay for implementation of the new programs. Everyone knew that a tax increase was necessary and everyone knew that whoever initiated the proposal would get the kiss of political death.

Making the sacrifice?

Gov. Winter initiated the proposed tax increase and, thereby, sacrificed, or at least significantly tainted, his political future for the cause he deeply believed in, the cause of public education in Mississippi.

No wonder he and Jack Reed are considered heroes in our state! Selfless acts in pursuit of a vision for the public good are not often made, or at least not widely known. Is there something here for all of us to learn and benefit from? I think there is.

What separates greatness from mediocrity? Will doing the jobs we’re paid to do make us great? Probably not. Will serving on charitable committees and donating money to worthy causes make us great? I don’t think so.

What has to happen is that we risk something valuable with little, or no, hope of either recognition or reward. Now we’re talking greatness. Under that definition, both Jack Reed and William Winter qualify as great and both men will be long remembered by Mississippians for generations to come.

Thought for the Moment

I don’t look to jump over seven-foot bars. I look around for one-foot bars that I can step over.

— financier Warren Buffett

Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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