Over the last month, I have been thinking about what my next letter to you all would contain. It became very clear to me that it is staring me right in the face: Education, Education, Education. It is why you are where you are. And it’s exactly why I am where I am. Never underestimate the value of education and the significance it will have on the rest of your life. With it, anything is possible. Without it, anything is still possible – but is a lot more difficult. I have been fortunate to have adults in my life that stressed the value of education. And as you get older, like me, you will realize just how smart those adults really are. They have been there and even though they may not have done everything, their experiences are invaluable in giving guidance – take time to stop and listen.
In today’s world, education gives you a foothold into your future. Of course, having an education does not offer any guarantees, but it does not rule out any opportunities either. Pursuing an education allows you to set goals and achieve them. You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “The function of education is to teach us to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” My Dad used to tell me when I felt like I had done something and achieved it, that arriving at the completion of one goal was the starting point of another.
My concern for young people today is lack of setting goals and how the perception has changed from when I was that age. When I was growing up, mowing yards was how we made our spending money. We took pride in it and were excited to have the opportunity to work and make extra money. Nowadays, it seems as if people look down on jobs such as these or act as if they are above that kind of work. It seems as if folks want to start at the top of the ladder without having to climb to get there.
Your education won’t end when you receive your degree or when your classes are over. No matter where you are or what your station in life – there is always value. I can learn new things from anyone and everyone – regardless of their education level, job status, socioeconomic level, race or religion. I am reminded of a speech Bill Gates gave to high school students a number of years ago that contained 11 things that you do not and will not learn in school. Some of those rules have stuck with me for a long time and I want to share a few of them with you here:
• Life is not fair. Get used to it.
• The world will not care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
• You will NOT make $60,000/year right out of high school. You won’t be a Vice President with a cell phone until you earn both.
• If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.
• And this is probably my favorite: Flipping burgers (mowing yards, in my case) is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for this – they called it opportunity.
• If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault. So don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
• Television is NOT real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to work.
• Be nice to “nerds,” chances are you will end up working for one.
These rules are applicable to all of us no matter what we are or what we are doing. I like to sum these rules up to my kids with the saying, “Stay grounded – and don’t forget where you came from.”
According to the late John F. Kennedy, “The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth”. So what am I saying here? If you are a student reading this then you are obviously in school – count your blessings! School is fun – life is hard. Finish your education and make the most of what you have; knowing there are people behind cheering you on. One of those people is me. I have set up a scholarship fund out of my salary as Mayor
to help further the education of a Longview High School senior – as well as one senior from the other high schools which contain students from the city of Longview – Spring Hill, Pine Tree and Hallsville.
People have asked me why I am doing this. To which I reply simply, “Why not?” Nothing would please me more than to know I had some small hand in someone being able to further their education beyond high school. This scholarship is very simple – any senior who lives in the city of Longview and attends Longview, Spring Hill, Pine Tree or Hallsville High School can apply. All you have to do is fill out the application and write a one-page essay, which I will personally read, in how you can make a difference in Longview. All of the information can be found online at cityoflongview/mayormacksscholarship. This scholarship deadline is April 1, and the scholarship will be awarded in May. I look forward to reading every one of these essays because I have faith in our education system and I have faith in you.
Study hard, have some fun and say your prayers,
— Dr. Andy Mack is a 1978 graduate of Longview High School. A maxillofacial surgeon for more than 25 years, he is currently owner-operator of East Texas Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Longview.