In the movie “Cinderella Man”, we learn the true story of boxer James Braddock. Braddock was injured just before the Great Depression, losing his ability to support his family through boxing. He did everything he could to try and support his wife and children, from selling all their stuff to trying to hide his injury so people would hire him for odd jobs on the streets. docks.
In one particularly touching scene, he gives his meager meal of a single slice of ham to his daughter, pretending to be full from having eaten a large steak in his dream.
It was only in this state of poverty that he finally sought help from the government. He was ashamed that he needed help, but he really needed it, and he was humble enough to go get it.
Later, he is able to get a second chance at boxing and earns more money than he has earned in years on the docks. He then brings a large wad of cash to the lady giving government money for the exact amount she had given him over the years.
James Braddock felt a sense of debt to those who had helped him through a difficult time, and it drove him to repay that debt. He was a man of extreme integrity at a time when integrity was highly valued.
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Compare that with today’s culture.
When I was in college 10 or 15 years ago, I was a newly married student doing the best I could, but also taking out loans to pay my tuition.
My wife and I attended a party with friends, and one of them casually joked, “Should we use your food stamps or mine to pay for food?” What was a shameful sign that you couldn’t support your own family during the Great Depression had become a justified joke within a few generations.
I was shocked at the joke, as I wasn’t on food stamps, nor had I considered trying to get any. I took out loans to supplement my funds and repaid them as soon as I had the chance.
I still repay some of those loans to this day.
Today, many openly seek to cancel their debts, debts they voluntarily contracted to obtain their studies. Not only did they choose to pursue this education, but they chose the subjects on which they would be educated. Apparently they thought the expense was worth it before going into debt.
Comparing that with James Braddock, who was not required to repay his debts, you see how our sense of duty and responsibility has diminished.
I believe it is time to return to integrity, to be true to our word. The sad thing is that the more of us who act legitimately and take what is not ours when we don’t need it, the more people will assume that those who actually need it n don’t need it.
There are many who really need help all around us. The only effective way for us to identify those in need is to encourage accountability, both in our local community and in national politics.
One thing that would help that happen would be for people who still have student debt to contact their congressmen and senators and tell them that we don’t want their debt forgiven. We want to be treated as trustworthy men and women.
Jacob Bair holds a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering and is an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University.