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2009 Grade School Essay Contest
"Would you walk 25 feet for Matthew Henson?"

Your essay may be selected for permanent display on this website. Your school could be awarded gifts including books, posters, a Henson Diorama set, photos, etc.
Topic: "Would you walk 25 feet for Matthew Henson?"
Think about this. A civil service employee decides he doesn't want to be bothered picking up your packages. The USPS offers that service to all customers. But Ritchie decides he can simply refuse and leave a notice making up a reason that he can't back up his vehicle (read his note below). Yet the true reason is he doesn't think he should be bothered getting out of his car to walk 25 feet to the porch!

Now this is where it gets interesting. The US Government has an office of the Postal Regulatory Commission and the Inspector General. But they are all sitting in cozy offices 3,000 miles away. What do they know? What do they care?

So, you think, you can inform them with a letter. But they ignore your letter. You never recieve a response. SO you send your complaint by Certified Mail. Someone signs for it, but there is still no one really in charge—your letter is simply falling into the non-responsive depths of a government bureaucracy. Weeks go by.

You send more letters, you send faxes, you send the documentation to the Postal Regulatory Commission. They also will not reply with written acknowlegement of reciept, let alone tell Ritchie he has to perform the services he is paid for. Serivces that the USPS promises to all postal patrons.
Matthew Henson risked his life in a journey that reads like a brutal nightmarish race against death covering nearly 1,000 miles of Arctic Ocean ice. He risked death every day, for weeks, to ultimately claim the North Pole for America.

In remarkable irony, 100 years later, a civil service employee is preventing USPS Priority Mail shipping of Henson's commemorative items. Why? Because he does not want to walk 25 feet from his vehicle. That needs to change.
Essay Ideas

Matthew risked his life with Commander Peary so that America was the first to reach the North Pole. Today, 100 years later, should a postal employee risk walking 25 feet to ship a Henson biography? Should he risk backing up in a location with no traffic, obstacles, or other dangers?


 

(above) For years we shipped Henson posters, books & other items via USPS Priority Mail. The Post office has free pickup service.
Ritchie's note says he is "not allowed to back up". Is the real truth that he doesn't want to walk 25 feet to the porch?
President Obama said in his inauguration:

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

"...For everywhere we look, there is work to be done."

" ...What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them—that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works..."
One day this notice was left. Ritchie didn't want to pickup packages anymore. Can you believe that?
What can you do?

This situation is an excellent case illustrating President Obama's inauguration speech—

"The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

No one at the USPS will register a complaint, or restore our package pickup service. Yet the USPS is required to provide service to all patrons.

Letters are simply ignored by both the Inspector General and the Postal Regulatory Commission. Why? I believe it is an example of President Obama's comment in his speech: "...The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works..."

This is an instance where it does not work. But can we change it? I believe we can. This is the 100th anniversary of Matthew Henson's epic journey to the North Pole.

The USPS must not be allowed to stop USPS Priority Mail shipments of books, posters and photographs about Matthew Henson.
Classroom discussion & debate

• How can government employees be held responsible to perform the work they are paid to do? What happens when they act in their own interest by simply doing what they prefer to do, not what they are supposed to do?

• In this case—the Post Office will not ship Henson items; they are refusing postal shipping revenue. You report it by letter to the Inspector General. Silence. Months go by. You report if to the Postal Regulatory Commission and they will not acknowledge in writting that you filed a complaint.

What does a citizen do when the broken government you are trying to fix simply plays dead? [The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works..." ]

The importance of documents, evidence & proof
Discuss the concept of "putting it in writing." Why do some people say "Never sign anything!" "Never put any thing in writing!"

Do dishonest people try to avoid creating evidence by only talking on the phone—trying to pacify you?
What does it mean that after you have a long phone conversation with a government employee that you have nothing in writing? Can you imagine that later the person can say "I never said that!" "Who told you that?" etc.

Ritchie said he was not allowed to back up. Why not? Where is that written? What rule says a postal employee can refuse shipping revenue because he doesn't feel like doing his job?
President Obama said in his inauguration:

"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. ...For everywhere we look, there is work to be done."

"...What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works..."

MORE TO COME (January 20, 2009)
Verne Robinson