Right to the Point (5/20/10)

Do your duty in all things

May 20, 2010

By Mike Benevento

Before reading today’s column, please know that this is my final “Right to the Point” article. For more than two years, I have taken pleasure in sharing my thoughts, principles and hopes with you. Thanks for perusing this column every other week. I hope you enjoyed it.

I am stepping down in order to seek election as one of Williston’s two representatives to the Vermont House. Continuing to write a conservative column while campaigning would give me an unfair advantage.

So, now is the time to give someone else a chance to write the column — perhaps even you. Please contact the Observer if you are interested in taking over.

If you are a Williston resident, please strongly consider voting for me in November. My goal is to represent all Willistonians — no matter what their political leanings are. Together, we can work for a better Vermont.

Prior to concluding my prologue, special thanks go to Calvin, Matthew and Kristine for their support. Without my family’s patience and help, I would not have been as successful these past two-plus years.

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During my college days at the Air Force Academy — along with averaging 21 semester hours, playing sports, daily inspections and marching everywhere — I had to memorize many quotations.

My favorite was from Gen. Robert E. Lee: “Duty then is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more; you should never wish to do less.”

Duty is sublime — it is uplifting and awe-inspiring. Duty is not about tooting one’s horn or trying to impress. It involves quietly performing what is expected and fulfilling our obligations.

We should strive to live as Gen. Lee directed — doing our duty in all things.

Most anyone can do the effortless tasks and make simple choices. However, we need to go beyond that. We need to do the dirty work. Do the right thing. Do our duty.

It’s easy to neglect responsibilities, especially when they seem mundane. Nevertheless, these duties are necessary. For example: doing the dishes after a long workday, reading your children a book, watching their soccer match, volunteering for a charity, writing letters to a distant relative, emptying the cat litter and voting. All are perhaps boring and unglamorous — but important.

In America, plenty of families are falling apart because members are not doing their duty. Many things have worked in concert to hasten the family’s decline. They include higher living costs and taxes, two working parents, sliding educational standards, declining spirituality and slouching societal mores. These and many more pressures help tear down family structures. The biggest influence, however, is the abrogation of men from their fatherhood duties.

For the most part, women are the glue holding broken families together. Unlike a portion of fathers, most mothers have not left their children. Instead, these women chug along doing their duty — the hard work of raising children properly— while many fathers avoid being a “dad.”

Now, I realize that the last sweeping observation does not accurately describe every family. There are many single-parent families caused by a spouse’s premature death or led by fathers, same-sex co-heads and joint custody relationships working out fine. I am not talking about individual families, but discussing families on a macro level.

In America, about half the children are raised out of wedlock or live in single-parent homes. The numbers are more staggering for various minorities — some are approaching three out of four. Especially in inner cities, a stereotype finds young men impregnating young women, dumping them and shirking their responsibilities. Unfortunately, children of these fatherless families have less of a chance at a successful life.

Studies show that children raised in single-parent families are more likely to drop out of school, earn less pay, have higher divorce rates, are more prone toward violence and are more likely to have children out of wedlock — thus perpetuating a vicious cycle.

Hillary Clinton believes that it takes a village to raise a child. I disagree. It should only take a family. Sadly, because all too many fathers have abandoned their responsibilities, governments and villages feel obligated to step in and fill the gap.

We all work harder and harder for less and less pay. There never seems to be enough time to finish our “To Do” lists. Despite this, we need to remember that we have many important duties that we should all strive to complete. Simply being a very good family member is perhaps the most important of them all.


Michael Benevento has a bachelor’s degree from the United States Air Force Academy and a master’s from Troy State University. He and his wife Kristine reside in Williston with their sons Matthew and Calvin. Please send comments to