And then the following night, Ron Price came in fifth place in the election for Board of Education. He is now set to be sworn into office on December 11th... in spite of committing this multiple misdemeanor.
In the past week, I have been very much bothered by this situation that Mr. Price has put himself in. I do not believe that he is now fit to serve a term on the school board, and several other people have told me likewise.
I finished writing this letter yesterday afternoon. The first real thing I did with it was e-mail it to Ron Price. I tried calling him to tell him that this was coming but I could only get his answering machine. I told him that he had an e-mail from me, that in keeping with Matthew 18 I was taking this to him as a private matter first before taking it to "the full assembly". That if he wasn't convinced to step down by this morning that I would have to go ahead and publish it. And that I was very, very regretful that this had to be done.
He hasn't responded at all. So he's left me no choice: this now goes before "the church"...
Dear friends and neighbors throughout Rockingham County,
In the second commercial from my school board campaign, I told you that "most of all I'm just a guy who's trying to do what's right". I also said that I cannot be someone who would do nothing when he knows something is wrong. And that whether I won this election or not, I would do my best to point out what is going on around us. With this letter, I am regretfully now having to live up to those words.
In choosing to step forward to offer our services as possible members of the Rockingham County Board of Education, the sixteen of us who were candidates on the ballot effectively took a vow that we were going to look after the best interests of the students of Rockingham County. That vow did not become null and void effective November 8th, 2006, regardless of whether or not we won a seat on the school board. Indeed, each of us has now made a lifetime commitment to serve the children, whether by volunteer action or the simple virtue of our character.
I believe that the situation before us now is a test of that character, by which our children will rightfully come to judge us.
Over the course of the past several days I have been deeply troubled by the situation regarding school board member-elect Ron Price. At first I believed the better course would be to hold my peace. But considering that I gave a strong recommendation about Ron to many of my friends and family members, his actions have put me in the predicament of being faced with having to explain myself to these people... many of whom did cast a vote for Ron at my urging. In remaining silent, I am being perceived as complicit and approving of what Ron did. I cannot allow that. And thus, it falls to me to offer nothing but the strictest condemnation of Ron Price.
On the evening of November 6th, Ron Price decided in his mind and of his own free will that the good of his political party took priority over doing what is morally – and legally – right. He stole signs belonging to a political candidate that he was working to campaign against. And once caught in the act, he apparently concocted a story that to the best of my knowledge has convinced no one. Indeed, I found Ron's story to be petty and insulting.
Quite simply, here is the problem: if Ron Price is allowed to take a seat on the Rockingham County Board of Education, the message that is effectively being sent to all the children of Rockingham County is that it is okay to lie and cheat and steal and run roughshod over other people, so long as you are doing it in the name of your political party or some other group. In other words, we would be teaching them the antithesis of everything that America is supposed to stand for.
It seems like such a small thing. And yet as a historian I cannot help but recollect that most of the atrocities of Nazi Germany were committed because otherwise normal and conscientious and even God-fearing individuals voluntarily yielded their free will to that of the state. In the name of "the party" or "the state" it is all too easy for good men to excuse their slouching toward wickedness.
All of us know that this goes on all the time in this country. It's so routine that we are now inured to it. But it has to stop, if this country is to have any future worth passing on to our posterity.
But if it doesn't stop here and now, then where does it stop at all? And if not stopped by us... then by whom will it be?
Is gaining a personal political victory more important that simply doing the right thing and respecting others as you would have them respect you?
And I have to wonder: if Ron Price cannot be trusted to respect the property of others even if it is something so minor as a three-dollar sign, how is it reasonable that we should be expected to trust him with a $110 million budget?
The best thing that Ron Price could now do to serve the children of Rockingham County is to demonstrate first-hand that we are a nation of laws and not men... by voluntarily relinquishing his claim to having won a seat on the Rockingham County Board of Education.
Ron Price's actions have hopelessly polluted his credibility as a member of the school board. And if he continues to insist that he is going to take a seat, he will be doing irreparable damage to the moral education of the children of this county... a moral education that he has by the way promised to uphold in his capacity as a candidate with a Judeo-Christian ethic.
Ron, I'm directing this to you as your fellow candidate, as someone who has come to know you over the past few months, and as a fellow servant in Christ: you cannot take this seat. For the foreseeable future, your actions have tainted your elected position without the possibility of redemption. In our faith there is such a thing as forgiveness... but there also must be accountability for what we have done.
If you insist on taking this seat, you will be demonstrating to the students you will be swearing to serve that America is no longer a country where one's actions have consequences. This is supposed to be one of the virtues of the conservative philosophy, and throughout this campaign you have touted yourself as the "conservative candidate". Now its time for you to prove whether you are a man of your word.
But if you surrender your claim to the school board seat, you will be setting an example to the students of this county that will last far, far longer than anything you might do if you do take the oath of office. I don't believe that it would be something limited to Rockingham County either: you would be setting an example for young people all across the country for many years to come.
It's all in your hands now, Ron: you can either jealously hold onto something that is now no longer morally or ethically yours... or you can surrender, and let it fall to the ground so that God might let something even more wonderful than anything you can imagine grow from it.
Sir, I very strongly and sincerely urge you to graciously step down from the elected position you are apparently insisting on taking. You will be doing far more harm than any good you could possibly do if you take the oath of office and become a member of this school board.
The measure of a real statesman is how much he's willing to sacrifice personal gain for the good of his countrymen.
What about you, Ron: how much of a statesman are you willing to be?
And Ron, I mean this with every bit of sincerity: if you feel a calling to run for the school board again in two years or four and you believe it is indeed God laying that on your heart, then you should do so. I would definitely support your decision if you did.
But there is no way that I could support you on the school board now as I can with every other member who is either there now or about to take office. And I'm far from alone in that regard: a lot of people have confided in me during this past week that they simply can't trust you right now. At this point you are too self-blemished to hold public office… especially in one charged with carrying out the preparation of our youth to be the next generation of America's leaders.
Ron, step down. You may have the legal claim to the seat, but there's no way you could ever regain the moral authority to wield it with any sense of integrity.
November 13, 2006