Womack visits ES high school, shares recipe for success
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack spoke to Eureka Springs High School students about the pillars of citizenship on Thursday, outlining his “recipe for success.”
“Any time I have a chance to get in front of young people, the future leaders of our country, I’m inspired to give you a little bit of context of what I would like to see you do,” Womack said.
He highlighted the importance of education, wise behavior choices, good health and public service for both a successful career and a successful life.
“Aside from your faith and your family which should always be at the very top of your priority list, I believe in my heart that the single biggest thing going on in your life right now is what you’re doing in school today,” he said. “Your education.”
In today’s global economy, Womack said the students are competing against billions of people.
“In America, we put a premium on teaching our kids and giving them an education that can make them competitive with anybody else on the planet,” he said. “You can be whatever you want to be, but education will open those doors.”
He also cautioned the students to make wise choices in regard to their behavior.
“You will become a product of your decisions,” Womack said, “and every single one of you here today has been or will be tempted to do stupid stuff. There’s a lot of stupid stuff out there. I want you to have the ability to recognize it and to put that stop sign out and say ‘This is going to reduce the odds of my success if I go in this direction.’ ”
Decisions made today can have lifelong consequences, he said, and he encouraged students to reach out to their peers as well.
“What we’re asking of future leaders is not only to say no to these temptations,” he said, “but to also muster the courage, character and leadership to be able to grab your peer and say ‘Wait a minute. Not only am I not going to do it, I’m going to do everything I can to save you as well.’ ”
Womack advised the students to make good decisions for their health as well.
“You won’t be 17 years of age for the rest of your life,” he said. “You’re blessed right now because you can overcome a lot of things just by being young.”
Womack told the students that starting a healthy regimen while they’re young will put the odds in their favor for good health throughout their lifetimes.
“It’s one of the most important things you can ever do,” he said. “There is no replacement for you on the shelf at Walmart.”
Healthcare is an expensive proposition by itself, he said, so striving to live a healthy life is a really good investment from an economic perspective as well.
“A lot of productivity issues are associated with health,” Womack said. “If someone is chronically sick all the time because they’re not taking care of themselves, then they’re not a reliable team member in their occupation, and it will become a discriminator on their employment.”
He also encouraged the students to engage in public service.
“This one is difficult because we’re kind of a selfish lot as people,” he said. “I believe in my heart that because we have grown up in the greatest country the world has ever known we owe our country something back. We take what we have in this country for granted, and every single one of you has the capacity to pay something forward.”
Some do it by donating money, Womack said, while others volunteer their time and labor.
“Random acts of kindness do the soul so much good,” he said. “If we had more of that, we would probably have a whole lot less hate in the world.”
Womack said it is also critical for high schoolers to begin thinking about financial management.
“I wish every single person in this room would make a personal commitment to take a percentage of your net income,” he said, “and salt away that percentage in another account somewhere, like a savings account or an investment structure of some kind. Make a commitment not to go to it or draw from it unless it’s an absolute emergency.”
Womack continued, “It won’t be worth much for a while, but then the compounding effect will happen. By investing in that account over and over again, you will watch that balance grow and grow. This may be how you buy your house or afford that car down the line.”
After concluding his speech on the pillars of citizenship, Womack took questions from the students.
Junior Isaiah McCurry brought up school safety, asking what Womack was doing to address the issue.
“School safety is important, but all safety is important,” Womack said. “I don’t believe the issue is necessarily guns. I think guns are a manifestation of an underlying issue that we need to find a solution to as a society. That is the hate and contempt that a lot of people have.”
He continued, “Some of it is mental illness, and some of it is drugs. We’ve got to find a way to make people pay it forward by giving something back rather than trying to take something. I think we need to have a really good national discussion about violence as a rule and about what we can do to protect ourselves from it.”
Womack said he is not the type to take a knee-jerk reaction to a specific event.
“I’m not going to say this will all be solved if we can start checking off and drawing lines through the Bill of Rights,” he said. “I’m just as supportive of the Second Amendment right to bear arms as I am the First Amendment right to take issue with anything I’ve said in this free and open society.”
Womack continued, “The Constitution is a very sacred document to me. It’s the first thing I said when I took office. I said ‘I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’ ”
He presented the students who asked questions with a congressional coin and complimented them for speaking up.
“I want to compliment you guys,” Womack said. “I give this speech in a lot of settings. Either someone threatened you to pay attention, or you kids are acting above grade level. What I saw today is not what I see in some of the other schools. It makes me feel really good about what’s going on in Eureka Springs.”