At one time or another most of you have seen Scott Siepker. Perhaps you do not recognize him by name, but recognize him as the guy who does the Iowa Nice video. After that he went on to do Cyclone Nice, Hawkeye Nice, and even appeared regularly on ESPN producing spots for College Football Daily. He continues to promote Iowa, as well as pursue his career as an actor, writer, and producer. At the root of the Iowa Nice campaign is the fact that our state has capitalized on the perception — sometimes negative — that people from other parts of the country have about people from our state. Apparently for some there is something negative about being nice, or that we Iowans have something to be embarrassed about by being nice. Oh yeah, I’ve heard that "nice guys finish last," but I can show you a number of instances where that isn’t true. When you watch Iowa Nice Siepker doesn’t apologize for the people of our state being nice, rather he points out many of the other things we have to be proud of. But it’s clear to me, we do not need to feel any shame for being nice!
Treat others as you want to be treated. The Golden Rule is a tenant in one form or another in all major religions of the world. Every one of us wants to be treated respectfully and with kindness, in other words we want people to be nice to us. I admit that when I was a kid growing up saying that someone was nice didn’t fit in with what was popular. I even recall (embarrassingly) a conversation our school librarian had with my mom after the National Honor Society Induction my sophomore year. The topic was “why doesn’t Todd have a girl friend” (yes, embarrassing that a teenage boy’s mother is having a conversation with a teacher about girlfriends) and the librarian answered her own question by saying, “Well, Todd is too nice for the girls in this school.” Thank goodness that story was not overheard by another walking by, or passed on by my mother to any of her friends! Geez!
Today, I constantly encourage teenagers and others to be nice to one another. I am not embarrassed to give this advice, nor to I choose to use other references. Nice is good, and if more of us treated one another in a nice manner, we would have a lot better place to live and go about doing the things we do. Today I am disgusted by the lack of civility modeled and demonstrated by our political leaders, and honestly, by many of us. Never have I been witness to the polarity that exists in our country. Apparently we have outgrown another pearl of wisdom imparted by our elders: If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all! Right now politicians don’t seem to hesitate to call others names, threaten, or accuse them of horrible things, often without facts and purposefully deviating from the truth. There seems to be a mentality in our country that if you don’t see it my way, then screw you! No one apologizes when they are proven to be wrong, and rather than admit to a lie, the book seems to say that one should keep lying until people either believe you or something else comes along to district people’s attention.
Leading up to the election in November we hear that a lot people in our country are angry. The image that comes to mind is the two-year old stomping their feet and throwing a tantrum in the grocery store because a mom won’t buy the cereal they want. We have been told by one side of the aisle that “compromise” is a four-letter word that really means accepting defeat, and the other side responds with other ways of obstructing progress toward middle ground. When people live in a world of extremes, negotiation is nearly impossible and common ground becomes elusive. And like the world in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and into the 1980’s, there is no trust, and fear causes anger and frustration. I get that people are angry about a variety of different things, and I have been upset by a few things that have transpired over the past ten years, but anger takes a lot of energy, negative energy, and that is not how I want to live life. Nor is it how I think life should be lived at North Fayette Valley High School.
The beauty of a public high school is that regardless of how homogeneous the community, what diversity does exist is amplified in a school. A school is a laboratory in many respects, as well as a model of the larger community. There are disagreements on a daily basis, and at times strong emotions expressed. School is a safe place as well as a place to learn, so not only do we honor the opportunity to express an opinion, we also have the chance to learn how to deal with the emotions that come when people disagree. It is a place to take risks and take a chance to express individuality, which often elicits a response. And, it is a great place to see and learn about differences that exist, learning to appreciate that fact that we are not all the same in our likes and dislikes. Within this melting pot, or pot of stew, life goes a lot smoother when we are nice to one another. None of us likes to be run down or degraded, and that isn’t necessary when people recognize each of us has a right to express an opinion. Being nice means saying nothing rather than criticizing. Being nice means keeping an opinion to oneself about a hair cut or a clothing choice rather than giving a cutting remark. Being nice means hitting Cancel rather then Send. Being nice means sitting by that boy at a table who is alone, or smiling and saying “Hi!” to the girl walking down the hall with her head down. Hey, we live in Iowa, and Iowans are nice!