By Steve Jagler Special to Published Dec 15, 2010 at 3:13 PM
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes.

"You don't get much, babe, without giving..."

So goes the refrain of one of my favorite songs by the BoDeans. For a long time, I have been blessed with the realization when we give of our time, talent or treasure, we get just as much or more in return.

I suggest you use this holiday season to rekindle your own flame.

My latest rekindling came when I was asked to return as a community leader in the annual Pebbles for Peace program. The program is conducted by Cardinal Stritch University, the Leadership Center and the House of Peace. The idea is that on a grand scale, so many pebbles of peaceful actions can outweigh boulders of violence. The program helps inner city teens learn non-violent resolutions to conflict. The program also helps these young people develop as leaders.

When I sit down with these teens, I do more listening than talking. This year, I asked four of them to write down their answers to the following question: "If you could change one thing about America, what would that be and why?"

Here are some of their candid, unvarnished answers as food for thought:

  • Francis, 16, a junior at Milwaukee Pius XI High School: "If I could change one thing about America, it would be on a community level. When a community gets together and organizes and governs itself, then each member not only feels like they are represented, but they are also better off because of it. The more people are involved in their community, the better off the community is, and the nation as well ... The need for committed individuals is great in the government."
  • Chante, 18, a senior at Milwaukee Messmer High School: "I would change the poverty level that is increasing because some of the events that have occurred could have been prevented. An event such as Hurricane Katrina, the government has been below average in helping survivors. Our government should be helping those in need, rather than throwing them away as if they are nothing."
  • Briana, 17, a junior at Messmer High School: "If I could change one thing about America, it would be its negative, Black-hated way of thinking. America's way of thinking is basically, 'Me before the community' or 'Looking out for No. 1.' Those are a strong influence for the youth today. It is a selfish way of thinking, and it is being exploited and expanded by the media."
  • Haneen, 17, a junior at Salam School in Milwaukee: "If I could change one thing about America, it would be the way they look at things. A lot of America's media will show one side of a story or won't fully explain something. As a citizen of the USA and a Muslim, I witness and hear many one-sided stories. If American media would show both sides of the story and really look into our religion, they would realize we are like them and our religion is a religion of peace, equality, justice and fairness. There are bad people in all religions, and everyone shouldn't be blamed for one person's mistake."

These young folks are very thoughtful, reflective and have a very nuanced way of filtering the information they receive. In today's world, with so many political agendas trying to dominate the conversation, that approach will serve them well.

Steve Jagler Special to

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at