Political leaders, both black and white, have not been content merely to eliminate the obstacles to black success. They have sought to engineer their future — and just below all of that engineering lies the assumption that black people cannot handle this future without the help of government. It is this condescending "compassion" and enervating assistance, much more than overt hostility, that has sucked the marrow of black communities in America.

Through the curriculum of self-esteem we have made a policy of pretending that any accomplishment, no matter how trivial, is worthy of praise. In doing so we have undermined the value of real success. That same curriculum pretends that failure does not exist except in the most extreme cases.

Your life serves as a clear, if unfortunate, example of this trend. Just by showing up to school each morning more or less regularly for 12 years, you received a high school diploma. I do not mean to offend our youth when I say that they should have learned a great deal more in 12 years of school than they did, and if you refused to learn you should have failed. Instead the educators who were paid to teach you academic subjects taught you that almost any fault can be overlooked and almost any effort is sufficient. No wonder so many young people find it difficult to summon the discipline required to stay off the streets; these young people are not even required to finish their homework.