Written by Ronald Scaglia Tuesday, 20 November 2012 00:00
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln
This is one of my favorite quotes that I often repeat. During my experiences, I have met individuals who have gained power and used it to make a positive difference, help others, and make themselves true leaders. I have also encountered those who let the power go to their heads and used it in a bad manner. Therefore, I consider this statement from Lincoln to be truly sage advice that I often refer to, and with a movie about the 16th President now showing in movie theaters, it is also timely.
It is also timely because of the last word in that quotation – power. Over the past few weeks, having power – the electrical kind – has been one of the biggest issues on Long Island. Some businesses were fortunate enough to have electricity throughout the storm and these establishments were often packed in the days after the hurricane hit as those left in the dark searched for hot food, supplies, gas, a place to wash their clothing, and other basic needs that suddenly became difficult to meet. During that time, I saw examples of those who used their good fortune admirably as well as those who didn’t.
One gas station that I filled up at did not raise their prices extraordinarily due to the shortage. One night, even though this station was one of the only stations in the area to have gas, and also had a very long line of motorists waiting to fill up, the attendant thanked me for my business. Wow. It was an act of civility among the madness. A pizza place that I frequent often was very accommodating, even though there was a two-hour wait for a pie, as if they appreciated my steady patronage before and knew that it would be their regular customers who would support their business after the crisis had ended.
By contrast, another business that I went to was not so nice. I was treated with arrogance, and prices that I thought were exceedingly high.
I’m sure most of you have similar accounts. There were some who acted very responsibly in the aftermath of the storm and those who you feel abused the “power” that they were lucky enough to have. One common quote that I heard in the immediate days following the storm was, “I hope everyone remembers this after things get back to normal.” I heard that quipped about a gas station, as the speaker believed the prices were way too high. Well, I agree with this quote. I hope everyone remembers how they were treated. I hope everyone remembers those who were there for the community, and did not plunder and pillage. I hope customers continue to patronize these businesses, now that things are getting back to a semblance of normalcy. And I also hope consumers remember those who abused the power, were curt, and raised prices to unacceptable levels.
How people act when they have power, whether figurative or real, says much about their character. Now the power is returning to everyone else. It is our chance to use our “power” to hold others accountable for their actions.
Ron Scaglia is the Special Sections editor of Anton Newspapers.