Off The Wall: Bringing The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge to Life

Alli TkachenkoMags‎ –  I just viewed your 1st episode of the “sweat pledge” you dropped on YouTube. I’ve always been a fan of you & your work… I let it slide when you moved over to the religious network (TBN)for broadcasting SGTDI, but now your are being backed by the Koch Brothers??? I’m so disappointed. What is going on through that brain of yours? Did you just sell out? I really want to know.

Hi Alli

What goes through my brain these days is not so different than what’s gone through it in days gone by. Not as quickly perhaps, but by and large, I’m still the same guy I’ve always been with the same basic beliefs. I still believe for instance, that hard work, delayed gratification, personal responsibility, and a positive attitude, are the most essential qualities for happiness and success. Toward that end, I’ve decided to bring the SWEAT Pledge to life with a dozen short videos that I hope fans like you might consider sharing.

Each video is partially animated, and recounts a true story that helped inspire the Pledge that all scholarship applicants must sign. My hope, is that people will see these videos and visit, where they can apply for a Work Ethic Scholarship, or perhaps recommend our program to someone who might benefit from learning a useful skill. You appear to have seen the first one. Three others are currently posted at Eight more are in the works.

Surely, as someone who has “always” been my fan, you know this already. My foundation is in its tenth year, and The Sweat Pledge has been around for almost as long. I am surprised though, that you were unaware that Charles Koch and his foundation are one of many organizations supporting my efforts to close America’s skills gap. I’ve certainly made no secret of it. In fact, I posted an interview with Charles on this very page that addressed other concerns similar to yours. Check it out. You might be surprised what you learn. I was.

As for “selling out,” I’m afraid I did that a long time ago, back on the graveyard shift at The QVC Cable Shopping Channel. I’ve been hooked on making money ever since, and offer no apology for doing so. My foundation however, while a source of great pride, is not a source of revenue. We’re non-profit, and we exist with the support of companies and organizations and individuals who share my goal regarding the importance of skilled training. My time and my money are donated, as is the time and money of many others. In other words, I sell out elsewhere, for as much as I can get, whenever possible.

For me, Alli, the bottom line is very simple – Charles Koch and his foundation have supported mikeroweWORKS for years, and helped me provide hundreds of scholarships for people who wish to master a trade. Acknowledging his support and generosity at the end of these videos is something I’m proud to do. It doesn’t mean we agree on every issue; we don’t. Nor does it mean I’m deliberately trying to send you into a paroxysm of despair and disappointment. I’m not. That’s a choice for you to make. But either way, your words lead me to conclude that you’ve fallen victim to the very tendency that’s tearing our country apart today. You’re not merely distancing yourself from people with whom you disagree, you’re condemning people who associate with those names not on your list of approved personalities, or networks, or companies. And what you miss by doing that, is a lot.

I think they call this the transitive property. (If a=b, and b=c, then a=c.) In math, this line of logic makes sense, because numbers don’t require tolerance, or compromise, or common ground. Numbers either add up or they don’t. In life, things aren’t so simple. In life, we’re often required to interact with people who see the world differently than we do. In life, things like peace and progress simply can’t occur, if we apply the transitive property to each other. The only thing that can occur in such an environment, is pure tribalism.

Consider the debacle at The Lincoln Memorial last week. Millions of people saw a group of smirking teenagers in MAGA hats gathered at a pro-life rally. At a glance, the teenagers appeared to be menacing an elderly Indian who claimed to be protecting a small group of black protesters from the racist white kids who were chanting “build a wall.” Unfortunately, the transitive property was in full-swing. (If smirking white teens = white privilege, and MAGA hats = hateful racists, then smirking white teens in MAGA hats = hateful racists.) Obviously, a closer look at the full video revealed a tremendous confirmation bias at work, and made fools of millions who rushed to judge.

Likewise, the show you mentioned. Prior to it airing on TBN, “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” aired exclusively on CNN. That generated thousands of complaints from my friends on the right – people who simply couldn’t help but share their disappointment with my association with someone they didn’t like. Their reasoning was no different than yours. (If CNN = The Devil, and Mike Rowe = CNN, then Mike Rowe is The Devil.)

I’m glad you’re here, Alli, sincerely, and I appreciate your support. But for someone who has “always” been a fan, it seems odd that you didn’t even bother to comment on the video you posted about. Whatever interest you might have in the actual goals of my foundation has been trumped by your contempt for a man I’ll wager you’ve never even met.

I visited your page earlier, and noticed you love Returning the Favor. I’m glad. But imagine if I approached that show the same way you approach my foundation? Half our honorees would be eliminated right out of the box. Why? Because half the honorees, (at least,) don’t share my world view. Does that mean they are my enemy? Of course not.

Like you, I have formed certain opinions about various groups and organizations. Unlike you, I try not to let those opinions render me deaf to conflicting points of view. I’m often mistaken about my impression of people I disagree with. Every show I’ve ever worked has proven my fallibility over and over again. On RTF, I’m not concerned with rewarding beliefs – I’m concerned with rewarding behavior. Likewise my foundation. That means coming to grips with the inescapable truth that people I don’t necessarily like are capable of good works. Just as people I like are capable of making choices I don’t. The question is, how much time do I want to spend telling the world about my “disappointment?”

Point is, I have no interest in changing your opinion of Charles Koch, or me. Nor will I ask you to “let it slide.” If the sight of Koch’s name at the end of these videos is simply too painful for you to reconcile, then by all means, take your marbles and go home. Just remember, hundreds of people have benefited enormously from his support of mikeroweWORKS. Do with that what you will, and good luck to you, regardless.


PS. The 2019 Work Ethic Scholarship Program application process begins Monday, January 28

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