If you have recently gone off the grid you may have missed the great singer and country icon Dolly Parton’s latest acts of generosity and humility.
Some folks in the Tennessee legislature wanted to erect a statue of her. She said, “No thanks.”
Maybe one day, she said, after I am dead, “if you still think I deserve it.”
This is not a time for putting people on pedestals, she said.
Meanwhile, she said she would continue to try to do good work and make her state proud.
One blogger remarked, “Good Lord, like we needed another reason to love this woman.”
Most everybody loves Dolly Parton because she is fun, genuine and greatly talented.
But she is a proper object of universal admiration, too.
Because she is a selfless and truly humble citizen.
She created a foundation that helps teach kids to read — the Imagination Library sends free books to youngsters. (That includes hundreds in Hancock County, in a partnership with the Hancock County Community Foundation.)
She has created good-paying jobs at Dollywood.
A few years ago, she donated $1 million to a Tennessee children’s hospital.
This year she gave Vanderbilt University Medical Center $1 million for coronavirus research.
And, all along the way, she has helped fund a wide range of good causes — senior centers, bald eagle habitats, animal rights groups and HIV/AIDS charities.
And that’s not an exhaustive list.
She doesn’t just write checks, either. She follows up on her causes and charities and involves herself in how they can grow.
People don’t know the full extent of her charitable work because she doesn’t want them to.
Awards and recognition are nice, she says, but that’s not why she does anything she does.
Recently, Parton delayed her coronavirus vaccine shot, though she is eligible at 75. She said she’ll get it in due course. But others need it more and she did not want to be seen as “jumping the line” because she is an important person.
She is also reluctant to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She harbors doubts that she really deserves it and does not want to be seen as playing politics by accepting it from President Joe Biden when she was unable to do so twice from President Donald Trump (first because of a family illness, then because of coronavirus concerns).
Her sincerity and humility are as clear and mighty as her voice.
Yes, her humility is mighty.
The medal has been greatly devalued and diminished in recent years. President Barack Obama gave it to a score of Hollywood A-types who were his buds. President Donald Trump gave it to cronies and political hacks who defended him.
The Medal of Freedom is for American heroes — people who have made a unique contribution to American life, or people who, for years and years, again and again, put neighbor and community and country ahead of self. We are talking about people like Jonas Salk, and John Lewis, and Fred Rogers, and James Farmer, and Rachel Carson, and Sargent Shriver.
Dolly Parton qualifies on both criteria. If ever there was an American hero, it is she.
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