Raymond Burse, interim president of Kentucky State University, has given up more than $90,000 of his salary so university workers earning minimum wage could have their earnings increased to $10.25 an hour from the current $7.25.

Burse, a former president of the university, retired from an executive position with GE with good benefits and says he doesn’t need to work. His voluntary salary reduction is a way to recognize the needs and importance of those who are on the lower end of the pay scale, but, as he says, “do the hard work and heavy lifting.” “I did this for the people,” he explained. He still will make almost $260,000 for his twelve months as interim (note 1).

Burse has set a wonderful example of real leadership that every high-paid executive (is there any other kind?) could and should follow. What if the “Christian” CEOs of a well-known big box store and a certain craft chain that has been in the news would take similar steps to ensure that their employees make a wage that would lift them out of poverty, so the cashiers and stockroom workers wouldn’t have to rely on food stamps for groceries and could afford basic health care? Suppose football coaches, paid obscene salaries and benefits by universities, didn’t live in million-dollar homes, but insisted on lower pay that would go to fund the custodians’ and groundskeepers’ and cafeteria workers’ wages? Or maybe the “rock-star” preachers on TV could donate the royalties of their books and videos to Habitat for Humanity or their local food pantries.

Pope Francis recently said that “Jesus teaches us to put the needs of the poor above our own. Our needs, even if legitimate, will never be so urgent as those of the poor, who lack the necessities of life.” He has set an example by driving a Ford instead of some luxury car and living in the Vatican guesthouse instead of the Palace (note 2). Of course, his opinions and lifestyle have not endeared him to some “Christians” in our Congress. Too “liberal.”

If two men, one in a secular university, the other the world leader of a church, can live so, why can’t others with wealth and power? Why can’t some do with a (relatively) little less so others may simply have enough? Those who keep amassing more and more while other suffer want may not answer me or you, but they will have to answer to Jesus.

Note 1: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/08/01/3361549/ksu-presidents-gives-up-90000.html

Note 2: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/06/pope-francis-poor_n_5654732.html

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