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We cannot always control the events that take place in our lives, but we can control our response to those events. If that were not the case, how would children of alcoholics grow up to be anything other than alcoholics themselves? How would abused children grow up to be anything other than abusive spouses and/or parents? We are not living a life of preordained destiny; we are living a life of free choice. Look at the author David Peltzer. He survived one of the most horrific documented cases of child abuse in California history, and yet he grew into a man capable of writing a book about the experience to help others. Look at the children of President John Kennedy and Senator Bobby Kennedy. They survived devastating family tragedies to grow into responsible and contributing members of society. We are ruled by choice--not by fate.
Perhaps referring to the autobiographies of famous people will offer some assistance with this question. One autobiography which comes to mind is Richard Wright's Black Boy. In the beginning of his book, Wright records the tremendous hunger that he felt from childhood, both physical and spiritual. Indeed, it is this hunger for both food and knowledge which drove Wright to succeed. Yet, there were other adult factors and environment as well that did affect him. But, above all these, his determined will is what brought Richard Wright success. This will was intrinsic in him; as a child he did not just blindly obey others. As the valedictorian, Richard was told to give a speech at graduation. Later, the principal handed him a pre-written speech because important people would be in the audience who might be "offended" by something Richard were to say; nevertheless, Richard insisted on giving his own speech.
From reading his autobiography, the reader can only conclude that the inherent hunger and will are the most important contributors to the person of Richard Wright. His autobiography gives a strong argument for hereditary is a contributor along with childhood experiences and an iron will.
Here are some questions to get you going:
Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
What evidence is there to support or refute this statement?
Do you have some control over the adult you become?
How do people with traumatic childhoods grow up to be happy and successful people?
Do people with idyllic childhoods ever grow up to be unhappy and unsuccessful?
Consider President Obama as an example. Does his life prove or disprove this statement?
A book you might find interesting, that speaks to this issue in a way, is Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.
My personal opinion is that our identities are created by our environment, our genes, and our personal choices. Why would anyone try to make choices at all if each of us had a predetermined identity? There is clear and convincing evidence that our choices matter, too.
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