The Occasional Perspective, 10/18/19
Books and Articles worth a Review…
Cracks In Our Foundation – Every day seems to bring yet another revelation, breaking news announcement or press release that precipitates a collective, “What?” from the American public. What we need to realize is that our national soap opera is far more than a “national” discussion. The world is watching. Having just returned from a trip abroad, the first question from friends and colleagues is: “What are you folks thinking?” When I traveled the world in my prior life as an international consultant, the USA was always held up as a “leader” across all fronts – political, social, linguistic, economic. Now, our reputation is increasingly tarnished at best.
There are so many debacles in the ongoing saga we are facing that the cracks in our foundation should cause us some concern. We are distracted by the daily news and not focused on the essential elements that have made for a strong nation. It seems to me that we have some VERY big challenges on the horizon that get pushed to the background by the chatter and finger pointing among our left and right perspectives. I found it truly a tenor of the times to hear the debate about whether Ellen DeGeneres should be having a good, laughable conversation with our former President, George W. Bush. Ellen has done remarkable things for our society by coming out as a proud lesbian and – while I was not a fan of Bush during his Presidency – I admire the fact that he has the ability to converse with a diverse crowd of people, including his close relationship with Michelle Obama and others whose political perspectives he does not embrace – or, at least, did not embrace historically.
Long story, short – we need more dialogue and discussion among left and right. Such discussions are the very foundation upon which societal problems have been historically resolved. So, what are the problems?
- As you can imagine, first on my list of priorities is health care. It’s a biggie! As a consumer of nearly 20% of our nation’s GDP, so goes health care – so goes the rest of the nation. And, “Houston, we’ve got a problem!” I won’t harp on it but, the state of health care and the costs and quality of the product are a BIG issue for the USA. We need to solve that problem. So, what else?
- Next on my list – and, actually, first on the list – is climate change. Yet, we’ve walked away from any leadership on the issue for the world. Why? Because science has been pushed off the table. In the current Administration, data and science have been relegated to the back burner. Yet, the science and data are glaring if not scary. WE ALL NEED TO GET INVOLVED IN THIS ISSUE NOW!
- Third on my list of concerns is our educational framework. The very fabric of our universities is being challenged by a new virtual world that is disintermediating our knowledge factories.
- Fourth, our economy is very much increasingly intertwined with the global community. Rather than building walls and engaging in wars that essentially provide “temporary” protection, we need to collaborate. The USA is no longer the sole economic engine in the world. Being an effective partner is now far more important if we want to be a leader.
- And, Fifth on the list is infrastructure. One of our failures as a nation over the last couple of decades has been to apply insufficient resources towards upgrading our bridges, water and sewer systems, highways, roads and all of the other elements that we frequently just take for granted. With the advent of the Great Recession (and, even before that), we’ve failed to keep up and breakdowns in core infrastructure are no longer exceptions but seemingly weekly – if not daily – occurrences. On top of that, we’ve failed to invest properly in developing our digital infrastructure such that vast swaths of the nation have insufficient, little or in many cases no digital access. How can the virtual world survive if the infrastructure is not present? The divide between the rural and the central urban areas is growing. We can’t allow that to continue. We are one country and core capabilities need to be a part of promise our governments make. So, there is physical and digital infrastructure to consider…
The list could be longer but five priorities – it seems to me – is a long enough list. But, before we can solve these priority problems, we need to engage in a lot more dialogue. We need to do what Ellen DeGeneres and Former President George W. Bush did last week – laugh a little with the other side! In my experience, the big problems of the day were never solved by retreating to our corners. They have always been solved as a society when we reached accommodation and engaged in the middle. It’s called democracy. It may be a bit slower than dictatorial models but it eventually solves problems. It’s what our nation was built on. It’s what the world has come to expect. Let’s focus on dealing with the cracks in our foundation so that we can move on to the priorities we face in house.