With Rosabeth M. Kanter, Harvard Business School professor and author of the acclaimed America the Principled: 6 Opportunities for Becoming a Can-Do Nation Once Again, Mary Ann Gould took us onto a rocket ship high enough to reveal our present-day reality. The short list is that change is needed, badly. In more detail:
1. We have lost the exuberance and prosperity of the 1990s. There is a recession.
2. Our elected officials are no longer the public servants they were meant to be.
3. We have therefore lost faith in them.
4. Our democracy is, as a result, severely threatened.
Called by the London Times one of the most powerful women in the world, Kanter, like Gould, is a strategist. She is able to portray great complexities in language a sixth grader can understand. The principles she summarized this evening apply to many of our democratic institutions, our right to vote one of them and the most fundamental.
With the beginning of the twenty-first century, along with a recession, came 9/11 and with it fear. Less-developed nations suddenly rose along with a chronic paranoia that our enemies were out to get us. Our allies largely did not support the Iraq invasion. While the stock market soars, no attention is devoted to the peace economy. The people�s needs are being sacrificed to deadly wars.
The assumption that less government is better was proved by Clinton, said Kanter, who shrunk the government and improved its services. Now government is larger than before. We need to restore the people�s faith in it.
We started out as the greatest country in the world, a nation of immigrants defined by territory rather than ethnicity�an open society, open to new ideas and the entrepreneurial spirit. We still have the world�s largest economy.
Other countries have now surpassed us in the areas of science and math. Because of the government�s closed-mindedness, states are taking over the research the federal government should be conducting.
We must seek people with vision; remember how JFK inspired a whole generation by flying an astronaut to the moon? The inspiration sports fans derive from their teams� victories should apply elsewhere. We must believe in a positive future no matter who is in the White House. We need dreams as well as reality, and the first step is action to realize a vision.
Kanter referred as an example to No Child Left Behind, which addressed the problems of public education in cities as well as suburbs. But we cannot measure results because the program was never adequately funded.
Another opportunity was missed after 9/11; people were ready to serve but the only call to action was military and lethal. Community service is one opportunity to pull ourselves out of this morass. At this point Mary Ann quoted Marcel Proust to the effect that the point is not to find new things but to see through new eyes. Principles and volunteerism must become national priorities. Our leaders must support us in these efforts.
We must stop living in fear and fight our disempowerment; there should be more people on the streets; communication would make us safer. 9/11 was such a disaster because, among other things, various government agencies failed to communicate properly with each other.
We must organize neighborhood patrols to organize us in the event of catastrophes There is nothing more empowering than giving of yourself, said Kanter.
She referred to the easy fellowship among villagers in the town squares of old New England, reminiscent of the comradery we experience on public beaches, where all of a sudden defenses break down and people trust each other more.