Progress Amidst Turmoil

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Amidst the turmoil we are witnessing in America, progress in human existence presses forward, even if unnoticed at times.

First, look at the challenges we have faced over the past decade.

  1. A surprise attack on our homeland,
  2. Natural disasters caused by the increased severity of our weather patterns,
  3. A Great Recession caused by the excesses of debt, and
  4. Huge political tension caused by growing frustration over what appears to be unfair advantages given to financial institutions by the federal government, at the expense of the individual and local institutions.

And yet, progress is seen.

  1. Yes, we are safer than we were in 2001. It’s so much harder being a terrorist these days. One way or another, you are going to be hunted down and killed if you menace the American citizenry. Taking civilian life for political gain has become a horridly dangerous business to be in. The terrorist is now being terrorized.
  2. Yes, we are gearing up for more severe weather patterns. I was in New Orleans before, immediately after, and several years after the Katrina disaster. There is no comparison between the old and new levee construction that keeps New Orleans safe.
  3. Yes, we are coming to grips with our debt. In fact everyone worldwide is coming to grips with debt. Whether you are in Europe, Turkey, or Washington DC, debt reduction is on every government official’s mind. This will be a common and persistent goal worldwide for at least the next decade. On this, there is universal agreement. And when this kind of consensus is created, the target of focus will be accomplished. But, growth will not be sacrificed in the process. Everyone now seems to realize that as well.
  4. Yes, the concerns of a frustrated citizenry are starting to be heard and addressed. From the demand by the tea party movement for greater local autonomy and self determination, to the demand by the “occupy wall street movement” for a break- up in the concentration of wealth, America once again burns with revolutionary zeal, and has become an interesting place to live in. Americans are awake and fully involved in shaping the future of their lives. Indeed, it is good to be an American.

The World Still Looks to America

Sometimes the outside world sees us better than we see ourselves.

For example during our last business trip, Cheri and I talked to numerous young business professionals in Istanbul, Riyadh, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. The theme and tone of those conversations were remarkably similar.

The theme had a heavy religious leaning to it, specifically, as it centered around Islam. No matter which city we were in, Muslim young professionals were more than happy to answer any questions we posed. And, in the course of answering our questions it was evident to me their tone was tinged with concern.

They seemed anxious to make sure that as Americans we understood that the “Al Qaeda brand of Islam was not what Islam is.” Even in Riyadh, which is the center of conservative Islam, these young adults at times appeared distressed at America’s generally negative view of Muslims.

One long bearded strict Pakistani Muslim tried to explain that to “live a strict Muslim life was not to cut oneself off from people of different faiths and beliefs.” This was very apparent in his case: he was the chief financial officer of a major European corporation doing business in Saudi Arabia.

For all the changes and upheaval taking place in America it was evident that, at least in the minds of many young influential business people in the Middle East, America is still the center of action and will be for the foreseeable future. As one CEO in Riyadh told me, “America is where the positive story of life is told.”

My Observations

I feel good about America’s future. Right now we are going through a deeply needed retooling. America still stands as the greatest global economy anywhere in the world.

But with that greatness has come inequities. The gulf between the rich and everyone else has become unacceptable. As a result the middle class needs to be rebuilt. I don’t much care how it is done, just so long as it is done. Get in a room and pass a tax bill that favors the buildup of a new middle class.

Great teachers make great students. Reform education faster. Get in a room and come up with an attractive salary and bonus plan for teachers who help all students make great advances in math, science, and English.

Cut expenses and grow revenues in every sector of life at the same time. And don’t tell me all we can do is cut. Businesses that I have consulted for cut and grow simultaneously as a part of the natural business cycle.

Rebuild every road, bridge, freeway, home, dam, levee, dyke, airplane, train and car in this country. Build them so they withstand every increase and decrease in weather, every environmental hazard, and every storm that will come our way. And in the process hire millions of workers to get this done. Put money in their pockets for their work. And aggressively use the banking system as the means of accomplishing this.

Diversity is the gift that continues to give. America is still the place where merit and ambition are rewarded. Ethnic and religious diversity are valued and protected in America. Over a third of our founding documents are dedicated to racial equality. Our one and only civil war was fought over the issue of breaking the back of slavery. In America no matter how much we prize local autonomy, it does not trump the civil liberties of each and every individual regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or origin of birth.

In America we have no religious test in seeking political office. We do not engage in religious war, for we are not a nation built on religion, though there are citizens who are religious. Anyone can, should and eventually will, be President–Jew, Muslim, atheist, male, female, gay, straight, etc.

We will continue to reach out and establish a powerful global identity. In order to do that, we will cooperate with every country in the world to create a security system that thwarts terrorism. In other words, though there be turmoil there will continue to be progress.