Tom Friedman: Dept. of Missed Opportunity

I’ve basically gone off Thomas Friedman, but his May 4th column has a great summary of the missed opportunities of the past several years. We seem to have repeated many of the mistakes of the seventies and eighties, in many cases with some of the very same leaders who screwed up the first time around. But the final paragraph deserves a comment…

…because millions of Americans are dying to be enlisted — enlisted to fix education, enlisted to research renewable energy, enlisted to repair our infrastructure, enlisted to help others. Look at the kids lining up to join Teach for America. They want our country to matter again. They want it to be about building wealth and dignity — big profits and big purposes. When we just do one, we are less than the sum of our parts. When we do both, said Shriver, “no one can touch us.”

How about we enlist ourselves? Many have come to the realization that leadership on the national level is an oxymoron. Our national institutions have been co-opted by lobbyists, and corrupted by the Bush administration. In areas of demonstrated need there has been no engagement. (New Orleans). Corrupt? How else can you characterize an administration that puts polluters in charge at the EPA, or who guts reports from its own NASA about the issue of climate change? The next president (if they choose to accept it) will have the slow task of trying to rebuild trust in our government among our citizens and throughout the world. It won’t be a thankless task, perhaps, but it will be a slow one.

Fortunately, the states aren’t waiting, in areas like health care and energy policy. Individuals shouldn’t wait as well. Let’s just hope that the next administration, whether Democratic or Republican will just stay out of the way.  As usual, it will be individuals, non-profits and NGOs who will show the way forward. 

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