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Can America Have a Second Day in the Sun? The Need for Results-Oriented Leadership

October 31, 2010

Updated September 13, 2011

America’s been having a bad hair day–for a very long time. The bastion of the free world. The country whose active participation was instrumental in defeating madmen like Adolf Hitler. The magnet for not just talent, which made it the hot-bed of global innovation, but that allowed people from around the world to escape sometimes deplorable conditions and to make a new start.

It seems to not just me, but many others, that the United States is at a crossroads: one path would take the country down the road to eventually second-rate nation status; the other would reverse course, revealing a country that would be less politically polarized, less xenophobic and more socially just. In taking the second path, the vitally necessary policy decisions needed to rebuild America’s economic might and create meaningful jobs would be greatly enabled.

The current deteriorating state of the nation’s political leadership, regional fractures among Americans and state representatives of the two main parties, and an intense navel-gazing propensity by the country, at the expense of understanding what’s taking place with global competition, is clearly not sustainable in the long-term.

I personally want to see the United States of America reclaim itself. I have a special affinity for America given that, although a Canadian, I started school in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1960, have travelled extensively throughout New England and three years ago went on a 6,500 mile train trip across the country with my wife, Sue.

I’m 56, and as far back as I can remember there has been turmoil in American politics, from Vietnam to Watergate to Iran Contra to Bill and Monica to the 2003 Iraq invasion to Alan Greenspan’s foibles and the Great Recession and housing crash. I’m no fan of John F. Kennedy, having read indepth accounts of his presidency and the manipulations for which his father Joe became infamous. However, JFK’s vision for sending a man to the moon catapulted US technology forward, giving the country a collective goal. Franklin Roosevelt and his uncle Teddy Roosevelt provided astounding leadership during their respective tenures. President Eisenhower is another case in point of an excellent 20th Century president.

There are too many inter-related events occurring around the world from which to make any accurate predictions of the future. Forecasts by economists, business analysts, academics, pollsters and political analysts are mostly vapid musings. If there’s one constant among these people, it’s that their prognostications are usually way off the mark. Given that the United States is involved in some way or another in events even in the most remote corners of the world, it’s no wonder that the country is buckling under the strain. And when you add the corrosive nature of politics to the mix, combined with the self-centered attitude by big business, then you’re asking for trouble.

Trying to achieve meaningful legislation without having to dilute it in order to meet a huge variety of competing constituencies is now only for the naive and well-intended. These individuals have yet to be ruined by how the Washington political game is played. Their cherubic glows quickly fade as they assume the Attila the Hun battle stance.

While the hate mongering continues and as Americans gaze at their collective political navel, the country’s energy is being misdirected. America’s competitors (China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia and so forth) are laughing all the way to the bank. America’s political paralysis and inability to move on to restore its once great economic and innovation might is the gift that keeps on giving to emerging economies, small and large.

Yes, America’s bad hair day is going to get a lot worse unless the brake is applied soon to this runaway train of what’s-in-it-for-me politics. Is there any degree of sanity left?

Who’s going to apply the brake?

Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.

(Theodore Roosevelt)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 3, 2010 12:14 am

    Thanks Susan. I hate to bum you out, but I’ve been wading through tons of material (The Economist, BusinessWeek, Canadian Business, radio and TV docs from both countries, Charlie Rose interviews, etc.) and the news is bleak. Nouriel Roubini, a highly respected economist, paints a sad picture in today’s news, among many others.

    What totally baffles me is how American politicians, especially those at the national level, can claim they love their country but then set about to destroy it. There is such a disconnect between politicians and the rest of Americans. I see this every time Sue and I travel through the US. Regular, everyday Amercans who are so kind and friendly feel so disempowered.

    And then you have the Tea Party, which at its core has a well-meaning intent, but which is being hijacked by the splinter groups of crazies, the misinformed and the misguided.

  2. November 3, 2010 12:02 am

    Your points are well taken, Jim. I’m an American, and I, and everyone I know, is disgusted with the inability of our political leaders to create meaningful change. Obama has tried, but on so many issues he has been stymied by the Republicans, whose sole goal it seems is to ensure he fails so their own candidate can be his replacement.

    Today we went to the polls, voting for Congressmen, governors, judges, etc. Here’s hoping that the new folks voted in and those who retained their existing positions can work together to move this country forward. Unfortunately, I, like so many others, don’t have high hopes.

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