When We Look Back, What Will We See?

Beginnings, endings and periods that mark great changes occur during every moment of every day. Wrapping up this week, a few events in history that took place on February 24th caught my attention:

  • In 2008, Fidel Castro retired as the President of Cuba after nearly fifty years, and his brother Raul Castro was unanimously elected.
  • In 2011, the final launch of Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) took place.
  • In 1977, President Jimmy Carter announced that human rights issues would be a determining factor in the granting and distribution of U.S. foreign aid.
  • In 1988, South Africa’s apartheid regime banned the United Democratic Front, one of the most important anti-racism and anti-apartheid organisations of the 1980s.

The point is that while these events may seem completely unrelated, especially those that occurred in other nations, there is common ground even if we don’t recognise them as such; each event marked the beginning of a shift, whether the shift took place in the area of science and exploration, foreign policy, political ideology or social and governmental policy. And each event had ramifications, the impact of which are felt to this day. In the face of the U.S.’ latest politician-driven fiscal event known as the sequester, it’s likely that years from now someone will look back to this time and realise these events marked a shift.

During his weekly address, President Obama said this:

No matter which side of the political aisle one sits on, rational people agree that automatic and arbitrary budget cuts that impact the poor and middle class disproportionately will have a lasting impact. The U.S. economy is still emerging from a global recession, and many of our elected officials have spent far more time debating about transvaginal probes than debating about jobs programs or efforts that could help rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Here’s where the shift has taken place: in times past, people on both sides would look at the numbers for the nation (e.g., GDP) and see how we stack up against other nations. Now it appears we are so far gone that taking note of the nation’s progress isn’t being considered; in moving towards not-so-grand bargains that could further cripple middle class growth while widening the gap between the haves and the have nots, our officials have moved the U.S. towards the same economic status of nations they currently believe themselves superior to.


Image: Public Domain Vectors

Here’s some food for thought: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” (~ Mahatma Gandhi.) Are we doing all we reasonably can?

And, further, “The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick and the needy, and the handicapped.” (- Hubert Humphrey)

To borrow a line from 1980s management guru Tom Peters “You can’t cut your way to greatness,” it’s clear we need to reexamine our priorities.

When it’s time for the United States to look back on its actions during this time of change, what will we see? And will we think we did all we could to move forward as a nation?