For years I was a Chicago Bulls fan. Their legendary coach Phil Jackson perfected the Triangle, arguably the single most dominant offensive strategy of the past 20 years. What always amazed me in watching games unfold was the tension between the individual talent of players and their need to also leverage the system. The Chicago Bulls needed both to win. And so do ordinary people. We need individual talent and a system that works with and for us.
Our country and region have long engaged in discussions related to poverty and inequality that include — yet extend beyond — the traditional lens of race. These conversations have illustrated that inequality is not simply a race issue. In ‘Our Kids: the American Dream in Crisis’ social scientist Robert Putnam argues that what African Americans experienced in the 60s and 70s is what white Americans and others are now facing — job loss and the instability that it creates within a traditional family structure and community. And, as we know from looking at small towns and big cities who are without work and hopefulness, the same maladies in different forms creep in.
The future of our region and nation will be tied to our ability to compete on a world stage. In order to do that, we have to champion the potential of all our children in rural, suburban, and urban areas. The quality of our education will, by default, pick winners and losers. Our future also will be built around our ability to be entrepreneurial, enterprising and empowered. We must foster in all young people the ability to think critically and the will to convert mountains into movements.
In order to make this possibility a reality, we need more business leaders to place this audacious goal on their shoulders. We need a few who will champion this goal publicly and generate more support and public will for child well-being, education and good jobs. Absent the support of our business community who are known for prioritizing and driving results—I fear we will fall short of our objective. There is talent in our neighborhoods and towns – let’s create a system that gives them a shot at success.
This post originally appeared in the December 14 issue of Community News.