Government Platforms, Co-Creation and Time for Revolution #gov3 #GaaP #CoCreate

Co-Creation Revolution Must Start Now.

Co-Creation Revolution Must Start Now.

 

There is a time in all things when an idea is simply too early and a time when an idea is perfectly suited to execute.  I believe that the time to transform government delivery of services with citizens is now, finally, upon us.  I say this as a former Government CIO who tried to stand it up too early, a Global Executive running Microsoft’s Government Industry who Co-Created the Citizen Service Platform in 13 regions across the world and an SVP at Salesforce who tried to get the platform business ignited in the Public Sector a few years back.  The idea and the ideals of those organizations were well targeted and met with a degree of success, but the time was not right for the revolution to take hold.   That time is now and this post will discuss why.

Revolution versus Rebellion

I have posted before on  my theory that Rebellions are Easy, Revolutions are hard.  I believe that each are needed, but we are fools if we confuse one for the other.  Rebellions do not hold.  Well planned and aligned revolutions do.  I have concluded that much of this can be timing based, especially in the complexity that is the Public Sector.  For a revolution to hold a number of complicated interests need to align, including timing.  I believe that 2017 is the year toe execute hard into the opportunity to Co-Create services in Public Service based upon an Open Government Platform.  And I believe Cities will be the ignition point for the revolution.

 

State Needed to be Ready

Governments have been accused of being slow.  Um, sometimes very true.  Sometimes not.  But without true readiness in Government, Platforms will not hold, Co-Creation will not work across government.  Wherever this revolution is rooted, the Government itself will need to be ready.  Leadership will need to be growth and future oriented.  Legislative bodies need to be aligned and support needs to be bi-partisan.  Oddly, there needs to be failed attempts in the rearview mirror.  There needs to be a deep desire at the political elite level for the radical shift, Kaikaiku, not simply incremental change, Kaizan.  The interesting thing is that this attitude crosses all party lines.  While not in each government, the ethic seems to be alive on the right and on the left.  Often times driven by financial dire straights.  Other times by political rough times.  Regardless, States have gone through the realization that current solutions are non-sustainable, gone through trials and losses and have seen examples where platforms work well.  I believe they are ready.

 

New Zealand is a great example of radical orientation in terms of change initiatives, while retaining a sense of needed stability to move forward.  The Key Administration laid the ground work for sustainable change in light of difficult times.  And even when PM Key stood down, the revolution was planned to continue.

 

Infrastructure Needed to be Ready

When folks busy in the Gov2.0 movement first started evangelize, it was simply too early from an infrastructure perspective.  There were dark spots in carrier coverage and broadband penetration.  The entire Northern Tier was absent.  Cloud computing was nascent and disintermediation was new.  Since then, network ubiquity has been established in most of the developed world.

Voters Needed to be Ready

That new infrastructure, especially the cloud and mobile devices (smartphones) was simply too new for citizens to have been demanding that services move.  They had heard the promise of these new ideas, but none of them had been proven. The public sector trails the private sector for very good reasons.  The mission critical nature of most of what government does simply keeps citizens and taxpayers cautious on adoption until the private sector can prove the new procedures and technology work.  Voters have now seen it work.  Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Amazon, the list goes on and on and voters and citizens  have not only become ready, they have already become users.  the demand for the services are there now.

Bureaucracy Needed to be ready

The folks that keep government running view themselves as often the last line of defense when it comes to protecting the civic world.  They don’t simply want to see demand, but real efficiency.  For instance credit cards were demanded, but processing of them was still far more expensive than the lockbox process they traditionally used.  All of those pieces have now been turned in the right direction.  Efficiency is in favor of the new process.  The security concerns that bureaucrats had has now been overcome by significant cloud service provider expenditures on securing the infrastructure.

Frontier Private Sector Services Needed to Mature

The private sector originally was just at phase one of the development of new revolutionary systems.  They were proving concept, not focusing on getting product market fit perfect.  They had to make many mistakes, adjust and get them right.  They needed to show that through this consumers would stay dedicated to a new platform and they have now done that.  The days of consumers being afraid of regular application updates are over.

Ideology Creates Conflict, Alignment of Interests Creates Success

When early governments started this work it was viewed as partisan on the side of whichever administration pushed it first.  There was, however, little difference between a liberal and a conservative government as a platform.  it took time for both parties to realize that this kind of solution helps political parties focus on their own objectives, while the efforts themselves were non-political.  The diversity of governments embracing Government as a Platform proves this to be no longer an issue.  Now if we work to align interests, the atmosphere will be accurate to push the effort forward.

Start with Co-Creation in Business Process in Need

Transportation seems well built as a business process in need of repair.  The co-creation of services leveraging private sector proven cloud technologies and co-creating new services would solve problems across the entire political spectrum.  By lowering the cost of service provision, we lower the cost of government.  By leveraging existing public transit into new solutions combining these services with popular on demand transportation services we increase utilization of mass transit which in turn reduces congestion and improves the movement of commerce.  And while students, workers, executives and families get from point A to point B in a more efficient and quicker way, we also reduce carbon emissions as a happy side effect.  The new private sector structures have been proven worldwide and all of the infrastructure exists to be successful.

Start in SLED

While National programs may come, starting in State Local and Educational contexts may be best suited.  Less resistance and at least the perception of non-partisan progress makes smaller units of government a better starting place.  And to get to scale it certainly makes sense to start in large cities and regional governments.  With multiple fleet audits having occurred recently there are multiple places to start looking.

Create Lasting Structures, Budgets and Authority

Now the preaching on revolution not rebellion.  This isnt about knocking down whats out there.  Or shouting over others.  This requires a ton of background work to ensure there are cross party solutions built.  Budgets are identified and authorized.  Processes are built.  Actual power is given to actual Ministries and Departments to get this work done.  The revolution is now.

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Not Cloud First, Cloud Now: Stand up and Fight for Citizens #gov20 #opengov #abouttime

Not Cloud First, Cloud Now #gov20 #opengov

Not Cloud First, Cloud Now #gov20 #opengov

IDC recently released a study that resulted in interesting coverage from GigaOm.  They found that the folks in government that could benefit most from cloud computing are actual those with the highest degree of resistance – local governments.  States were not far behind.  This release happens at the same time that the Federal Government is staring down a fiscal cliff that promises to reinstitute a deep recession that will damage our economy for years to come but also will result in significant service shortages throughout the country for those who can afford such delinquency the least.

I have been preaching about the cloud for years.  And for multiple vendors.  As well as inside government as a Chief Information Officer.  I have met all the resistance from security to privacy to job elimination to control.  The excuses have gone on and on for years.  But this past few years, the game has become very real.  And not just within IT.  The pain is being felt, in terms of budget pressures, at every level and layer of government.  The missions that folks were trying to protect are now simply under fatal assault as they moved too slowly to adopt more efficient technology to accomplish their goals.  The time is certainly upon us, to demand an end to governments paying for hardened silos, underutilized infrastructure, poor security, massive data center expenses and an operational budget that is embarrassing.

The data is screaming for us to do this now.  The report above from GigaOm is joined by the now infamous Forbes article showing $12B that could be saved in the Federal Government (enough to fund NASA), or Winvale’s piece showing that DoD could save $37B with the cloud, TechAmerica showing that all government could save between 25% and 50 %.  Or the Brookings Institute showing that the savings could range from 37% to 99%.

At the same time all layers of government are facing huge budget shortfalls.  In their current accounts alone, States are seeing budget shortfalls across the country from .8% in Virginia ($145M) to nevada with a 36.2% shortfall ($1.2B).  On a pure dollar basis, California is topping the bunch with over $15B in gap to makeup.

According to Deltek, the State of Florida will spend nearly $900M on Information technology in FY13 and is facing a budget shortfall of over $1B.  On the conservative side, if they could save 50% they would nearly cut the shortfall in half.  What could they save?

The proposed and actual budget cuts were deep.  Here are some examples.  $300M was cut from the University System.  The Florida Clerks of Courts were cut by $31M and the eligibility age for state sponsored tuition for foster care students was proposed to be lowered to save $11M.  Budget cuts have also caused a $4M shortfall to cover Floridas Infectious Disease Control Efforts (while TB was on the rise).

Those are just SOME of the examples in one state.  And remember the potential savings would top $450M! The suffering that is being felt, across government, and more importantly by citizens not being served, is now a much deeper one.  The objections that have masked other intentions simply cannot stand.  The protection of favorite vendors that create and sustain this unfair budget situation must end.  Those advocating for a move to the cloud need to embrace the comparison of objections to these cuts in citizen service, environmental protections, educational attainment and economic growth.

All levels of government have a set of secure tools, across multiple vendors, providing incredible potential, huge flexipbility and the budget savings that budget directors need.  And that citizens are dying to have.

It can no longer be just cloud first, it must be cloud now!

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Why the NY Times is wrong on #datacenters, especially in consideration of #gov20

NY Times Article on Datacenters Misses Huge Points - #gov20

NY Times Article on Datacenters Misses Huge Points – #gov20

It almost seems like piling on to attack the NY Times assessment of datacenters and their impact on society at this point.  When Forbes, InformationWeek, GigaOM, Wired and tons of other publications point out the weakness in the Times article, why add fuel to the fire?  Because they are missing an enormous piece.

You see data taken as a point in time always misses a vitally important context, movement.  If you take a point in time of the National Debt during the Clinton Administration, the number in abstract seemed shocking, but the trend was positive back then, eliminating deficits and targeting debt reduction.  If you looked at crime statistics in NYC near the start of the Giuliani era, the raw numbers looked bad, but the trend was positive after implementation of the “broken windows” policy.  Similarly, looking at datacenter energy consumption without context (not even going into the 2006-era data that was used), is not only a bad idea, but it paints the industry in such a light that true progress, continued progress, is threatened by the very piece that was penned presumably to move this industry forward.

I will not point out the logical fallacies, old data, cherry picked information to provide the allure of depth issues with the Times piece, but I will point to a vitally important piece that is not covered as deeply as needed and provide a bit of color from my career which can provide some insight into the progress the data center industry has made and how ill-timed and wrong-minded the Times piece is.

The Industry Cares about PUE (and you)

I was actually a bit shocked that the treatment of energy use in data centers seemed to completely avoid the industry’s use of standard measures to help improve utilization.  The industry itself, without help from the NY Times or local, regional or national governments got together to develop metrics that would allow them to better control data center power consumption.  They developed the PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) and DCiE (Data Center infrastructure Efficiency) its reciprocal.  I want to stress that reliance on these measures is not sufficient to cover advances in energy utilization.  As with all metrics, this should be utilized as a way to engage in a conversation of efficiency not a simple target to be accomplished.

That being said, the industry’s embrace of PUE is an indicator of something very powerful.  And that is competitive advantage.  The data center industry has embraced the outcomes of decreased PUE, and more important holistic energy use control, as a competitive differentiator inside a highly competitive marketplace.  There is nothing more powerful in society than a highly competitive marketplace, targeting a measurable output, to put powerful pressure on that metric moving forward.  It is one thing for an industry to try to avoid bad press, negative consumer sentiment or regulation.  But for those of us who have worked in these environments, there is nothing like a smart, agile competitor working to put you out of business to motivate your company to provide better energy utilization across the board.  Bottom, and top, line control is vitally tied to decreased PUE in this industry as other competitive advantages are sometimes more difficult to land in a customer.  Therefore, over the past few years, this industry all by itself has been motivated not simply out of benevolence  but out of self preservation and competition to address the problems discussed in the Times articles.

And how have they done?  Overwhelmingly well.  Over at DataCenter Knowledge you can read about incredible advances in PUE ratings that were also coupled with build-out costs that were MORE efficient than previous efforts.  I know that the scuttle can be about folks misrepresenting the metric and greenwashing things, but understand that this effort lies within an industry that is self motivated by competitive advantage to provide its customers with real, reliable and true data on energy use.  And data that is easily proven once the data centers are commissioned and complete.  The market will resolve to the most efficient use regardless of pressure from the press.

And unlike reporters, I speak from direct knowledge.  As CIO for the State of Wisconsin I worked to authorize and build an enterprise class, Tier III data center for our state government.  I was subject to PUE claims from all types of vendors.  I saw it from our design/build firms, our PDU vendors, arguments from competing hardware vendors, and conversations with our utilities.  We did not build this in a right-leaning anti-green location.  We built it iin Madison, Wisconsin.  Arguably one of the greenest cities in North America.  And competition allowed us to select for energy conservation and to position ourselves better than we were before.

The Largest Movement is to Come (Government)

Which leads me to my final point.  Since working for Governor Doyle as his CIO, I have worked for a few places with an incredible impact on Datacenters, one of which was the center of the second Times article.  I was lucky enough to have worked for Microsoft as their GM for Worldwide Government, and currently work as SVP in Salesforce.com’s Public Sector group.  I have seen firsthand how the bifurcated data center market cares directly about energy usage and despite the challenges hurled at each in the Times article, I need to testify in defense of the customer side of data center practice.

I worked globally to push utilization of the public cloud at both companies.  I was, and continue to be, impressed at how seriously each takes PUE and more advanced metrics in terms of energy use.  Both companies press hard on their data center providers, both internal and external, to control energy utilization.  First as an effort to control costs, but more importantly, as outlined above, as a competitive differentiator.  I was part of multiple efforts to push for better PUE in order to leverage the data in an effort to more effectively move the market from internal on-premise data utilization to cloud based usage (including working directly with Microsoft’s first Chief Environmental Architect).  A trend that allows for incredible scale and more pronounced positive effect on PUE than any other shift.  As client companies decommission their internal data centers and push them to optimized and optimizing cloud based data centers, PUE is dramatically reduced across the entire data center universe.  And it is pushed by competition, not external pressure.  The more these efforts are embraced, and the benefits of multi-tenant cloud services are substituted, the more you will see all of us utilize data more efficiently.  Especially when you consider the rising number of cloud based startups that are able to take advantage of their larger predecessors like Salesforce that have made cleaner, lower-PUE data centers available due to their anchoring effect on the market.

You see, the Times data was point data.  Seemingly shocking.  But did not take into account where IT load was TAKEN from.  From inefficient “data centers” like the Facebook closet referenced in the first article.  From unvirtualized environments stacking up 20% utilization rates.  From siloed departments within one company being leveraged into an enterprise class data center to serve the global efforts of that same comapny.  You see, the movement has been away from those inefficient structures into highly efficient, and competitive, structures that place incredible downward pressure on things like PUE, and even better holistic measures, moving forward.

And the huge risk of demonizing the data center community right now, is the big domino has yet to fall completely.  The government space worldwide accounts for an unprecedented amount of compute capacity and data storage.  I know, I managed it.  If the efforts of this brave community are set out as demons, the pressure will resolve and advancement stalled at the worst possible time.  As the governments of the world currently stand ready to make an unprecedented shift to cloud computing, now we must highlight the good work, reward those pushing harder and make the case that the governments of the world need to shift their compute methodology to take advantage of not just the incredible costs savings evident in cloud computing and consolidated data centers, but to also embrace a much more positive effect on the environment as we start to shift more fully into a data consumer based society.

My friends in the Central Governments and Local and Regional Governments of the world often talk about their efforts as anchor tenants in the future.  They have scale unheard of and they have the possibility of pushing further an industry that has done incredible things in five short years to improved upon energy efficiency in data centers across the globe.  I hope that the onslaught of press coverage unearthing the challenges to the Times article continue to embolden the data center industry to continue its pursuit of energy efficiency with the competitive advantage argument propelling them forward despite the efforts to introduce unneeded external pressure upon them.

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Technology Innovation in Government must be Non-Partisan – #gov20 #opengov

Picaso unveiled at Chicago Convention Center, first project of Chicago Building Commission.  Imagine GO Bonds for technology.

Picaso unveiled at Chicago Convention Center, first project of Chicago Building Commission. Imagine GO Bonds for technology.

As a Democrat I certainly love that my party has included technology in the public sector as part of the solution to the ills that face our civics.  It is vital that we leverage technology to make government more effective and more efficient.  Also vital, is the use of technology to engage and embrace our citizens as an integral part of the policy conversations that will build the next American Century.  But, as a citizen that cares about statecraft, I need to highlight that we must strip political advantage from technology in the public sector.  It is simply too important for us to make political advantage from technology deployment.

We are not without models where this has worked.  Building programs in most states and local governments have turned to building commissions that used to be based upon bi-partison makeup, citizen and industry participation, radical openness and an understanding that the infrastructure we need is too important to go through the booms and busts of political transitions.  When we deal with items this way we get sustained building programs that span administrations and build infrastructure that both public transportation and commerce can share.  We must do the same with technology.

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Login.Berlin puts pressure on US to kick off innovative cities program – #gov20 #opengov

login.berlin is set to challenge the London version of the same

login.berlin is set to challenge the London version of the same

The ongoing war (OK, skirmish) between London and Berlin on which city will be the tech hub of Europe has been rekindled due to the Government’s investment in the city as a new digital hub.  It is great to see competitive juices up among Europe’s great cities to help drag them out of economic crisis.  The focus on technology, supported by government spending to attract and develop jobs, is right on.

The US has had great focus on economic development over the past few years and we have seen creative organizations and some incredible success stories (See Michigans efforts and successes with MEDC and their public scorecard so folks can see their success).  But it would be great for cities in the US to kickoff a competition to help drive urban oriented tech investment and startup support.  Sure San Francisco is a mecca, but there are cities across the US who have invested in broadband, in tech ed, in favorable tax treatments and research clusters.

Lets unleash our competitive spirit to beat out Berlin and London.

 

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Unsustainable Government – #gov20

Time to move past where we were built and into what we could be - #PaaS #Gov20

Time to move past where we were built and into what we could be – #PaaS #Gov20

Queensland in Australia is struggling amidst an unsustainable government technology posture.  It developed over decades.  It must end now.  The problem is highlighted in a discussion over the first round of job cuts that will result from brave new steps the government is looking to take.

The problem is far from unique in QLD.  It is global.  It is local.  It exists in your schools, in your local council, in your regional government, in state departments and inside each of our central governments.  It is not necessary.  It is a challenging problem, but not nearly as intractable as the issues that are starved for funding because we refuse to solve the IT problem.

But there is incredibly good news.  The components exist to fix it.  The technologies needed are now robust.  The security top notch.  We have citizen developers standing at the ready and showing up at hackathons to provide the innovation and a private sector ecosystem that can support it long term.

So, CIO’s, Ministers of ICT, Premiers, Mayors, Governors, pay heed.  I don’t care which cloud platform you switch to (OK, I have an opinion, but you get what I am saying).  I do care that you tear down these walls.  Eliminate the infrastructure tax.  Stop paying the Software tax.  It is starving missions in need of reform.  And, if you accomplish the brave switch, you will have resources to deploy as you need and agility to do things unheard of before.

THe time is now.

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Fiscal Cliffs, Date Night and the Greater Fools – Uniting America

Rise Up.  Own this. Look for your Leader in the Mirror.

Rise Up. Own this. Look for your Leader in the Mirror.

I love my country.

A simple statement.  Overused across the board, devoid of meaning in most contexts and yet, loaded to the hilt right now.  At this point in time, before the 2012 Presidential Election, my love of country, our love of country, calls upon us to unite despite the calls all around us to divide and descend into a political black hole.

It is an amazing time to be an American.  From the standpoint of political infrastructure we are staring at the abyss, right now.  We are pushing on the walls and constraints of political discourse in ways that will resolve either in an incredible new experiment in democracy or the destruction of hegemony, devolution into disarray and a long walk through barren lands to hopefully return to a country slightly resembling the America our parents and grandparents built.  Sound overly dramatic? Stay with me.

Fiscal Cliffs

I watched during 2011 as revolutionaries took over control of parts of Congress and the minds of one of our parties.  I literally watched it unfold in my home state of Wisconsin which was undergoing a change that no political pundit would have predicted.  In the land that literally gave birth to AFSCME, public sector unions were on the road to being abolished, normally a “third rail” in Wisconsin politics.  In that context, national political leaders decided to start testing other “third rails”.  The “debate” over the debt ceiling in 2011 was a test of what was possible in terms of touching lightening and living.  And it happened.  The GOP threatened, at the behest of Tea Party leaders, to not authorize raising the debt ceiling as Republican and Democratic Administrations had done for decades.  For this faction, it was simple political calculus.  To “win”, they must capture the attention of the world.  Much as fringe elements worldwide do when they hijack planes, invade olympics or pull our citizens into dark places in Tehran, this fringe held our economy hostage.  Pointed a gun at our head.  Pulled the trigger and prayed, to test our resolve.

The Democratic Party utterly failed to respond.  In Wisconsin, in Washington DC, across the country.  Due to decades of living with the existence of “third rails”, the Democrats simply lost their sharpness in the debate.  The Democratic Party did not have the organization, willpower or resolve to take on the tough issue directly.  By failing to take the threat seriously, the Democrats failed not just the country, but the global economy.  This party was just as culpable in the situation that they might as well as pulled that trigger themselves.

But that lack of sharpness in defending recessionary government spending, Healthcare Reform, or Medicare, or Social Security, out of fear, threatened a much more devastating outcome.  By not having an organized citizen based backing to demonstrate support for a sane fiscal positioning, we, together, drove the country toward collapse (and really only took our finger off the trigger with sequestration now facing the country).

As I will get to, because we lacked an understanding of why I love my country, and why we all do, we are now approaching that gun again with our finger at the trigger.  The fiscal cliff is no joke.  At the worst possible time in the midst of this recovery, our politicians are staring down a barrel.  While we discuss “legitimate rape” on one side and birth certificates on the other, the only areas of concrete and productive spending will be at complete risk.  On all sides.  Citizens in need will suffer, our national defense will suffer and our economy will take a self inflicted shot to the head.  Unless we rise.

Date Night

In the midst of all of this controversy life goes on.  In America, as in all of the countries I have visited in my career, we continue to turn inward to our family.  For us, it is a weekly ritual for my wife and I to go to dinner, sometimes a movie or a show, or just a drive around our great city.  We did that this week again as I figure many american households did at the same time.  But we didnt make it to a movie.

Because of some books each of us are reading (some at the behest of my incredible 13 year old daughter) we started talking about America.  Whether we should aim to be the most powerful country in the world.  Whether we should have healthcare or education or a job as a right.  Whether a strong defense is the only path to peace.  The outcome of each of these debates was interesting but far more interesting was the conversation over what is it that still makes us uniquely American.  As a country.  And if there still was the unique American, what is it that is killing her and what is it that would save her.

It was an incredibly emotional conversation.  Are we really what the polls say we are?  Are we split hopelessly down the middle?  Do our republican friends really believe what they say?  Do our Democratic friends understand their arguments?  What issues bind us?  What issues drive us apart?  And who are pulling all those levers?

I admitted, as a lifelong political ally in some circles, to having lived out the problem.  And I consider some of my closest friends as continuing to live out the challenges.  I am responsible for parts of this problem.  After much reflection we settled on a simple position that captures the essence of the poisonous current discourse.

Our political world is tilted toward “winning” elections and not creating and sustaining “states”.

It has been part of my career to advise politicians on how to “win” elections.  I am actually pretty good at it.  As are my friends.  And we can understand why a faction in the political right would suggest and embrace the debt ceiling strategy, to win.  Why it makes sense to highlight a misstep of words to characterize the other party as waging a war on women, to win.  Why it is OK to suggest killing Medicare as we know it and at the same time tell the world publicly that your intention is to save the system, to win.  Why a campaign would attack Solyndra as a waste of money while understanding deeply the need to invest in risky startups to embrace and push forward new industries, to win.  We do, and argue for, these positions because, quite simply, it is how you “win” elections.  My job wasn’t to govern, but to win.  And that, is the crux of the problem.

But the answer isn’t far from us.  The examples, as my wife and I discussed, are manyfold.  Men and women who have bucked the current system, focused on building a state that works, caring for the craft, identifying and supporting truth speakers and making hard choices about a sustainable way forward and then to work ACROSS divides to unite us as a country in funding those priorities.  Our table talk surrounded who could rise to meet this challenge?  Marco Rubio?  Chris Christie?  John Huntsman? Hilarie Clinton?  Barack Obama?  Mitt Romney?

Our conclusion?  None of them.  What is required of folks to rise and succeed in the current political world is inconsistent with what is needed to change it.  The political and corporate leaders we each know well, lack the ability to craft a state.

But, we decided, each of us has that ability.  To rise up where we are, not look outside for some white knight to come in and save the day.  That the answer was to tap into our cross-party identity to activate in our own world. To advocate for our american family inside our childrens schools.  To advocate and forward those priorities where we work.  To agitate within our local city councils and neighborhoods to demand the type of civics that are suitable to be called American.  Not everyone has the unique set of experiences to allow them to become president, but each of us has the unique capability to take back our country from a poisonous discourse, by talking again to our neighbors, advocating for our neighbors and our own needs and ignoring the constant buzz of national politics.

So with the problems identified (“Winning” over “Statebuilding”) and a focus on the solutions needed (local leadership replacing national politics) the question remained whether there was this unique thing called America, that bound us together.  There was.

Through our conversations last night we uncovered volumes of cases when America showed her true colors repeatedly.  From individuals we knew that quietly supported folks who suffered unnecessarily, to examples from our own lives.  In Law School my house burned down.  We were a bit unsure what to do and where to turn and, to our surprise, our community came to support us.  With food, clothes, offers of shelter, anonymous donations of money, support from my school, from churches, from non-profits and others. When injustice happens in America, none of us bring our political convention badges.  We bring our soul.  Look at the outpouring of support for Aurora, Colorado and Oak Creek, Wisconsin this year as examples.  There were not Democrats and Republicans at the vigils, there were Americans.

And while I have given countless speeches about it, the most powerful example of this was, and is, 9/11.  I was in the towers weeks before they came down. I have and had myriads of friends who work on that beloved island.  And what I loved, in the midst of our darkest despair, is the way we came together in that week as Americans without political cover.  We all flew our flags, I watched bankers help laborers walk home from the towers, I watched needy left-wing citizens follow the guidance of a caring right-wing mayor.  I watched brave firefighters and construction workers, selflessly run TOWARD that collapse, in order to save even one more life while risking theirs.  To understand the true unity laying dormant in America you need only remember how you felt the day those proud towers fell.  Despite the centuries of political messaging heaped on top of who we were, that shot at our country instantly stripped it away, and lay bare what it means to be an American.  We are united, not divided, at our core.  Politics has led us in a different direction.  Statesmanship can lead us out.

The Greater Fool

So, the day after a great date night, it is often hard to keep the momentum going.  Great talk, do we act?  Are we still tuned in?  Sometimes, as my wife always says, the universe is giving you an answer, but you need to listen.  When I walked into my wife’s office after coffee this morning she had DVR’ed Newsroom.  We love the show, admittedly because we are left of center types and its fun to hear our thoughts in eloquent words.  But the season finale was about everything we had just discussed.  Everyone should watch it, so they get the conclusions below.  The central point of the show is a back and forth over the idea of “The Greater Fool”.  As an aside I have issues with the example myself due to its financial roots, but the wrap up lines in the show were perfect.

There have been many people with opinions about how to “fix” our country.  How to take us back.  Regain our beautiful history.  Become what we were.  I dissent.  We have never lost what we were.  It has simply been buried under decades of communications crap laid on top by politics.

We must embrace what we are.  What we truly are.  We must act on it.  Locally.  We must unplug from stupid national attempts to control what we think and demonstrate we understand our neighbors.  We must touch what makes us all American, fight like hell for that, and work together to resolve on the details.  It will be hard, impossibly difficult, unbelievably irritating and the challenge of my generation.  But as a boy, I watched Team USA, skate on the ice, unknown, with no believers, defeat what we used to call the USSR.  It is only the fool, the greater fool, that truly thinks we can do that now in politics.  Not by finding or building a candidate.  But by acting.  In our lane.  Running our pattern.  Fulfilling our role.  Never flinching in defense.  And understanding what makes us all American.

And later today I came across a great debate on Facebook about Voter ID.  A good one.  Sid Burgess asked a simple question about Voter ID.  Good conversation about it.  A few partisan barbs but really what seemed to be real people talking about an issue.  A vital one.  The right to vote.  The discourse was intelligent and civil.   And the source, a great republican passionately embracing walkability in of all places, Oklahoma City, helps to prove that this world, this conflict, has hope of resolution.  If this lifelong Democrat in Seattle and a self-described card carrying Republican in OKC can come to together to build a civic discourse, maybe we will succeed in building a new America.

“The Greater Fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools.”

 

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