My brother is one of my true heroes. Steady and sober where I am impulsive and emotional. He has been employed at the same job all his adult life doing public-policy research for the Western Governors' Association. While I am a shallow media guy tossing off trite and meaningless soundbites, he is a serious and substantive policy analyst doing meaningful work that improves people’s lives.
I spend too much of my time inside the Beltway or New York City with the chattering class and the talking heads. He lives in Denver, connected to real people in the real world like an oak tree to groundwater.
I spend too much of my time inside the Beltway or New York City with the chattering class and the talking heads.
Recently, in frustration with the nightly news, he sent me a list of what he thinks people in our country (hell, any country) really care about, what they want. I was struck by how different the subjects are from what I hear people in Washington talk about:
The list according to my brother, Chris:
People want: • Their leaders (public & private) to be honorable, law-abiding citizens. • Politicians to argue over substance and then act in unity for the good of the country. • Corporate leaders to put the long-term interests of the company and its workers over short-term profits and their salaries. • The news (web, TV, print) to be insightful, meaningful and unbiased. • Those most important to our society—teachers, public safety and health-care workers (especially those in pediatrics, nursing homes and hospice care)—to be paid commensurate to the value they provide to our society. • Everyone to be treated the same by the justice system, including the wealthy, celebrities and athletes. • Everyone to pay their share of taxes. And, while we’re at it… • Athletes to play for the love of the game, team and city.
As a kid, he was taught to believe these things were true. As an adult, he believes they should be true, that the country would be a better place if they were true. And he says they can be true, but it’s up to you.
Yes, you, reading this post. Hold your leaders accountable. Pay your share of taxes even if you think others might not. Turn off the polemic and divisive news. Thank your teachers, health-care and public-safety workers and support pay increases for them.
He also said something refreshing about the current economic crisis. He said "We need to be the stimulus. We, the comfortable middle- and upper-middle-class folks who still have our jobs, need to start going out to dinner one more time a week, buying an extra couple books, remodeling part of our houses, hiring a housecleaner even if we don't really need one.” We should start saying, "We'll get through this," "It'll turn around soon," and other positive phrases to everyone we meet rather than repeating the media doom-and-gloom message.
We’ve heard enough from the founts of wisdom in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Maybe we could use a little more common sense from the heartland.
What’s on your list?
As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, causes, and individuals, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Lance Armstrong, and Bono. McKinnon is co-chairman of Arts & Labs, a collaboration between technology and creative communities that have embraced today’s rich internet environment to deliver innovative and creative digital products to consumers.