With the beginning of 2011, I would like to wish you and your families all
the best for the New Year.
Another year. They all seem to blend together at a certain point. Part of
the problem of getting older, I guess, is the sameness. But it's also an opportunity. You can see the similarities with a bit of perspective, and
enjoy the way things seems so calm and, even, I venture, understandable.
When you look at America, you can't help but getting a warm and positive feeling. Even in the face of the greatest economic downturn in our lifetimes, people remain positive and even hopeful for the New Year.
On his day we may well think back on the generations that created our America the farmers who plowed the fields and cultivated the earth, the workers who sweated and toiled in the factories and all those who built the country and fought for its defense.
Their names do not appear in the records of history, but the fruit of their labor is the society we know today. We are stewards of their inheritance. And it is our task to maintain the society that is regarded everywhere as the best in the world.
Some, indeed many, are already prepared. They are quite certain to be able to manage in a new era with exciting challenges. Others, I know, ask themselves, 'What is to become of me? Is there room for me? How do I secure my children's future? Have I still got a job? Can anybody use me?'
My reply is this: 'Yes, there is and will be need for everyone if we still work together on developing our society on the basis of community and not selfishness."
This is also part of our shared responsibility. If we sign off our responsibility with merely a check from society once per month to those who are outside, those who have abandoned all hope of ever getting started again, then we fail utterly, and our society has become poorer and more
The respect for our fundamental values is emphatically not about intolerance, uniformity of appearance and creed. It is based on a modern view on life and man, upon which this society builds for the benefit of all its citizens.
We do not want an America with new, sharp class distinctions. Everybody must be part, with the duties and rights this entails. The ideals of equality and community must include all and be respected by all.
Assuming responsibility for our neighbors, equality and justice are things that can be realized only in a tolerant society. Acceptance of and respect for diversity are among the prerequisites for our collective success.
Nevertheless tolerance does not mean accepting all deeds. At the same time as we recognize how diverse people are, we must also see the ethical factors that we share. We must emphasize the values that unite humankind in its common struggle to eliminate inequality, hunger and want.
Sustainable development will not be brought about merely by redressing the shortcomings that economic globalization has created. It will also require the positive, constructive contributions of cultures and religions. In the new world economy, development will have to be sustainable also in the cultural sense.
I have often stressed the importance of change. Adhering to permanent basic values is a prerequisite for being able to adapt to change. We must respect each other and look after each other.
But we must look forward as well as back. America has always been a country on the move and will go on being so. I know that the fairness and decency for which this country is rightly
renowned will mean that continued efforts are made to ensure that this prosperity touches all Americans.
So if there ever was a time to put country before self and patriotism before party, the time is now. We live in a time of great social crisis. Our children rank at the bottom of nineteen industrial nations in math, reading, science,writing, and arithmetic.
The world's narcotic economy is based upon our own consumption of this commodity. If we didn't buy so many powdered dreams the business would collapse-and schools are an important sales outlet. Our teenage suicide rate is the highest in the world-and suicidal kids are rich kids for the most part, not the poor.
But we must not, on the basis of individual mistakes and failures, let ourselves be carried away by the misapprehension that everything is bad, and that much has gone downhill.
And, let us be honest," Would you like your child to grow up in any other country?"
I think I know the reply: 'No, we would not.'
You will find your own ethical dilemmas in all parts of your lives, both personal and professional. We all have different desires and needs, but if we don't discover what we want from ourselves and what we stand for, we will live passively and unfulfilled.
Sooner or later, we are all asked to compromise ourselves and the things we care about. We define ourselves by our actions. With each decision, we tell ourselves and the world who we are.
Think about what you want out of this life, and recognize that there are many kinds of success.
We have to demand that new voices and new ideas get a hearing, my ideas and yours. We've all had a bellyful of authorized voices on television and in the press.
But the problem is that much of American culture right now is built on an adolescent fiction. The fiction is that life is all about you as an individual-your ideas, your appetites, and your needs. Believe me it isn't.
The main interest big companies have in your wants and mine is how to turn them into a profit. Part of being an adult is the ability to separate marketing from reality; hype from fact. The fact is, the world is a big and complicated place. It doesn't care about your appetites. It has too many of its own needs, and it won't leave you alone.
God made you for a purpose. The world needs the gifts he gave you. Adulthood brings power. Power brings responsibility. And the meaning of your life will hinge on a simple, basic choice. Will you engage the world with your heart and brains and faith, and work to make it a better place-not just for yourself and the people you love but also for people you don't even know whose survival depends on your service to the common good? Or will you wrap yourself in a blanket of noise and toys and consumer junk, and stay a child?
God gave you a free will. How you use that gift is your choice-but it's a choice you won't be able to avoid. And that choice has consequences. Here's my point. People who take the question of human truth, freedom and meaning seriously will never remain silent about it. They can't. They will always act on what they believe, even at the cost of their reputations and lives. That is the way I believe it should be.
Jerry R. Mitchell is the President & CEO of Jerry R. Mitchell & Associates, Inc. He is an entrepreneur with a passion for helping companies grow. He's worked in the Fortune 500 world and been a part of 12 companies, 8 of which either went public or were sold/merged with larger companies. Jerry is also the President & Founder of The Midwest Entrepreneurs Forum.