Gen O as a generational marker has barely begun, and yet Newsweek’s Gen O project is drawing to a close. While we’ve lived and breathed Gen O for six months now, we will have no way of knowing what it truly means for years yet. A general buzz of change still sizzles in the air, but how is President Obama doing? Is change really occurring? You must admit he took office with quite a mess on his hands. He could have easily chosen one issue and focused on it until it was completely solved before moving to the next, but he didn’t. Obama seized nearly every hot-button issue of the past decade and made it his – claiming responsibility for its resolution. He’s juggling healthcare reform while working to stimulate the economy while working to overhaul the energy sector while changing the face of education. Whew!
On the outset of this project, I asked our leadership, among other things, to improve our education system, stimulate our economy, and develop alternative energy sources. Here is my report card:
It is hard to dispute that America’s education system needs a serious overhaul. We lag behind several other countries and continue to slip. Obama has proposed merit pay and removing ineffective teachers. He is investing in our community colleges, making secondary education and continuing education more accessible. He is expanding educational funding for veterans. All of these are important first steps to improving the system and ensuring a more educated workforce that can compete globally for the future.
The consistent downward spiral of our economy since 2007 is the biggest problem Obama faces. The solution is complicated beyond my understanding and I respect all efforts to fix the problem. With jobs being a lagging indicator, they haven’t caught up to what appears to be a slowly stabilizing economy. I’m not thrilled with the amount of money we’ve hemorrhaged in banking and corporate bailouts and I’m not thrilled that our government is now running some of the largest companies in America. That said, it appears to be working slowly and if that is what is necessary to put our country back to work, then so be it. Many in my life who were unemployed at the beginning of this project have returned to work or school. Several close to me have chosen to open their own small businesses, indicating to me that they have faith enough in the recovery to take on added risk.
Obama plans to invest $15B annually in renewable energy sources through 2018. He also plans to spend $150B over 10 years to develop renewable energy sources and to encourage conservation. There are several other bills circulating through Congress currently that will provide incentives for clean energy usage and development. Then, there’s the controversial cap-and-trade bill that will limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. This is just the beginning of what is sure to be huge reform in this arena.
The disadvantage of tackling so many issues at once is none of them are going to be resolved overnight. It is too soon to know how the new policies will affect long-term change. My grading takes this into account and is generous. I expect that legislation enacted will begin to take hold soon and show marked improvement in the coming year or two. More work can always be done to ensure that the world is better for our children than it was for us, but I believe we’re on the right path to making this happen.
Farewell Gen O, though not really. As we move deeper into Obama’s administration, Gen O will continue to evolve and all our lives will be impacted. Personally, this means a new career opportunity on the horizon and a second child entering public school. It means paying back student loans and looking for more ways to conserve resources and reduce my footprint. The best really is yet to come.
What a privilege it has been to work on this project. Thank you all for your readership, input and thought-provoking comments. Continue the conversation…
Yesterday, I was running late for work (not unusual) and decided to cruise through a Burger King drive-thru for my morning coffee fix (highly unusual). After the requisite order confusion, the employee handed my coffee through the window in a paper bag. I paused, unable to imagine any scenario that would require my coffee cup to be placed into a bag. So, I asked. She shrugged and replied that it was a new corporate policy. I removed my coffee from the bag, placed the cup into the cup holder and handed the bag back to her through the window. I like to think she used it for the next order, but my guess is it went directly into the trash.
This was just the most current example in a series of incidents involving inappropriately large and wasteful restaurant take-out packaging. When I get a to-go bagel from my favorite coffee shop, it is wrapped in a paper sleeve, placed inside a clear plastic box and finally put into a plastic bag that also contains a 3-pack of plastic utensils and pre-packaged cream cheese. That’s enough waste to fill a small trashcan with largely un-recyclable material simply to transport my 4-inch bagel. There is no need for half of this packaging, yet it is quickly becoming the social norm.
Even as large corporations implement wasteful practices, “green” buzzes loudly. Politicians court green jobs and clean energy legislation. These are critical initiatives that will go far to protect our natural resources in the future, but they must not substitute our own personal responsibility to reduce negative impact on the world. Landfills are rapidly filling and eventually we will run out of places to stash our trash. If we individually reduce, reuse and recycle, the collective impact will be massive. Conservation is easy – start with refusing the extra packaging in to-go orders, and begin enjoying a cleaner, greener earth.
Economists still can’t agree. Is the recession waxing or waning or easing just enough for us all to get our hopes up, only to have the rug pulled out from under us? Stocks are rising, all the leading indexes show improvement, but everyday we hear news of company closings, jobs lost, and increasing unemployment numbers. We’ve been warned that employment levels will probably rebound last, so what’s an unemployed American citizen to do? Go back to school!
Yesterday, in a speech at a community college in Warren, Michigan, President Obama took over the economy. “Give it to me,” he said. “My job is to solve problems, not stand on the sidelines and carp and gripe.” And then…he detailed a plan that will become part of the solution: The American Graduation Initiative. This plan will allocate $12 million to reform America’s community college system and send millions of people back to school.
An excerpt from The White House Briefing reads:
[The American Graduation Initiative] will reform and strengthen community colleges from coast to coast so that they get the resources students and schools need – and the results workers and businesses demand. Through this plan, we seek to help an additional five million Americans earn degrees and certificates in the next decade.
"Now is the time to build a firmer, stronger foundation for growth that will not only withstand future economic storms, but one that helps us thrive and compete in a global economy. It’s time to reform our community colleges so that they provide Americans of all ages a chance to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to compete for the jobs of the future." – President Barack Obama
Once again, President Obama proposes a long-term fix, rather than a band-aid that will wash off with the first storm. “Time and again, when we have placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result,” Obama said. So, go back to school. Take advantage of all this land of opportunity offers. Ride out difficult times by learning new skills and improving existing ones. Whenever the economy rebounds…we’ll be ready for it.
Protests in Tehran…missiles in North Korea…President Obama kills a fly. <collective gasp>
It was comical to watch this story of murder and intrigue unfold in the media yesterday. Obama received widespread accolades for his achievement. One commentator compared him to a Ninja Warrior for his prowess. The AP tagged him The Human Flyswatter. Marvel Comics…take note. This could be your next superhero! Is there anything this man can’t do?
Most days, I stand in awe of the American media. The challenge of a 24 hour news cycle is overwhelming and they generally handle it beautifully – exhibiting the ability to analyze on the fly (no pun intended), changing perspectives as new information comes to light and assimilating it all for a very demanding American public.
Occasionally, however, my admiration is put on hold while I instead marvel at the sensationalism that prevails. Sure, he killed the fly during a CNBC interview, making it difficult to completely ignore, but did every major media outlet have to weigh in? Sure, there’s a lot of heavy stuff going on in our world right now and even the media needs a break from the seriousness. Expounding on the act of fly killing provided much-needed levity and further humanized our president.
So that’s it. End of story, right? Oh no! The fly drama continues into Day 2. The media frenzy builds as PETA now weighs in, garnering publicity for fly-rights activists everywhere. Today’s headlines include: PETA freakout, PETA Expresses Disapproval, and, arguably the juiciest, PETA Up in Wings Over Obama Death Swat. PETA even sent the President a device that will enable him to catch the pesky insects and release them unharmed in the future. I pity the Secret Service agent that will be tasked with schlepping the trap around, keeping it at the ready for use on a moment’s notice.
In all fairness, the President gave the fly adequate warning of its fate before squashing it. I say that showed incredible restraint and decorum. Now, let’s move on…back to the business of genocide and terrorism and the economy.