If you were searching for a candy metaphor to describe the United States, what would your choose ? In their 2011 book (That Used to Be Us) Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum embraced the metaphor idea when they likened the nation to a lollypop.
They extolled the virtues of what they believe are the “five pillars of America’s past success,” but then lamented the extent to which we are falling short today: “Today’s United States is faced with era-defining challenges and is responding with the vigor and determination of a lollipop.”The Five Pillars
The five Friedman/Mandelbaum pillars make good sense, but also present a lofty challenge for today’s leaders:
- Providing high quality and equal public education for more and more Americans.
- Building and modernizing of our physical infrastructure.
- Keeping America’s doors to immigration open to attract the world’s best minds to our universities and our workforce.
- Investing government resources to support basic research and development.
- Implementing necessary regulations on private economic activity.
They are right. I fear that the America my generation is bequeathing to our grandchildren is just that, a lollipop — lots of color and sugar, but zero nutritional value. The future of America’s children is at risk if we continue to ignore or deny our downward trend toward the bottom of peer rankings in many facets of national life.
A new Pillar: Ensuring that Our Children Flourish
However, the challenge facing Americans today isn’t primarily where we rank in competition with our peer nations. It is about us, about our character and the values we embrace. The key issue for me is whether or not America is the best place to be a child and to rear a child. At present it is not
Why not? I embrace the five pillars above, but believe we need add a few more if we want to ensure that our nation’s children flourish. It is time to implement a national formula for child wellbeing: access to a public education system that meets 21st-century social and workplace demands; a commitment to universal early childhood education; safe and sound neighborhoods; a commitment to keeping the nations infrastructure safe and in good repair; a vibrant economy supported by a future-oriented community/government/business partnership; healthy air to breathe and clean water to drink; and action to combat the growing national and worldwide crisis brought on by accelerating effects of climate change.
Pause for a minute and ask yourself: is America willing — are you willing — to commit the work, sacrifice and necessary resources to each of those essential ingredients, regardless of budget and tax implications?
If your answer is “No, I am not willing to make the tough tax and spending decisions needed for a comprehensive overhaul of America,” then you are making a decision about the quality of life you are willing to accept.
If your answer is “No,” please tell me which of the ingredients you would knowingly deny your child: A quality education? Affordable healthcare? A safe neighborhood? A healthy and sustainable climate?
On the other hand, if enough Americans answer “Yes!” the nation will be on the road to a better and more hopeful future.
Americans have always risen to big challenges, both external and internal. In times of crisis we have been willing to make necessary immediate sacrifices for a better future. In this urgent era, it is time to do it again.