John McCain's life and public service stood for something. He was certainly the maverick, headstrong and obstinate from time to time. But he was a man of integrity, a patriot and a man of his word. He practiced civility and believed that public service was a commitment of great responsibility. Requiring honor, humility and good humor. His passing provides a great opportunity for us to revisit the meaning of citizenship and civic engagement. He set a standard that few of us can emulate, but his life and service can be a catalyst to inspire us as we determine our roles in community. Our Country desperately needs a boost of effective, constructive community involvement, and collaborative creative problem-solving. Let's consider.
We Need More "Thought Leaders" as Community Leaders
As the Summer winds down, lots of folks are reporting in from various vacation endeavors. Some just relaxing R&R, others edifying chautauquas, conferences and think tank gatherings like the Aspen Institute and Sun Valley Business Roundtable. Add the plethora of TED talks around the country and you've got the best and brightest addressing many of the significant issues of the day. Participants are often characterized as "thought leaders," and most of us would like to be thought of in that regard. I've attended many of these confabs in recent years, and have enjoyed the provocative and stimulating discussions and presentations. And the photo-op receptions give us all an opportunity to hobnob with experts and specialists who had been the catalysts for lofty debates and deliberations. Often pretty heady occasions. UNTIL...
UNTIL we're back home, back in our routine, have put away our great handouts, e-catalogued our info links and relegated most of our newly-acquired issue knowledge to the "later" pile. I know, because I've been there, done that. Until my conscience taps me on the heart and mind and reminds me that I've got some valuable new insights that I've spent good money and time to achieve, and I'm not applying them. As I've thought about this faulty process, I multiply my experience by hundreds or thousands of similar me's and I think I see our plight. Stick with me now.
Sometimes It Just Takes A Country Song
I finally "Got It" when I thought of the song title "Too Much Talk, Not Enough Action." Lots of good folks considering the issues of the day, but not enough converting ideas to practical community solutions. I remembered the enlightening presentations on education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc., but didn't see things getting better. In fact, saw us declining relative to other countries. I'm a little slow, but...
"What Do We Do Monday?" Converting Thought Leaders to Community Leaders
Here's a practical suggestion. The talking's the easy part. The action is risky, but also the only way we're going to progress. Start incorporating "What Do We Do Monday" challenges with all your guest speaker invitations. Specifically request that they include at least 3-5 action takeaways in their presentations, with follow-up reference info as appropriate. This will greatly enhance the productive potential for all deliberative gatherings with which you're associated. A far more productive use of everyone's time.
Honoring Sen. McCain's Past With Our Future
Our Country is in desperate need of high-minded reclamation, and we have the resources and creative problem-solving skills to regain our civic equilibrium. Following McCain's lead, we'll need to call on our Better Angels to help us summon the character, class, compassion and commitment to work TOGETHER to build bridges, build trust and rebuild the institutions that have made this Country great. McCain chose civility, collaboration and goodwill to break through the barriers of fear, ideology and tribalism. We owe our children no less. "What Do We Do Monday?" That's up to us. Thank goodness we've got choices.