America is at a significant crossroads. We have successfully built democratic processes which have been the model for countless countries across the globe. It was when I first visited a Western African country that I understood just how much America is admired and emulated. Much of that admiration emerges from a governance model that has survived with tremendous integrity. Although imperfect, America’s system of government is still the envy of the world.
The Free Enterprise System has produced the highest standard of living for the largest number of people in the history of the world. I was shocked the first time I witnessed poverty in developing countries where people can only fantasize about having the creature comforts that most Americans take for granted. And the fantasizing is not limited to people that live in impoverished nations. Our technological advances far exceed anything our grandparents could ever imagine. My grandfather died without believing that a human had actually walked on the moon. He was convinced that astronauts were filmed in a western desert and coerced to say they had visited the moon. Our entire existence today would completely confound him.
I refer to our being at a crossroads, due to the widening gap that exists between those of us enjoying the sublime benefits of this magnificent society and those who feel stuck at the bottom of life’s difficulties with no means of ever improving their plight. It is true that all levels of government have made noble and expensive attempts to ameliorate conditions that plague the physical, mental and emotional conditions of our downtrodden citizens. However, the government alone cannot provide the transformative resources needed to close the significant disparities throughout the country.
Unfortunately, many situations have become so unmanageable that well-meaning citizens retreat to the safety of personal shelter to protect themselves and their families from the societal effects of challenges like homelessness and street violence. Others cling to the unrealistic notions that somehow, we can solve America’s problems by “redistributing” wealth – take money from the rich and give it to the poor. That will never happen and it should never happen. Everywhere some version of that has been tried and has failed miserably.
I believe the solutions to America’s most intractable problems reside in the minds and hearts of everyday people, whose experiences in solving real life problems make them the experts needed inside America’s corporate boardrooms. We have the capital needed to create opportunities for employment in every region of the country. We have sufficient needs in industries like healthcare to create opportunities for millions of young people, if they have access to the training that will qualify them to perform the tasks needed. Right now, we have more jobs available in the technology sector than we have qualified Americans to fill those jobs. While many corporate leaders are scratching their heads as they look for answers to their business problems, everyday people from diverse backgrounds are bursting with solutions that no one is asking them to provide.
I recently had an opportunity to make a suggestion during a board meeting about a corporate policy that was apparently benign. The unintended consequences of implementing this policy would have had an adverse impact on the company and the people it should have been helping. When I first arrived in board rooms as a director, I wouldn’t speak my mind. I assumed that the more experienced directors were smarter than I was. I have since learned I have knowledge that those without my experience don’t. This fact alone allows me to bring a unique value to the companies where I serve and have served. And it has positioned me to make an impact and offer solutions where needs exist.
There is tremendous potential in the private sector to do good while doing well. That potential can grow exponentially when new blood, new talent and new experiences are included in corporate governance. I am determined to help make those connections. Learn more about how you can contribute on corporate boards in the private sector during my free webinar at 8:00 pm EST on January 26, 2021. Register here.