Rising majestically over the marshlands of the Chesapeake Bay, the sun announced the new year with splendor and rays of hope. Call me a sucker for symbols, but there could be no more auspicious and uplifting start to 2011 for me than watching the sun rise this morning over some of the greatest of natural resources on our small planet.
2011 comes not a moment too soon. The last several years have been fraught with economic woes, partisan bickering, an endless war abroad and mounting cynicism and fractiousness at home. Our moral compass has seemed to spin awry, homing-in on the most misbegotten of ideas, like exalting narrowly regressive literal interpretations of the Constitution while denigrating concern for extending charity and justice to our neighbors in need.
The sunrise heralding our new year gives us a chance to start over, to walk away from the darkly trashed rooms of political self-indulgence toward the more hopeful opportunities to create a truly Good Society that does not begrudge extending necessary assistance — healthcare, educational opportunities, economic development, racial equality, social justice, the hope of peace — to people who do not have the capacity to seize those opportunities on their own.
We celebrate each new year with toasts and parties as a way of expressing our joy at the prospect of making a fresh start. From the photos of celebrations around the world over the years, it seems that this notion of the opportunity inherent in the new year — truly, the hope for new beginnings — is a universal human yearning, a multicultural festival of the best that life might offer, if only we could all get along here.
The start of the new year reminds us that it’s never too late to change, and change for the better is always fashionable. That’s why we start our diets again, swear to work out more, stop smoking or lay off booze, or whatever vices have made us feel wretched and old We want to feel fresh, new, alive and vigorous — and just as we make personal resolutions, so, too, we need to make communal resolutions for self-improvement.
Let’s not waste a good new year. The dawn of 2011 gives us the hope of a fresh start. Here’s what we can do as citizens of this small planet to take full advantage of this opportunity:
1) Tone down the rhetoric, end the acrimony, retire the recriminations: it’s one thing to have a passionate argument, it’s quite another to keep trashing other people. Reading the blogs and “comments” sections of digital media these days, I see very few good ideas, but shocking amounts of vitriol against individuals. C’mon, folks, let’s applaud people who have the courage to try to be leaders, innovators, visionaries and instigators of change. We may not like all of their ideas, but they deserve respect, not hateful sniping.
2) Dare to have your own ideas! Here’s a thought: instead of saying how terrible someone else is, how about proposing an innovative solution to the problem? Our discourse today — whether it’s a criticism of a federal policy or a complaint about an administrative action here at Trinity — too often lacks ideas. We complain and criticize, but we lack better ideas. Let’s have some better ideas in place of complaints.
3) Locally, let’s give Mayor Gray and his team support and constructive help: our city leadership — executive, educational, law enforcement, economic development, social services — must have the support necessary to build a better community for all citizens of the District of Columbia. Sure, we’ve seen progress in recent years, and that’s great. But in too many places in our city, citizens continue to suffer violence, poverty, illiteracy and a robust drug trade that robs communities of respect and a sense of security. We must have functional, effective schools, and the last thing we need is more grandstanding on educational issues. We must continue to improve the climate for public safety. We can welcome economic development while making sure that our neediest neighbors are not simply pushed out to the edges of the city. Mayor Gray has a huge agenda, let’s support his team.
4) Nationally, let’s focus on issues, not personalities. Scary thought: the 2012 presidential election season is already underway. Ugh. So many issues remain unresolved from the 2008 election — Afghanistan, anyone? Sure, the Obama Administration made a great deal of progress in the last few months, but now a divided Congress means that partisan politics will become even more intense. Once-fringe groups have moved to center stage, and the “new normal” is a constant climate of bitter fractiousness. The “silent majority” in the middle must speak up and reclaim the balance of power — there are no “innocent” bystanders when policies about the character and values of this nation are at stake.
5) Let’s Celebrate Trinity! Amid all of the sad and tawdry news beyond Michigan Avenue, Trinity continues to grow and thrive. We are a remarkable community — marvelous and challenging students, talented and dedicated faculty, a devoted staff that works harder than just about any other university team, generous and loyal alums, remarkable friends and benefactors. At a time when so many other institutions are experiencing economic stress and precarious futures, Trinity has never been stronger. We have ambitious plans underway for a new academic center, new programs and services. Most important, Trinity’s values are in the exactly right place: our students are the center of our lives together, and their success is our collective success. Ensuring that more students realize greater success is our #1 resolution for 2011!
What are your resolutions? Share your ideas by clicking “comments” below…
Happy, Hopeful New Year to all!