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Debbie Hines Headshot

America's Next Chapter Must Include Jobs And Diversity

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Everyone has an opinion about what direction the country needs to take. Recently, Tavis Smiley's America's Next Chapter set out for three hours to discuss America's future and the issues facing us, nationally on C-Span with Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, Princeton University professor, Cornel West, David Brody, CBN News chief political correspondent, Maria Teresa Kumar, co-founder of Voto Latino and other prominent thought leaders. In case you missed it, it will re-broadcast for three consecutive days on PBS on January 18, 19 and 20, 2011.

Mr. Smiley promised a diverse panel in race and gender. He did not deliver on the promise. He failed to include an African American woman. It's impossible to show a diverse panel without an African American woman's viewpoint. There was no Donna Brazile, Melissa Harris Perry, Gwen Ifill, Valerie Jarrett, or Sophia Nelson or any other black woman bringing her voice to the panel. African American women's voices have historically been excluded. Often, black women are left out of the media loop. Mr. Smiley intentionally excluded any politicians or Obama White House representative. Hopefully, the same was not true for an African American woman panelist.

There were eight official bloggers whose purpose was to moderate the online conversation while present during the live discussion. I was one of the eight bloggers. The top concern facing our country, according to the online discussion, is Jobs, Jobs and Jobs. It's that simple. Runner ups were education and our "broken" political system. Interesting enough, only a few tweeted about the absence of any discussion on health care. Many spoke about jobs are the key to everything. Most spoke about jobs being the number one priority for people in this country but expressed concern that our politicians are not focused on jobs. One man tweeted that 19 months ago, he had 17 employee/contractors to now closing his company. Yet, he still feels hope in rising again. Others are not as hopeful. Some believe politicians are "too busy running the next election to worry about jobs for the middle class folks and poor". Arianna Huffington spoke of the need to move people from poverty to the middle class as we cannot lose our middle class. Someone posted online that's assuming we will still have a middle class. As one panelist noted, the middle class is becoming "the new poor". Another small business blogger noted there's not been enough emphasis on creating jobs including helping small and micro business. She tweeted that "business ownership is part of a solution that's being overlooked'.

The most profound jobs comment on the panel came from Arianna Huffington. "We went from a country that makes things to a country that makes things up". Even with an education, there are no jobs. No one is exempt. Many unemployed persons can't even qualify for unemployment, like recent college graduates. Arianna Huffington spoke of her daughter's college friends, who face an uncertain future, due to the lack of jobs. And I know of recent college graduates, law school graduates and post graduates who have degrees and six figure college debts to prove it, but cannot find jobs. Despite the sad reality facing our nation's job market, there is no sense of urgency on the part of our lawmakers to fix it. Our elected officials have not acted with the same sense of emergency as with the bank and automobile bail outs. They only appear concerned now about keeping their own jobs.

As everyday citizens, we must generate a real sense of urgency to our elected officials. We must move them from talk to action. Social media has led the way on other fronts. President Obama used social media to raise millions during his presidential campaign. In 2011 and beyond, we must use it to advocate for America's urgent job needs. An ongoing social media advocacy campaign is necessary to get the emergency job message to our politicians. It's now on us to lead the way to change. America's next chapter must include jobs and, yes, diversity too.