05/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Times Are, and Always Will Be, Changing

Now that all the presidential election rants and chants have quieted
down a bit, I want to rescue the word "change" from becoming trapped in the
arena of politics.The Obama and McCain teams both used the term relentlessly during the
campaign because it's a compelling one-word slogan that resonates with
optimism and positive energy.But change is a phenomenon bigger than any candidate. It's happening throughout the universe regardless of who's president. Stars shine and fade.
Galaxies hurtle through space. Time moves forward relentlessly. There's no
way to stop it.

Nostalgia often affects our attitudes about change. The notion that
"life was nicer when I was growing up" has been circulating in this country
for generations. Grown-ups said it when I was a kid. Now I'm a grown-up
and my peers are saying it, and it's likely today's kids will say it when
they're middle-aged.

Some politicians have learned to exploit nostalgia by calling for "a
return" to an earlier period on the national timeline. They frequently cite
a "decline" in social values, public school quality, patriotism, or other
aspect of American life and say we need to get back to the way things were
during (insert perceived era-of-better-society here).

World War II is often extolled as a historical role model when
everybody was pulling together and other nations appreciated our help and
admired our achievements. It was definitely an inspiring era, but the USA
of 1940 through 1950 is gone forever. Technology advanced. Soldiers came
home and started families. The population grew and became more diverse.
The landscape was transformed from coast to coast. We're not those people

It's tempting to wish for an existence in which every day would be
exactly the same, pleasant and predictable, with no uncertainty about what
might be different tomorrow. That's a good story idea for a science
fiction movie, but not the real world.

I would never hold myself up as an example of someone who knows how to
accept change and steer it to personal advantage. As I try to cope with
surprises that pop into my daily schedule with annoying frequency I'm often
reminded of the phrase, "Life is what happens while you're making plans."

Some of my friends have set long-term goals and, after considerable
effort, achieved them. To me that's impressive because in many cases,
conditions on the journey toward your goal may change and create obstacles.
The goal itself may be different when you reach it. Making plans is a good
idea, but the future is a moving target.

Four years from now, it¹ll be interesting to see how life in this
country has changed for better or worse. I feel certain the next group of
presidential candidates will have plenty of intense arguments about staying
the course or setting a new one.
It's a habit of political campaigning that will probably never change.