The Crisis Dividend: Profit and Purpose

01/31/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

So let's take stock of where we are as we leave 2008: 1). We have a transformational figure positioned to lead the country at a time when we need solid, bold, and creative thinking in a way not seen since the 1930's; 2). We have the prospect of a 59 seat majority in the U.S. Senate to help with the transformation required; 3). We have a true mandate to do the things that are required to correct for the disastrous policies that have brought us to this historic moment; 4). We must confront crises both internationally and domestically that fall somewhere on the spectrum between daunting and catastrophic; and 5). We must dispose of a thorny issue regarding the appointment of a successor to the Illinois Senate seat that will surely test the skills of the Democratic majority.

At one and the same time these challenges are frustrating and exhilarating. They give purpose and urgency to the need to summon the best and brightest of our citizens to engage in a renewed sense of public service. For those so disposed to take up this challenge, it represents a historic opportunity to contribute to the achievement of ideals that define who we are and what we can be. In a very real sense, we progressives are afforded a luxury few of us have ever known: namely, the ability to participate in the shaping of a world that benefits future generations and a stunning rejection of the "me, first" mentality that has captured the greater part of the past half century.

In Chinese the word "crisis" is composed of two symbols, one representing danger, and the other opportunity. In psychic and economic terms, we can profit from the crisis. If we approach the current crisis appropriately, we will effectively take what we have inherited and profit from it, profit by virtue of an enhanced physical environment and the creation of an economy that succeeds in creating millions of green collar jobs. We will also profit by having our decaying infrastructure needs addressed, thereby at one and the same time creating jobs and strengthening the bricks and mortar that sustain our society.

We profit from a world that seeks to tamp down suspicions and mistrust and attempts to find common ground upon which to collectively address problems. Economic adversaries can be healthy, military ones are rarely so. But seeking common ground internationally will help free up scarce financial resources for non-military purposes and promote preservation of scarce natural resources.

It is a brave new world we are about to enter, and we have the right people at the helm. This should give us reason to celebrate as we enter the New Year. As we enter 2009 we must strive to make hope a reality. It will not be easy, thinking and acting big never is. But it is critically necessary and we all must be up to the challenge. It is a fight which can and must be won and the immensity of the challenge is what we Americans seemingly thrive on.

So as the ball drops this evening share a toast that we ready for the long trip ahead of us, that we are prepared as never before to fight the good fight, that failure is not an option. And as we approach the dawn that lays ahead we can rest assured that future generations will indeed profit from our investments.