In a number of aspects, America is ailing at the moment; we are facing enormous difficulty in caring for our returning veterans, we're experiencing a negatively changing climate and a widening socioeconomic gap along with a crumbling infrastructure. Compounding the problems is a comparatively inactive Congress since 2008.
We are seeing signs of growing health though, in the form of an increasingly stronger will to solve our global conflicts peacefully, along with the private sector's increasing strength in innovation and sustainability which can lead us to new economic vigor and equitability, with or without leadership of lawmakers and financial entities.
During 239 years of warring under the flag of protecting democracy, the United States has lost more than 2 million men and women. 'Might makes right'; killing and being killed has been a large part of our approach to conflict resolution. How's it working for us?
For the weapons industry, it's been great. The comparative few who profit directly and indirectly from it, are continuing to rake in billions; for the rest of us, it's a different story. Added to the dead, wounded and missing in action of our military personnel are the suicides, fractured families, and their financial woes.
Beginning with the Revolutionary War, America's capacity to care for our physically and mentally wounded warriors has proven woefully inadequate. Today's Veterans Administration is overwhelmed by a number of the 2.5 million veterans, just from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
In addition to the military issues, America is facing problems of crumbling infrastructure, rising energy costs and pollution along with a plethora of additional social issues -- not the least of which is poverty. Creating and tolerating an unsafe, unstable environment is a form of social violence.
Violence begets violence, and now the United States and our allies are increasingly turning to peace begetting peace. Rather than opting for a military approach to solving global conflicts such as in the Ukraine and Iran, Pres. Obama is engaging with NATO to find economic constraints and incentives, along with a range of other persuasive methods. He is not the first President to opt for peaceful resolution as a first effort, nor is his criticism unique. Richard Nixon called Pres. Kennedy weak for his show of restraint toward Communist aggression, and Pres. Eisenhower was also considered weak. Moral strength can be easily mistaken for weakness by those who see military confrontation as the standard.
Pres. Eisenhower spoke of leadership:
"I'll tell you what leadership is; it's persuasion and conciliation and education and patience. It's long, slow, tough work; that's the only kind of leadership I know, or believe in or will practice."
As Pres. Obama told the 2014 graduating class of the United States Military Academy, "Just because we have the best hammer doesn't mean every problem is a nail."
Fareed Zakaria, centrist CNN host, summed up the emerging peaceful trend:
"The world looks far more peaceful and stable than at any time in several centuries...what is needed from Washington is not another heroic exertion of American military power, but rather a sustained effort to engage with allies, isolate enemies, support free markets and democratic values, and push these positive trends forward."
Innovation and Sustainability
At the moment, for greater economic development in America, the private sector will have to take the reins, and we'll have to shift our most basic national premise from extremist winning (beating someone else) to cooperative winning (the majority benefit).
Exercising executive privilege,on June 2 Obama announced he would sidestep Congress to initiate groundbreaking carbon pollution standards to significantly reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Of course, he faces fierce resistance from Congress on this.
According to Peter Altman, the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) Climate and Clean Air Campaign Director:
"We absolutely see this fight over carbon standards as essentially the Super Bowl of climate politics. It's a fight to determine whether we will protect our health and future generations."
Globally, the concepts of collaborative sustainability and protection of the environment are attracting attention in other countries as well. Breaking our dependence on fossil fuels involves moving to sustainable energy, as India, China, Canada and other countries are also demonstrating. Solar, geothermal and wind energy can, not only replace oil, they can create energy surpluses and jobs while greatly reducing pollution, with resulting improved health and resolution of a multitude of infrastructure problems. A few examples follow; innumerable others abound across the globe.
Cambridge University Forum for Sustainability and Environment is a collaborative initiative in the U.K. that sponsors international exploration across a range of disciplines, to discern and initiate solutions to problems we all share.
Changing approaches can, in large part, be seen as generational. Gen-Xer Richard Branson, 63, seeks to break down arguments that over-regulation and such can block innovation. His Virgin Disruptors initiative 'disrupts' standard arguments through online discussions with successful innovators around the world.
Solar Impulse is the world's first airplane able to fly non-stop around the globe without a drop of fuel.
Elon Musk, 42, CEO of Tesla Motors (premium electric automobiles), with seed money from NASA has recently introduced the first sustainable space capsule, Dragon V2. Designed to ferry astronauts back and forth to the Space Station, the reusable capsule can land with the precision of a helicopter.
"This is extremely important for revolutionizing access to space because as long as we continue to throw away rockets and space crafts, we will never truly have access to space; it'll always be incredibly expensive".
Julie and Scott Brusaw of Solar Roadways are developing a system of solar-paneled, individually programmed discs that they say, used globally, can solve a multitude of energy problems from eliminating snow removal and potholes to drastically reducing greenhouse gases.
The Federal Highway Administration first tested the concept, then awarded Solar Roadways $750,000 to build a prototype parking lot. Evidence of the project's popularity is seen in the $2m the firm has raised through crowdsourcing.
Annually, Zayed Future Energy Prize awards up-to $100,000 for each of four high school students across the globe to complete their energy-saving projects. The Prize is named for the late Founding Father and President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, who championed environmental stewardship.
In global agribusiness, a number of American firms realize that producing non-GMO products is good business because of restrictions on GMOs in at least 26 countries including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia. Significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about 60 other countries, as well.
Among the numerous American firms producing non-GMO food products are Resaca Sun which provides non-GMO feed for all classes of livestock, and Estancia Beef, with ranches in the United States, Argentina and Uruguay, provides the final product -- succulent grass-fed beef.
Who Are The Millennials, And What Are They Doing? Approximately 25-to-34 years of age, the Millennial Generation are poised to carry the shifting paradigm forward. According to Mary Meehan in Forbes Magazine,
Our Millennial cohort was born between 1978 and 1995, as a new millennium was dawning. The world flattened and globalization exploded. As a result, Millennials have had more exposure to the rest of the world and feel a responsibility to take care of it--and they often hold companies and other institutions to the same standards. Their early lives are marked by foreign and homegrown terrorism of 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Columbine shooting. But they also had the first helicopter parents to make them feel valued, secure, and hopeful. As socially responsible, diverse, and always-on tech natives, these traits are shaping the culture of the early 2000s.
Millennials followed by Gen-Yers who will succeed in the coming years, are looking forward, rather than backward. They see opportunity where some in generations before them might see only obstacles. And they are well-prepared to make the coming changes.
Jared Kushner, 33-year-old Real Estate developer/investor, and owner/publisher of The New York Observer newspaper, addressed the 2014 Commencement Class of Hofstra University.
"You're all leaving school into a tough economy, a tough job market...but you're entering a world that is changing at record speed, and having youth today is a tremendous advantage, especially now that you have a college degree.
You're all part of the Millennial Generation; you've grown up with a lot of technology, which means that you're all fluent with a lot of the pathways through which the world is evolving today...You've all grown up understanding this technology and, as the world evolves and changes you'll see that, as we go through this Industrial Revolution, you have a much better understanding of the tools that it takes to drive a lot of change."
So, as we increasingly think globally and cooperatively, we will find ourselves in a world community where practical, peaceful approaches to problem solving will have moved us all across this new frontier of the 21st Century, led by such courageous trailblazers as Barack Obama, Richard Branson, and so many others who are pioneering to change the direction of history. The world they are creating will be the world our children and children's children will inherit.