Madeleine K.Albright was appointed Secretary of State in 1997, becoming the first woman to hold that office and, at the time, the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S government.
She has used her experiences and learning’s from that position to become a professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and she chairs the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the Pew Global Attitudes Project. Dr. Albright is also the author of five New York Times best sellers.
I had the honor of attending her lecture this past week as part of the McCarthey Family Foundation Series, which focus continues to be on the importance of Independent Journalism.
The lecture caused me to think about what I could do to motivate people to say that they have had enough of Washington’s destructive and despicable political infighting, as well as a clear lack of courage to make the hard decisions we sent them to Washington to make.
I hope I can cause you to think deeply about what it means to live in a democratic society and what each of us ought to be doing to practice and promote democracy.
Living in a world of sound bites, quick texts, twitter, facebook, and instagram often causes people to think that they are informed about issues – locally, nationally, and globally – because news can travel from one place in the world to another in a matter of seconds.
But are those social media tools causing us to think deeply and critically about how to solve problems and think reflectively rather than simply reacting to problems and hoping they will go away or someone else will take care of them?
Are we truly better informed because we can get news faster than waiting for the newspaper to be delivered, or has it become a substitute for truly becoming an informed citizen who wants to participate in thoughtful discussion about issues that are dragging down our economy, political practices, driving partisanship politics, bickering, and blaming tactics.
Instant feeds of information are necessary and useful for informing us of local, national, and global events, but they do not give us enough information and data to cause us to move to a higher level of discussion and information which results in action steps and decisions that promote solutions, action plans and change that moves our local, national, and global world forward.
We have all witnessed the breakdown of Washington and our decision making bodies, which continue to show us how much they have not learned from their actions and inactions except to blame, procrastinate, and kick the problems down the road further and deeper.
In January of 2014 we will revisit the same problems with no solutions on the horizon. Will government stop again due to stubborn and intractable politicians?
Most citizens are sitting on the sidelines, complaining and blaming our political parties. Political parties share equal blame for not understanding that their role is to solve problems and pass legislation and formulate policy that ensures that our country is healthy, safe, prosperous, and economically functional with a balanced budget absent of huge debt.
Simply put, democracy is about respecting other people’s views. We continue to fight about which parties platforms are the best instead of looking at common core values that guide good government for all people.
Both parties owe it to the American people to provide bipartisan solutions to our nation’s needs and make the hard decisions that must be made to get us back to a prosperous and productive nation.
Collectively we have allowed media sources, talk and radio show hosts to inform us, when what we citizens need to do is stop relying on other people to think for us. TV and talk show hosts often inflame instead of inform and get to the core of understanding what it means to live in a democracy and how to behave as an informed citizen, which requires us to synthesize information, read broadly across many disciplines, look at all sides of issues, and enter into meaningful discussion, both locally and nationally, with a variety of people from all walks of life socially, ethnically and economically.
We need to reconsider what purpose and function democracy serves in our lives. Respecting each other’s views no matter your party affiliations and making decisions in our local and national political arenas that are good for all citizens is a vital and necessary step to nurturing and sustaining a free democratic society. Let your voice be heard by letter, phone call, or direct communication with a local, state or national leader. There is power in coming together, stepping up, taking and using some of your valuable time to share the responsibility for demanding better government.
That is my take
Gloria J. Alkire