Draining the Swamp

Our new president has talked a lot about “draining the swamp.” It occurred to me, however, that if he did manage to drain it, what would replace it?

When reading a recent interview of Larry Fink, founder and CEO of BlackRock, and when watching a talk given by Trek Bicycle’s president, John Burke, I was reminded that our nation’s best and brightest aren’t likely to gravitate to government service.

The price is too high. The price in lost privacy. The financial sacrifice. Subjecting oneself and one’s family to mean-spirited ridicule, often devoid of any attachment to facts or truth. For good reason, our best and brightest usually put their talents to other uses. And who can blame them?

Consequently, we end up with poor public leadership, both at the state and national levels. Indeed, we end up with a president who is unfit for the office in just about every respect — no, in every respect. And with many members of Congress who I wouldn’t entrust with running a garbage dump.

We have only ourselves to blame of course. Frankly, I’m surprised that any good people would want to work for us. Many of us aren’t interested in doing anything but tearing each other and our government down. You don’t need talented people to run a wrecking ball. Just swing. Devastation comes easy.

Yet the strengths of our country and economy, at least thus far, have carried us through. Perhaps they’ll continue to propel us further despite our self-inflicted wounds. Perhaps not. Only time will tell.

In any case, Vera, the point I’m getting to is this: there are many ways to serve your country and your fellow citizens outside of government service.

You can make a difference in business. In education. In health care. In a myriad of career pursuits.

Indeed, one could argue that government is being replaced by private enterprise in key areas. As a nation, we don’t talk about space exploration anymore. But Elon Musk does. And he’s leading an effort to take humans to Mars.

Due to advances in technology and globalization, national boundaries mean less today than they’ve meant in a very long time. There are forces, led by people such as our president, who want to turn back the clock and revert to the tribalism, which inevitably leads to wars and depressed economic advancement. When these forces fail, which they most certainly will over the long term despite any short-term wins, the shift of power and influence from local and national governments to global and cross-national enterprises, and to individual leaders outside of government, will accelerate. This transformation will have significant implications for the way we organize civil structures and allocate capital. Yet we will always be reliant on people who step forward — to serve our common interests, to serve others.

Opportunities to serve abound. Just avoid getting sucked into some silly rhetoric about draining swamps. Rather, get on with the important business of building a better future for yourself and those who will follow you on this magnificent planet we call home.

When we live solely for ourselves, wallowing in greed and unconstrained individualism, we become part of the swamp. But the path out of the swamp is well marked. It’s called service.

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