Doesn't anybody get it right the first time?
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When President Kennedy spoke of going to the moon and then found the people to get us there, that spoke to what people called American exceptionalism in an admiring way. And there was a sense of being special, perhaps bolder and more competent, ready to cross forbidden boundaries in order to find new worlds. Of course, Kennedy also OK’d the Bay of Pigs debacle, but there was a strong sense across the land that Americans could get stuff done.
In earlier years we built Hoover Dam and created the Tennessee Valley Authority. We spanned San Francisco Bay and pushed our skyscrapers into the rarefied air above our cities. We developed vaccines for deadly diseases and the best health care system in the world.
But the bridges and tunnels are showing their age. Health care is a mess, and periodically too many people get sick or die from toxins or germs in our food supply. There is less appreciation for the true crafts and skills that, once upon a time, put shoes on our feet and clothes on our backs. There is less confidence in the ability of the government to protect us.
In recent years, our Congress has deteriorated into a dysfunctional arm of the government, provoking frustration and contempt from the American public. Our elected representatives neither represent nor lead.
People are born just as smart as they ever were. We have every technological advantage at our fingertips. But the human element — the push to prevail, the need to succeed, the insistence on a perfect performance — just doesn’t seem to be there anymore.
And every time a trusted agency or leader takes one on the chin, it is more difficult for people to believe in its/his/her efficacy.
As I think about who does get it right almost all the time, I come up with Amazon. You can buy something online one day and get it the next. You get what you ordered. If you don’t want it, you can send it back, easily and efficiently. In general, our technology (with the exception of HealthCare.gov) works well. The Medicare and Social Security websites work beautifully.