By Tom Hirons, President & CEO
January is typically a time of resolution and goal setting. For too many agencies, survival has been the goal and a “new normal” has been the excuse.
Malaise is not new. On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter described a “crisis of confidence” among the American people. While he never used the term “malaise” he was widely maligned for what came to be known as his “malaise” speech.
America was in the midst of an energy crisis and still reeling from the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as the Vietnam War and Watergate. In an ill-advised speech, Carter proclaimed the nation was in crisis and at the heart of this crisis was a “… growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and a loss of purpose for our nation …” President Carter called on the nation to be less indulgent and cut consumption, to carpool or use public transportation, obey speed limits and dial back thermostats. In hindsight — all good advice. Yet far from inspiring.
He was describing at the time the “new normal,” finite resources, disillusionment, betrayal, impotence.
And now, in the wake of near economic collapse, hyper-partisanship and lowered expectations we define our future as the “new normal.”
This term calls for acceptance of things as they now are. It implies that things may never be as good as they have been, that we should accept mediocrity and aspire at best to the median.
Language matters. And the language that matters most is what we tell ourselves. Ban the new normal from your lexicon.
As we enter a new year, set your aspirations high. Be bold.