It's time to reinvest in people

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Larry Minnix
Larry Minnix
Today, we'll elect a new president. The energy behind this election is like no other I've experienced. Almost everyone I know has passionate opinions about candidates and directions for the country.

When the victory parties are over, reality will set in about the challenges we face. We live in the greatest country in the world with an abundance of resources. Yet, we know that many of our old ways of doing things are broken. We need a new vision, new infrastructure and new investment in the basic programs that envision "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," as our founding documents assure us.

A new president must help us see that a vision for the next generation of the American dream will take several years to unfold, and we must be participants in the creation of it.

So, what do we need to invest in? Let's look to history to recognize the basics.

Lincoln said we had to invest in one nation by the people and for the people. We had a civil war over major differences of opinion about justice, the rights of states and federal government and an economy in the South built on slavery.

The Civil War made us invest differently in justice for all people, a stronger government to assure basic rights and services, and an economy that did not depend on the subservience and degradation of an entire people.

Franklin Roosevelt put people to work from bread lines. World War II made us invest in our democratic ideals or be subject to tyranny. The war created a sense of self-responsibility that everyone should work, sacrifice, and do things for the collective good of all.

Under Roosevelt, we created a basic "social security" for all of us. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson expanded the Roosevelt vision to a "great society" in order assure investments in the health and stability of our people. Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson—like Lincoln—focused on basic respect for and investment in people.

President Reagan believed we had to reinvest in our entrepreneurial spirit. He believed in moving a welfare state dominated by government bureaucracy. He wanted to reinvest in self-responsibility, choice, new business ideas and less government. He wanted us to reinvest in freedom—at home and abroad.

President Clinton reinforced our investment in individual choice and responsibility with our collective responsibility for those in need. Investments in people and programs. Our most effective presidents understood those investments.

Now is the time to reinvest in our people. Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE), president of the New School and co-chair of the National Quality Commission on Long-term Care, is calling for a stimulus package to create services job in long-term are. We are understaffed in our field, yet it is among the fastest growing areas of need in our economy. So, let's tell our new president and Congress that people need jobs, that we have openings.

Let's remind them that people with jobs can pay mortgages. Let's also tell them that affordable housing and modern care facilities are an investment in people, communities and small businesses.

Let's tell our new leaders that it is unacceptable to spend billions so banks can buy other banks. We expect people to be supported. People are the solution—not the problem. Let's invest in our people.

So, our new president will have a tremendous challenge: how we shift investments from wars and the excesses of a loosely supervised economy to a new investment in people.

Lincoln, Roosevelt, Johnson, Reagan and Clinton all knew that people who are free, healthy, employed, educated and encouraged to get ahead are the keys to fulfillment of our ideals. We hope that whoever wins the election today knows these things …

And let's you and I remember that leadership of our nation, personified by the president, is a symbol of vision and hope. But unless you and I understand that investment in people and communities at the local level is our responsibility, we're in for hard times. The new president will depend on us—just like the staff and people we serve depend on us. All of us need to re-think our strategic plans and our management responsibilities to make sure we are investing in people first.

This is a great day for America—if we recommit ourselves to responsibility for our most precious investment —people.

Larry Minnix is president and CEO of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. He sent this essay today in an e-mail to members.

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