Echoes From the Past

Life’s Promise

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Somehow we have a dream that a stable and glorious future will open before us. It is unlikely. Our lives are not ours alone because we share it with family and intimates, but also must share it with the world at large which is not under our control. But the past has a way of reaching out to us which is not necessarily a bad thing. It may tell us about how the world is and such things as the variability of opportunity.

From My Past

In 1967 (yikes that’s a long time ago) I took a job in the inner city of Baltimore. I was one of the first people hired in one of the first community mental health programs in the country. I was just leaving Duke with my doctorate in hand and I was definitely ready to depart academia. The whole idea of community mental health was to bring mental health services to the public using a public health model. It was a marvelous idea.

Wait a Minute!

But there was not just one problem. Communities are different, and because of that the whole idea of applying the medical model to our inner lives was flawed and established practice is not so easily changed.

I was given an office and told to give service. But there was no one there except for a woman social worker. She led me out into the city and steadily the staff grew. Young professionals learned about the community and what it needed. It was tumultuous and fascinating.

Wait Another Minute!

But in some ways the least of our problem was adapting services to a poverty environment in chaos. An even larger problem proved to be the conservatism of the mental health establishment. All they wanted was the grant money and the glory of having landed funding for a “glamorous” enterprise. They had been providing services by psychiatric residents and medical students on six week rotations. We dug in our heels. The people of that community needed reliable ongoing services, not a series of inexperienced people passing out medication. Granted, our group of twenty somethings were inexperienced, but we were dedicated as a group to learning fast and meeting real needs.

What We Concluded

What we found was a need for life management in a form of partnership. Many “mental health” problems were an outgrowth of the dynamics of the poverty environment more than anything else. Of course, it was much more complicated than that but that is a rough outline. But we had found that a highly beneficial set of services and programs could have been focused.

In the End

At last though, those in power are in power after all. In time the bright eyed, groundbreaking young people moved on and the higher powers invoked a retrenchment. The community based clinics were closed, staff was withdrawn to a central building and business as usual restored.

Across the country the reform movement of that era was coming to an end. And with its end came the end of community mental health. I tell the whole story in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health.

Now the Lesson

Yes, community mental health came too soon and its time is still not yet at least until we get through our present upheaval when a younger generation with vision may take power.

But, looking back we can see something. On the street we learned a huge amount about such communities, but all the data was kept in our heads and used to formulate a highly focused, problem solving service system. If a system with managers of more vision were to be devised now, the information technology at our fingertips could help us sift, store, integrate and develop data for a viable system. And it could be adapted to fit the community at hand—whatever its form. Then we would truly have a community mental health system, but probably with a more refined name. And if we had had information technology we could have documented and built.

Coming back to one of my original points, I can see that something from the past can be brought forward to a much more adapted use at a future time when new tools and vision are available.

What recognitions are you bringing forward?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B . Burt

Stewardship in All Regards

Understanding Essential Obligations

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In the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy stewardship is an underlying theme. We are facing an issue of stewardship in regard to our fellow humans and our planet. There are so many levels of stewardship and the people in this story are facing central issues in defense of the future of humankind. Attention to the needs of stewardship often prove deeply inspirational.

After World War II we collectively took a deep breath. Not only were there whole countries that had to be rebuilt, but there were many millions of people who had put their dreams and their futures on hold. We got to work. About twenty years later things began to change.

Beyond Normalcy to Change

For me high school ended and I entered college innocently. Suddenly sputnik was lofted by the Russians and there was a new mission. Almost simultaneously the civil rights movement opened and we began to focus on preserving the planet on which we live. Amidst it all the women’s liberation movement was born. The dawning of this movement seems to have been related to the availability of effective birth control but it meant a whole new potential and form for our relationships.

While I was in graduate school mental health took on a new dimension with the advent of community mental health. It was not just a matter of mental health. We began to look at interacting with whole communities. I wrote about it in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health. We weren’t just treating mental illness. We were responding to the needs of communities.
Recognizing Stewardship

For me there was one word which characterized all of these events. Stewardship. And to this day it continues to hold our attention but is most often heard in regard to stewardship of our home planet.

But for me it holds a broader connotation. We are stewards in all regards. Whether it is in the civil rights movement, in the relationship between men and women or our planet, it is all a matter of stewardship. Anything can be lost or impaired if we do not become thoughtful managers. It was this underlying recognition which fed a great deal of what I was to come to write in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. I actually had no idea what it was fomenting deep inside of me. We have broad responsibilities to tend to each other and our home. And it just might be that we are seeing something even more fundamental. We seem to be taking ourselves to a new dimension.

To what do you devote yourself?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon Page

What Is a Functional Reality? – Can It Include Spirit Guides?

 

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Learning From The Other

In our own minds we engage in fantasy and dreams. We also explore legends and myths. But I have also found that my understanding of reality or lack thereof has been built by my clinical experience which means interacting with other people. I found it essential to adopt varying frameworks when I was talking to people. Each of their worlds may be quite different from my world and that means there is a different reality. Early on in my studies I was told that being involved in psychotherapy meant learning from your clients. How true. Not just in psychotherapy, but learning from others is a lifelong process.

Don’t Talk About It!

It is really odd that in most of our lives we simply do not discuss this much. But at the same time I understand why we don’t. What a time sink! In contrast I would argue that it is a worthwhile time sink if we would only focus it. We need not spend all our time on it, but in a social context, for example, we can clarify our policies in a meaningful way if we will see how and why we differ and how it might be reconciled for the common good. In governance it is useful for conservatives and progressives to talk together to construct a functional way forward. Too often it becomes an unproductive ideological battle. Functionality may begin with an abstract approach as we look toward the future of humankind.

Where Is This Going?

When it occurred to me that I wanted to write a post about functional reality I had a sense of what I was thinking. Let’s face it, if you are going to write something it helps to know where you might be going with it. In preparation I googled it and to my surprise I found I was not alone in thinking about it. See what you find when you google functional reality.

Functional Versus Unfocused

I found it useful to create a view of functional reality in my thinking for my clients and as I said I believe it is useful in social planning. Of course, while dealing with the lives of real people it cannot be anywhere near as abstract as this discussion.

We move to another range of functionality when we think about stewardship whether it is of our fellow humans or our planet. At that point we come to a utilitarian functionality.

Varied Tools and Ways Forward

And there is the matter of tools which leads me to my interest in speculative fiction. In fiction we can create a functional reality of sorts which guides the development of our story and our thinking. That in turn lets us to look to future possibilities in our writing and for our own lives.

Maybe I’m a little odd in that regard, but I like to know where I’m going and love to look ahead in other regards. In short, I like to speculate. Perhaps you have similar inclinations. Who knows? We might even uncover the meaning or existence of things such as spirit guides. We really do not know what other life forms there might be nearby. And particularly as we forage in creative lands it just might be that we will get unexpected guidance. Or, sometimes, it is a matter of being willing to go out there and just take a look. There is a range of functionality. There is what serves for right now and it extends out to the utility of what might be and where our dreams may lead us.

What is the usual focus of speculation for you? Do you have a spirit guide?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon page

Our Nation in Crisis – An American Vision: Part 2

The Big Picture

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Next are some examples of contributory factors which often supported bad outcomes. Most were given bipartisan support.

We now face a struggle for our future and quite possibly a struggle for the future of our world. While environmental issues are among those at the core, the problems go well beyond. And it is important to realize that failures of vision and perspective are not the province of one idealogical group. In general we have been inattentive even when it may not be a matter of ideology.

Here is a short list which demonstrate bipartisan errors:

The War on Drugs/War on Crime

In the 1980s we declared this war. Stop and frisk escalated and mandatory (long) sentences were imposed even for nonviolent crimes often involving very small quantities of drugs. Rather than going into extensive details, it is sufficient to say it was excessive and our prison population swelled to one of the highest in the world. We went from 1 million to 2.5 million. We seem to have recognized our error and the population has been reduced, but part of the support comes not from a belief in justice, but the perception that it cost us too much money. We have alienated and grievously stressed minority communities and ruined countless lives and families.

The Second Prohibition

The first prohibition related to alcohol. It was assumed it would benefit society. But what we did was to help build crime syndicates. Their profits were huge and, once established, they branched out into many other criminal enterprises. Finally we recognized our error and resumed legal sale of alcohol with appropriate regulation. But we had already built criminal enterprises which continued.

And then, much later we instituted a prohibition of recreational use of marijuana. We failed to see that it would have a similar effect like that of alcohol prohibition. But this time we helped build international cartels. Of course, there are other drugs involved, but marijuana made a significant contribution to cartel profits. Many in government and law enforcement recognized the error and there is an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) made up of senior law enforcement officials and even heads of states which supports reform. We are making progress and many states now accept medical marijuana and steadily some are legalizing “recreational” use. In all cases there is regulation as with alcohol.

Globalization of Trade

Of course, in the world as it is, we must engage in global trade. Questions revolve around how it is done. Again, I won’t attempt to delve into a complex issue except to not one specific effect. The agreements we entered into often had the effect of exporting jobs. And the types of jobs affected the people we refer to as the “left behinds”. Our error was to fail to face the inevitable. We needed, from the beginning, to look at the implications and to plan for retraining and education to help move people into alternative employment. There was a rather large void of attention to the need and also how and to what we should attend.

A Changed Economy

The pace of change has increased and that means jobs must change and the employment face of communities must change. In a prior post I dealt with vision in regard to the future of Appalachia. Politicians claimed they could save the jobs related to coal. Reality and the facts were very different. In Appalachia coal was running out, coal companies were finding ways to produce with fewer employees, other kinds of coal in other areas were deemed more desirable and it was clear that wind and solar were to be steady producers of energy. In short, these jobs would inevitably disappear no matter what politicians claimed. We have yet to face the future in terms of what this beautiful area might have for its employment needs which very much speaks to the future of their young people.
I’ll leave the list there. There are many other candidates for a list of errors made by many people across party and ideological lines. The basic issue is vision and commitment.

Next we will go into discussing some lessons learned about issues which affect our viewpoint and outcomes.

What errors of vision would you note?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon page

The Promise of the Women’s March

 

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(Sorry about the picture. Something about peace would have been better but I couldn’t help myself given the theme of empowerment.)

What possibilities would you welcome?

At the risk of seeming political I have to comment on the events of this past weekend. What we have seen were events which were not actually partisan, but display two conflicting realities in our country at this time.

Alternative Realities

The events of this weekend underscored one of the basic themes of this blog. Reality is ephemeral and will depend upon what defines your viewpoint. One view is that inauguration day was dark and unpromising in so many ways. The turnout was stunted, enthusiasm low and Trump’s speech dark and uninspiring. It looked like a disheartening display of our future.

Then dawned Saturday. It should be apparent in my posts that I am a strong supporter of the empowerment of women and it is an essential part of my Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. I spent much of the day fascinated and often choked up with the unexpected outpouring not just in the United States but in so much of the world.

A Building Wave Disrupted?

It has been one of my perceptions that this time looks very much like the time of world crisis just before World War I and we had reason to fear for the future of the world. It seemed possible that the growing array of crises might lead to a much larger conflagration.

It is my belief that the rise of women to power could well be what will save us. The outpouring on the streets of our cities is a welcome sight and brings not just hope for our future, but the indication of action in the service of all the people of our country. The focus or foci there will be may not be clear yet but a multigenerational surge of activism (of the most positive kind) is strongly suggested.

Resistance and Activism
Certainly there will be profound resistance, but the campaign for our future in the election of 2018 starts today. But activism need not begin or end at the ballot box. Reform, the engagement of vision, and committed endeavors for all our people can be at hand at many levels.

At the end of World War II America, as the only major power standing, led the world and we have worked for stability for decades now. Sustainability and smart energy policies are developing nicely. We have a growing elderly population, but also a strong and vibrant population of immigrants who will be essential for our future when we fully engage and support them.

I could go on at length but I think I have made my point. The movement of women to power and partnership is flowering and requires our welcome and wholehearted support.

What projects would you like to support?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

The Mission of the Tethyans

Essential Mission

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Are you looking for a mission or do you already have one?

Safeguarding the Future

In the coming Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy the Tethyans are the people (mostly women) who our Earth Mother Gaia has set aside and protected in the sea to safeguard the future of humankind and her glorious planet.

On our planet we are facing a wave of serious social and environmental hazards. But rather than designing a series in which people fight under the eyes of a detached super being I decided that a dedicated and loving partner was more appropriate. And so I chose to invoke a goddess who cares for her people in a somewhat more direct fashion and who has the stake of her planet, which is herself, at stake. But she understands and is conversant with the fact of the benefit, even necessity, of struggle, and that she must leave much of the struggle to the dominant species.

Struggle and Clarification

So Gaia, instructs and guides in careful ways while the outcome is clearly up to the people she has chosen and the people they oversee. At the same time we come to clarity about fundamental universal forces which play out in our lives.

Diversity Among the Chosen

The Tethyans, of course, have not been merely set aside. They are a dynamic collection. Progenitors live in the sea but can morph and come to land where their tail and webbing withdraw. (They are the origin of our belief in mermaids.) On land are the Primal families with strong partnerships. And then there are the women who stand in defense, the Andromeda women. Together they are deemed stewards for our planet. For now they are stewards but in time the future of humankind is even more deeply in their hands.

Guided Understanding

The greatest mysteries are found among the Progenitors in the Tethys of the sea. They understand implicitly that they may be the future of humankind if the great experiment fails. But Gaia does not operate as an ordinary ruler. It is not possible to ask for an audience with her and pose questions. She is after all a being of the spirit world and is in herself the very planet. Communications are difficult. There are times when she communicates but they may be in symbols or prophesies.

Diverse and Greater Purposes

But for the Progenitors, they do not exist merely as people in waiting. They serve a much greater purpose. In their cities in the sea are the great literary and historical heritages. For example, in the Tethys off Alexandria, Egypt called Thonis, there are primary documents from the great Alexandria library saved when the library burned. It is an extraordinary repository and requires ongoing research. It bears on the meaning of our past and may disclose the future.

And not all the material is merely books and papers. In fact, there are living entities among and within the books.

Immense Purpose

These people in the sea may, indeed, hold our future in their hands, but in some way, also our intellectual and cultural heritage. And in the end, along with the Primal families they oversee the stewardship of our precious earth.

What might lead us beyond our confinement to this planet?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Struggle/Stewardship

Defining the World

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What is your dominant view of the future of the world?

Each of us has an identity and it may be complex and multifaceted. How we are composes just a portion of our world. The world as it is and how we view it, represents another set of forces to be dealt with. And it can come to be personal.

Competing Views

Our view of the world may dominate our thinking and our choices. Currently there are two largely competing views. Many themes about the world suggest an unimaginable developing crisis which might lead to an uninhabitable world and lead to the extinction of humankind. We see this view encompassed in dystopian novels. Perhaps there is a triumph or perhaps ultimate disaster.

In contrast there is a view that a very different picture is developing suggesting an alternative reality of a very different outcome. The view of the world being on the edge of destruction is one you are probably acquainted with. But if you read Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler you will get a stunningly different view. It is perfectly conceivable that we may mature and find abundance. Looking at human history shows us with considerable potential. We are yet to see if we will tip over the edge into destruction or reach a golden age.

Making a Choice

It is not my plan to pursue detailing of these different viewpoints here. I’ll leave that exploration to you. What you may see is that you find one or the other viewpoint particularly attractive. The one about doom is essential because we need to be concerned about what might go wrong. Such a viewpoint is essential to our personal safety and future and may lead us to the choice of working for stewardship of our planet and ourselves. It could lead us to fulfillment of our hopes and dreams. We have to ask ourselves which view of the world and the future we choose to embrace.

Even if we choose to believe in a dystopian future we are left with struggle. In fact, both alternatives involve struggle. We are, after all animals, and when we view the animals of our planet, all of them are struggling for a future. And out of that future comes their development whether it is some form of social development or genetically. What we choose becomes an identity and where we put our energies.

Belief Shaping Fiction

These views of the world help shape fiction writing just as does the identity of ourselves. Surely we have all read a dystopian novel which ends in disaster or leaves us at least with a feeling that we are close to an inevitable disaster. Maybe there is only a small hope at the end that the participants may manage to prevail in some distant future. Or do we lead them to triumph and personal fulfillment through the story and to the conclusion. We, as the writers, display ourselves in such a decision.

Is humankind looking at a looming choice? And what might that choice be? Is it beyond what we might have expected? The Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy (coming soon) provides a scenario.

What is the scenario in which you believe?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

We Are Stardust

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What does being stardust mean to you?

We Rule – For Now

How arrogant we are! In our estimation we are the pinnacle of creation. And it seems we have an inalienable right to rule this planet. At least that is the case unless we bring it and ourselves to ruin.

Reasonable Assertion

Certain things are implicit and inevitable. Such as the human ego. We need it because if we do not look out for our own benefits and existence no one else can. As children we have to assert ourselves so that we survive among the mob which may be our siblings. Later it becomes another mob.

There may be order in the assertion of the self. At the same time it can help us become part of useful common endeavors. What is especially interesting is the pervasive nature of the assumption about our rights. Each is supreme in their own right. Of course then the tyrant may arrive and his ego is triumphant. Until such time we live in a personal reality and set of assumptions.

Another Reality

There is another reality which we rarely glimpse. That reality relates to the fact that we are stardust. When one thinks of the power of the Maelstrom we see that out of the destruction of the star is created the heavier elements. Without this creation via destruction we would not exist and much of the real world we call home would not exist.

What does that mean for our assumptions? Does it mean we are ordained as so special with such supremacy because we are stardust? We hold the term in awe and then take it as our own.

An Obligation

At base, one assumption is that there has been an event which puts us in a special place. Our life form was created with its position and abilities. The real base of the issue is whether we earned the place or not. It is a very real possibility that we earned nothing and our ego is simply causing us to assume we have special rights. Perhaps what we were given with our special position was a special obligation to seek wisdom and the opportunity and obligation to create.

Where It might Lead

As the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy developed, one theme suggested we might hold a special obligation but surely that is the obligation to seek new understandings and wisdom. And implicit is the reality that stewardship is essential for both our planet and fellow beings. Perhaps that is the lesson for humankind. There are unsuspected realities out there and special obligations that come with them. Living on the cusp of reality is one thing but that cusp has special demands we might want to consider. Or are we obligated to consider them? And then comes the matter of where all this might lead.

Do you see special possibilities?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

A Vision of Women

A Vision of women

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Searching for Meaning

Do you have a clear vision of and for women?

There are events and then there are the meaning of the events. The difference is something we would do well to understand. Women are assuming different positions, importance and balance. In some ways the United States may be catching up to the curve. We may well shortly have a woman president. Other nations such as India, Israel, Great Britain and Germany among many others have been led by women.

Now we are offered an unparalleled opportunity for exploration of attitudes and potential. It is not just a matter of women coming to the fore in greater numbers. What does is mean about the potential and the future of humankind?

Exploration is Needed

One of the things we must do is to examine our beliefs, our cultures and our feelings. It is easy to say “the times they are changing” and leave it at that. It is not so simple and it would be unfortunate to be dismissive because the import is highly significant.

The battle to get women the vote took almost one hundred years although in a sense it has been thousands of years. Eventually we let them drive, permitted them to have credit cards of their own among other things and these things were quite recent. Why we changed is not clear.

Matters of Power

We are seeing some of the basis of the problem in the matter of power. At least in the United States it seems that women who seek power are not to be trusted. How interesting. Men are to be trusted but women not. It comes to us unexamined but was confirmed by a study at Yale University. I have yet to hear justification for why anyone would believe this.

I hold a different position. I do not routinely trust men with power. In so many instances they have proven themselves incapable of effectively wielding it again and again. Are we to accept it just because they have always been doing it? Effective management is much more impressive and I have seen women to be ever so effective. They are showing up in greater numbers in politics and so many are impressive. The men who are in office in larger numbers are often less so. The absence of mission and perspective is too often stunning.

Who Are We?

Is it possible that we perceive women as weaker and less able to control themselves. In general women cry more easily than men and may cry tears of anger. The reality I learned in studies and in couples therapy is that men feel just as strongly but contain the feelings inside and so do not cry. Does that make them more capable of leadership. I think not.

Like it or not, we can already see the effects of the empowerment of women and it is broadly beneficial. The largest issue before us is that we have not sufficiently examined our attitudes and cultural perspectives. Why be suspicious of woman wanting to take the reins of power? I hear silence and dim prejudice. What is it that men are afraid of? And, for that matter, what is it that women are afraid of as women take the reins of power? We need to examine these matters.

Understanding Would be Useful

We seem to be heading toward true partnership and need to clarify what it means and why we are so afraid of it. The benefits will surely be world changing and I am raising the issue that we should be examining this process in more detail and what is holding us back. I contend there are other issues than power and it would serve us well to search for what they are.

What alternatives do you see?
Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Vision – Pie in the Sky

 

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How do you think seniors are doing?

We Have Work To Do

Even if the actualization of a thought is distant or unlikely, there are times when some things have to be said.

Here is today’s dream.

The Elder Tsunami

The “advanced” economies of the world are facing the rapid aging of their populations which means a growing burden on the societies as a whole. The birth rate is often low and getting lower which means less familial and societal support for the elderly. Who will take care of them as they age and become frail? Family is often distant or members few in number.

Time was that we lived in close family groups. No more. Instead we are fragmented. We need a realistic national dialogue about solutions. Perhaps, as the neocon obstruction dissipates we may see improved governmental programs, but it seems no matter what, it will be insufficient or impossibly expensive. And I must add that Paul Mason’s book Postcapitalism, that directs our attention to the future, is making my blood run cold. It is a complex and dense book but each area he touches on is being validated by current events. But the true import of the coming changes in the world economic system is not being recognized publicly—yet.

Certainly there are ideas out there to mitigate the coming trials. One alternative is social.

Societal Commitment

The Elderly for Each Other

I’m impressed by the progress that Habitat for Humanity has made nationally. There can be other forms of programs with societal support. The most likely source for the elderly is each other. Retirement is reached and then often there are healthy years before the inevitable decline. When I was working on my doctorate at Duke they finished a study which described a two year majo r decline before death that was common. Prior to that time, before the final decline the recently retired elderly could become more of a formalized volunteer force. It already happens somewhere, sometimes, but could be expanded.

The Elderly for the Young

In later years, having a cause is also useful. One cause I would recommend is making the commitment to support the efforts of younger generation. The future for the elderly dims but there is reason to support younger generations. I don’t mean to say that these things don’t happen. What is at issue is the societal institutionalization of an ethos where we as elderly focus more strongly on our collective wellbeing whether that is for the elderly or for the ones who will remain. We have not been doing this well.

System Efficiency and Personal Management

And then there is the matter of health. Another thing we must do is to finally create a less expensive and more efficient health care system. Currently we have a very haphazard system which is expensive. Each of us experiences it on a regular basis. And included in these changes for the health care system needs to be a change of viewpoint by the elderly. Many have been trained over the decades to assume that the medical personnel will define what must be done and they adopt a passive stance. It is time to change that societal viewpoint so that we take the highest form of responsibility for our own care informationally and by action.

In Summary

In short, I would like to see a societal change in which the elderly, as they go through the later stages of life, work more closely together for mutual benefit. Secondly we should see to it that there is more organized societal support for the generations coming up. It is clear Millenials have felt overlooked and that needs to change. And the third item is long overdue reform of the health care system.

I know the response in many quarters will be that these goals are unrealistic or are already being undertaken. My response is we have not done enough and can do much more effectively.

I can dream can’t I? Are you dreaming?

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