Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama's Joint Session Speech (or What Would Glen Holland Do?)

I'm not really sure why, but when I was listening to President Obama give his speech to the joint session of the house and the senate tonight, I had a lot of various thoughts, but one of them was of Richard Dreyfuss from Mr. Holland's Opus.

I can hardly think of a more influential and inspirational film teacher to ever be portrayed on film.

Tonight president Obama made some strong statements about hopes for better education at all levels, including America having the highest percentage of college graduates by 2020...with the addition of more students completing high school.

I'm certainly not sure how this goal is going to be realized, but to be honest, I am glad to hear this as a priority.

With the current trend towards bailouts, government ownership of industry, and socialistic tendencies it's easy to understand how that discourage innovation, risk, and creativity. In fact, any time business executives were mentioned, they were often criticized for risk and reckless behavior.

As someone who greatly value of giving, generosity, and caring I am moved by the Miami banker, Leonard Abess Jr., who gave $60 million of his own money to over 400 bank employees (current and former).

Yet he is the only one executive who is praised in Obama's speech.

Isn't Leonard Abess really the most reckless banker of them all. A man who is willing to take risk?

Similarly, anyone who starts a business or tries to grow a business is usually taking a risk, and the bigger the risk, the bigger the possiblity of success...or the bigger the possibility of failure.

As mentioned, I think Glen Holland in Mr. Holland's Opus is an exceptional teacher, and the type of teacher that Barack Obama's grand speech would really change the world in the way Obama lays out.

But at the same time Glen Holland takes risk. In fact, he doesn't even want to teach for much of the film, and if Principal Jacobs (Olympia Dukakis) was placed in a position of evaluating Holland's teaching performance based on a government evaluation, I think Principal Jacobs would be challenged to reward Holland and his performance.

Yet, at the same time by the end of the film Mr. Holland's teaching really ends up radically transforming the lives of individuals, largely because he is dedicated to his subject matter (music) and because he takes reckless risk in the lives of his students.

While Obama criticizes the reckless businesses, I think that if recklessness and risk got us in to our current crisis, I think recklessness and risk is what will get the United States out of these problems.

I think that people and families in tough spots today really have the opportunity to be the same people to get the world out of the financial crisis...and that's by staying dedicated to their greatest interest and with dedication and risk be the person that makes it a success.

I've mentioned some of these ideas last summer in the post Lemons from Lemonades. In the book Pop! Why Bubbles Are Great for the Economy, Danie Gross writes:

"Clearly, the way in which American rush headlong into investment bubbles, process their failure, and get started on the next one is exceptional...over the centuries, immigrants constituted a self-selecting group of people with short attention spans, tendencies toward enthusiasm, an inflated sense of their own capabilities, and a high level of resiliency--all crucial character traits for entrepreneurs. Who else would get on a leaky boat to endure the passage across the Atlantic for an unknown future? This argument is what I call the Officer Krupke theory of economic growth: we're not deprived on account of we're depraved." -- Gross' Pop!, page 20.

I truly believe America needs not to criticize the profit-seeking entrepreneur or the risk takers with a hope of something different. Instead, I hope we can allow the American enthusiasm towards the new, unknown, and the possible to thrive.

Richard Dryfuss might have had the best resume as Glen Holland in Mr. Holland's Opus, but he was innovative, brave, and risky, and in that true change, expected and unexpected really occured.

Please government, please let us be risky, brave, and even reckless at times.

1 comment:

K said...

Maybe in 1940, graduating college was a great thing. It was pretty much a ticket to a higher standard of living and a measure of respect.

Now it's hardly a big deal. Almost everybody does it. Plumbers/carpenters/electicians/auto mechanics/book keepers often make more than your average college grad and certainly more than the drop outs.

So what do colleges do? They keep people out of the employment market for another 4 years, indoctrinate attendees to a uniformly leftist POV in their classes and employ hundreds of thousands of people who represent families dependent on the government for their livelyhood.

Excepting training the practical professions, which could be done via a trade school, colleges as they now exist are mainly a tool of machine politics.