Shaking the Lethargy in 2013

One of my favorite bands is Rush. In the song "Circumstances," the second stanza goes: "All the same we take our chances/ Laughed at by time/Tricked by circumstances/plus ça change/plus c'est la même chose/The more that things change/The more they stay the same."

Despite billions spent in last month's elections, those lyrics seem true. Businesses and citizens find themselves with the same Congressional mix, the same state and federal leadership, the same circumstances, and the same uncertainty that has vexed economies at every level for decades. Names have changed, but the game seems the same. No judgment here; it's just the way it is.

In each generation, however, there has been a catalyst – an event (often bad), a leader, a breakthrough that has enabled the nation or the community to shake its lethargy. Similarly, 2013 may present opportunities for catalytic change to enable the most powerful economy in the history of the world to put its foot on the gas and its engine in high gear.

Opportunities include extracting United States soldiers from foreign wars and leaving the countries in which they're serving with stable regimes and systems to allow their citizens to prosper. Another is reducing the nation's debt and easing the yoke that has been placed on the shoulders of future generations.

In Michigan, a catalyst could be finally building a bridge to Canada, upgrading infrastructure, and fixing funding formulas so that children from preschool up have access to world-class education, regardless of the district in which they live.

We also need a sound energy policy for America and for Michigan that encourages energy independence, one that encourages the use of renewable and alternative energy sources, even as we learn to do more using less energy.

Locally, we'll have another chance to support capital improvements at the region's largest school district. With more citizen input and greater understanding of the needs and benefits of the capital improvement program, the region can grab this economic stimulus by the throat and create jobs, opportunities, and talent to benefit every person that lives here. We can get this right.

There's a long list of ways we can change our collective condition. It's easy to say it all starts with our elected officials putting aside their partisan differences and working together for the good of the people. In truth, it starts with each of us. The way we talk to each other, the way we communicate in our social or commercial media, what we say across the back fence is where America will begin to change. This is where conditions for that spark – that catalyst – will emerge.

It's on us, friends. We are the ones who will choose whether 2013 is same old same old, or whether it will be extraordinary and memorable. The Chamber as an institution and I as an individual choose greatness for our region, state, and country. Please join us!

Doug Luciani is president and CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce

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