Between Elections, the World Relies on Sustainable Management


Many readers may share my opinion that election season 2016 is a disconcerting time. Some of you, like the proverbial ostrich, want to bury (or symbolically have already buried) your head in the sand, planning not to emerge until it is all over. A few really will follow through on their promise “to leave the country if that horrible candidate (fill in the blank) wins…”

As an old friend used to say, “It’s weird that life is so strange.” Indeed. Just listen to how our popular cultural elites are framing this election:

Last month, “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver called the political scandals plaguing both major candidates “the electoral equivalent of seeing someone puking so you start puking and then someone else [is] puking and pretty soon everyone is puking…”

And just a few days ago, when the Trump: Groper-in-chief story broke in the Washington Post, John Avlo, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, added his 2¢: “This surreal and sordid election has felt like a dystopian novel at times, a cross between “The Plot Against America” and “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” But in the end, an ANCIENT bit of wisdom finally asserted its authority:  Character is Destiny.

To disclose fully, I am not one to tell people “but you have to vote,” even if it means holding your nose while doing it, the whole lesser evil approach. Nor do I believe that a vote for a third party candidate is a wasted vote. What’s more, if you expect an endorsement in this blog entry, and that’s why you came here and read this far, let me release you from any obligation to read further; there are plenty of other places to get your daily current events fix, and, besides, I’m not sure who I endorse matters that much to you, dear reader.

From the perspective of what does matter at Presidio Graduate School, one of our concerns isn’t how this election process will end but how did we get into this mess. Why “mess?” Because we have two major party candidates, neither of whom is overwhelmingly popular with the masses. Because we have so many citizens disenchanted with the so-called democratic process. Because the most exciting campaign in a long time – that would be Bernie Sanders– sputtered away, leaving many estranged and alienated folks. Because the whole electioneering process goes on much too long and involves  too much money (read: clout) influencing the results. 

I’ll not tell you we have the answers at Presidio Graduate School, but I will tell you that we know the types of questions to ask:

  • What does civic leadership mean and how can we optimize it in our democratic processes?

  • How can we deal with inequities that contribute to alienation: racial, economic, gender, sexual orientation, class … and so on (so many, sad to say)?

  • What do we need to do, in the public and private spheres, to create a truly sustainable globe, based on a movement for change that works to help make that just and humane world a universal reality?

  • What does right livelihood have to do with it: how can people do things right and do the right things in their work?

  • How can political and business processes contribute to addressing the widening income inequality both in the Unites States and, in an even more severe form, in the world?

So maybe that’s the PGS agenda for an election year, offered as something to think about as you contemplate your vote in a time of anxiety, stress, and collective disconcertment. Maureen Dowd’s new book, titled The Year of Voting Dangerouslyencapsulates all the whirling emotions and perspectives at this historical moment.

Speaking of historical relevance, let’s not forget to what Dowd’s title refers: “the year of living dangerously” is the phrase President Suharto used in Indonesia for his 1964 National Day Speech:

The President had a custom of giving a special name to each year in his annual “National Day” speech.

In the National Day speech he gave on August 17, 1964, Sukarno named the upcoming year “the year of living dangerously.”

This reflected the challenges he knew he faced from his political enemies, who included both hardline Communists and radical Muslims.

The multilingual leader’s name for the year was based partly on an old Italian phrase he was familiar with — “vivere pericoloso” (“living dangerously”).

Although Sukarno gave the speech in the Indonesian language, he inserted those Italian words after the Indonesian word for year, tahun, to create the name.

The year ahead, he said, would be the “Tahun vivere pericoloso.”

[H]is choice of the name for the coming year certainly turned out to be prophetic.

In September of 1965, a bloody coup began that led to his overthrow.

Hundreds of thousands of Indonesians were killed in the power struggle. Sukarno survived and was allowed to live out the rest of his days under “house arrest,” until his death in Jakarta on June 21, 1970.

Gulp. We have to hope that we’re not headed to any variety of such a calamitous outcome, living and voting dangerously. We are very far away from anything like that, aren’t we? Answer louder, please, so I’ll be reassured.

Vote if you will. For Clinton. For Trump. For Stein. For Johnson. For the Pirate Party’s Kevin Deame (check it out). And remember there are thousands of state and local elections, with races and propositions and initiatives, that matter as well.

After November 8, here’s an idea:

Don’t move to Canada, but join us at Presidio Graduate School. We seek radical answers (the etymology of “radical”  is “to the root,” just like radish, and those are the significant answers) to the most important questions. The issues which transcend one election and one president are always on our minds. Click below to learn more about our MBA and MPA degrees in sustainable management.

Mark Schulman is the President and CEO of Presidio Graduate School, and a former member of its Board of Directors. Prior to his time at PGS, Mark served as President of Saybrook University, President of Goddard College, and President of Antioch University Southern California​, amongst other achievements working in academia. Mark has extensive background in communications and education consulting and higher education administration. He received his Doctor of Philosophy in Communications from The Union Institute and University.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Presidio Graduate School.

Mark Schulman, President and CEO of Presidio Graduate School

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