Fred Kowal: A Better Future For All?

Nov 3, 2016

Like most of you, I have heard many disturbing statements during this year’s political campaigns.

One is Make America Great Again. Another is Take Back Our Country.

And in my humble opinion, our political system has become undermined by candidates who are running for office as non-politicians.

For over a year now, we’ve heard tales of an American dystopian society where God-fearing citizens are overrun by hordes of crazed terrorist immigrants, where people of color live in abject poverty in communities rife with rampant, violent crime and awful schools, and an economic system rigged against working Americans. Candidates have been busy ramping up fears, mistrust and a rejection of all semblance of a civil society – with an extra dash of blame on politicians.

What about the facts about our nation at the present time? Lost in the noise. The reality is, our nation’s economy has grown nearly 15 percent since President Obama took office in 2008, and overall, the economy is continuing to grow.

The job market has turned around. Unemployment is well below historic norms, overall employment is about 7 percent higher, and more than 10 million jobs have been added to the economy. The stock market has seen big gains. And corporate profits are up 152 percent.

Our society has grown more inclusive and just. Same-sex marriage is now legal nationwide. The gender wage gap has shrunk—although more work needs to be done—and opportunities for women have been expanded by legislation such as the Li‎lly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

The environment has become a top priority under President Obama. The use of wind and solar power has more than quadrupled over the last eight years.

Some have suffered from economic dislocation and stagnant wages. Much work needs to be done on these issues. In less than a week, Americans will choose new leaders to guide us for the next four years. What we need are experienced policy-makers, not an outsider with zero political experience or understanding of our political process. Quite simply, we need deal-makers. 

Yes, I said it. I believe we need a politician, a pursuit that Robert F. Kennedy once called “an honorable profession.” I believe we need a seasoned professional, a fighter who can balance that fire with diplomacy. So many of America’s landmark moments: the end of slavery, civil rights, and voting rights, were achieved by skilled politicians—yes, politicians—who accomplished those world-changing tasks.  The success of leaders like Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Nelson Mandela, and in today’s world, Angela Merkel, depended on their skills at working out policies to benefit society. It’s not easy work. It doesn’t please the extremists or narrow special interests. But it is the work that lies at the heart of those who seek this noble profession for the right reasons.

As an astute voter, I recognize sloganeering, like Make America Great Again or Take Back Our Country, for what it is, a fraud meant to obscure the progress our country has made and continues to make – and the hard work that we all must play a part in and support. In my opinion, this is no time for amateurs or demagogues. I will be voting my hopes, my dreams, not my fears. Only then can we continue to move our nation and our world forward into a better future for all.

Dr. Fred Kowal is President of the 35,000 member United University Professions, which represents faculty on 29 New York State Campuses. UUP is an affiliate of NYSUT, The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

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