Global Impact #1 – Is Max Stier Crazy? Countering the Drift

Ever wonder why so much of what we see and hear drifts toward the negative? 

Conversations.  News coverage.  Even the fact that many of us fend off compliments, explaining away our goodness.

Thank goodness Max Stier stood up to negativity.  And “thanking goodness” is exactly what Max did in a recent editorial in the Washington Post. 

Max Stier is President of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.   From Pew Research polls to reports about SEC workers watching porn to dismal ratings of Congress and even to Saturday Night Live skewering public sector employees, there is evidence out there about the public’s distrust of and cynicism about the federal government.  But Max begs to differ, and in his essay, “The federal government’s quiet heroes,” he cites several examples of “the routine successes, innovative initiatives, cutting edge science, and other amazing work being done behind the scenes” by our government workers in Haitian relief, intelligence gathering, global warming, health care fraud, and aviation safety.  Not a bad start, Max. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/07/AR2010050704525.html

What impresses me most about Max’s editorial is that it counters the drift.  Think about it.  Have you ever joined in about how awful “the government” is?  In the DC area, it’s a great and varied sport – we can lampoon the Feds, our state, or, a real favorite target, the DC government.  (I’ve tried to counter that last one over the years by citing the most efficient government agency on the planet, the DC parking officers.  These folks stand tall amidst their well-maligned brethren by being the best at finding you over your meter or, if you dare, parking illegally while you “run in” to pick up something.  Don’t try it.)

One thing good global leaders do is to counter the drift.  When I speak of “global” leaders, I mean people who scale up their influence – and not just overseas.  People who have impact beyond their small store or their lone department in an agency.  

Do you tire of discussions that are so predictable and easy that they don’t really require real thought and evidence?  One of those is the knee-jerk tendency to tear down government.  If Mr. Stier were in that conversation, he’d speak up, and I wonder if we all might think he’s crazy, so accepted is the notion that government = lazy/inefficient/bureaucratic.   But then he’d tell us about Pius Bannis, a U.S. immigration officer in Haiti, who, in 20-hour days, 7 days/week, helped hundreds of orphans find safety, set up a makeshift day-care center, and even drove kids to the airport for evacuation purposes.

Max’s stance, to me, has “global” impact.  He stands in the face of accepted wisdom and gently tells us we might be clueless to the goodness.  He asks us to look beyond sound bites, cliche, and plain old conversational comfort.  He asks us to look deeper, to think, to question stereotypes, and to acknowledge our unsung heroes, where, yes, as the highway signs in New Jersey used to say, “Your tax dollars at work.”

Thank goodness, and thanks Max.

Who do you know who is doing great work in government?



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