I applaud the President for choosing in his State of the Union speech to focus above and beyond not only the day-to-day political sniping but also above and beyond the usual laundry list of incremental tweaks to parameters of this or that policy or this or that program. Quite right that it's time (past time) we focused not just on the next generation but the next seven. The world is changing so fast that we can't rely on past experience for lessons about how to face the future. Rather, we must really think creatively, outside the box.
To do that, without a past that we can reliably anchor to, we must instead anchor our decisions and actions in any and all of the President's four question areas to basic values and guidelines drawn therefrom. That is, does whatever we do stand the test of being put up against these values and guidelines?
The Earth Charter articulates such values and guidelines, including a definition of peace as "the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part." And the National Peace Academy extends these values and guidelines through its programs centered around the Five Spheres of right relationship - the Personal Sphere, the Social Sphere, the Political Sphere, the Institutional Sphere, and the Ecological Sphere.
Actually, many of the President's specific proposals in answer to these four questions fall neatly into one or more of these spheres of right relationship. Rather than offering answers of my own here, I envision national conversations addressing these four questions (below). And rather than, or in addition to, these conversations taking place via internet forums and social media, in-person, face-to-face dialogues in communities all across the country can be much more effective in bringing the country together and reaching at least some common understanding of one another and the issues and possibilities involved if not total agreement on solutions.
What are the building blocks we need to give everyone a fair shot at opportunity andsecurity in the new economy?
With respect to the first question's focus on social and economic justice, let's have a national conversation about what personal and collective actions and systems could we manifest that would be expressive of right relationships in the personal, social, and institutional spheres in life-affirming recognition that we are all connected and dependent on one another, that the world can be a win-win proposition where, if anyone loses, we all lose.
How do we make technology work for us, and not against us – especially when it comes to solving our biggest challenges?
With respect to the second question's focus on technology, energy, climate change, and the planet, let's have a national conversation about what personal and collective actions and systems could we manifest that would be expressive of right relationships in the ecological sphere of human stewardship of and kinship with Earth.
With respect to the third question's focus on the role of the military and international relations, let's have a national conversation about what right relationships might mean in that context. What personal and collective actions and systems could we manifest that would be expressive of right relationships in the context of this global village that we inevitably, inescapably, and properly find ourselves in?