October 8, 2009
I’ve taken note of the worry lines, the uncertainty about the future, the quickness to react to concerns, a general sense of losing control and a certain negativity emanating from more and more people over the last several months. I believe that the relentless concerns over having a job, decreasing retirement investments, losing state aid to schools and towns and the constant litany of negative economic news from across the world has taken its toll on all of us. It’s not that we can be faulted for our concerns as recent news points towards rising unemployment rates, state revenue not hitting projections and continuing pressures on everyone to do more with less, while at the same time the state and federal governments continue to enact more unfunded mandates.
However, as with weather forecasts, economic forecasters are not psychic and often only report what’s happened after the fact and then use that to predict what will happen next. As with weather forecasts, the probability is that sometimes their predictions actually do occur while other times you wonder if they know what they’re talking about. As Pliny the Elder wrote in the first century, “In these matters the only certainly is that nothing is certain.”
Unfortunately, most of us are much more comfortable with certainty and rail against change in almost every form. This makes our anxiety level even higher in difficult times, as everyone is forced to accept changes and, due to decreasing amounts of capital, these changes are almost always looked upon negatively (think about decreasing hours at our libraries, decreased hours for town employees, decreased student opportunities). We can all obsess over what may happen, even though we have little or no control over the outcome. The trick is to worry about those items we can control and to be proactive about addressing those issues as well as being thankful for the things we still have. Or, as Charlie Brown says—“That’s the secret to life . . . replace one worry with another.”
As the district addresses a wide range of issues that do impact all of our lives—H1N1, consolidation of schools, decreasing state aid, unfunded mandates, the focus from the state and federal officials on finding a one size fits all solution to every problem—its important to realize that come what may, we’re all in this together. I appreciate all of you who have spoken to me over the past several months and expressed their appreciation of what I do, shared their amazement at the difficulty of being the superintendent, thanked me for approaching issues in an open and frank manner and have been understanding of the difficult choices we face. For me, these have been rays of sunshine in these difficult times.
Despite the difficult discussions around various subjects—whether they be town, school or individual issues—I think we need to keep Franklin D. Roosevelt’s view of America in mind, which he expressed during some of the deepest and most troubling times in recent history. He said, “I sometimes think that the saving grace of America lies in the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans are possessed of two great qualities—a sense of humor and a sense of proportion.” Let us hope that we too not only possess, but also use these qualities as we move forward in these unusual times.