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February 09, 2009
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The Land of Hope and Glory

“Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee, we who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.”

At the turn of the 20th century this song became symbolic of Britain’s worldwide power and its view that there was nothing that the nation could not accomplish.

Watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama and seeing the expressions of hope, pride and new beginnings, the HR Doctor was carried back in time to the sense of the spirit of the possible that was present among our British cousins over 100 years ago. 

The new president’s campaign ignited a renewed spirit in much of America — a spirit that much has already been overcome and that the remaining work can be done by people of all backgrounds who are willing to focus on the possible and on the accountable, rather than on the cynical and the negative.

Of course, this new administration has huge amounts of work to do on policies that will invariably be controversial. 

How do we create a more civil society with less violence and more civic engagement, more effective education, better healthcare, a healthier planet, a stronger defense and an improved economic situation?  These are just a few of the menu items on the White House plate. 

The answers will not come from thinking born of inertia, or looking at our history and making an incorrect assumption that taking no action will somehow inherently solve the dilemmas we face today.

All leaders need to practice the “thinking of the possible” rather than concentrating on what was or what currently is.  President Obama was correct in his Inaugural Address in saying that the ground has shifted under the “steady state” and “Fortress America” cynics.  They fear change and fear the adventure of trying something new.  Of course, there will be failures, but with our children, ourselves and our nation, we can learn more from the experiences of failure than from the results of success.

A major lesson for each of us is that if we regard failure as a gift – as an opportunity to learn and grow and chart a different path – we are well along on a journey to something much better than we left behind.  The inverse is, unfortunately, true as well.  If we sink into a morass of inertia, depression and whining, or search for scapegoats when something doesn’t go our way, we are setting the stage for longer periods of trauma and a bleaker future. 

Perhaps this is also a lesson for the media which has an apparent lust to sell its product by a rather constant emphasis of the terrible over the wonderful.

In the face of all that is occurring in the changing world, it is time to extol the land of hope and glory which for many generations has been America, and to set its boundaries “wider still and wider” than ever before. 

The boundaries are not those of the physical or the geographic. They are not those of empire in the traditional sense.  They are the bounds of imagination, the freedom to dream, the imperative to do better and to explore. 

Finally, they are the bounds that are expanded only with a compelling sense of urgency to get on with improving the lives of other people.  One of the last verses of the Edward Elgar and Arthur Benson collaboration on the 1902 Land of Hope and Glory is compelling.  It speaks of the success of a nation that looks to the future and “smiles at fate.”  That is the hope of the new administration. Along with it, that should be the future emphasis of public service.

Phil Rosenberg
The HR Doctor •


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