About the Thirteen Challenges

If there are so many problems, isn't it just too late to repair America? Yes and no.

Yes, if we wait for our parents and grandparents to do it for us.

No, if our generation takes the lead.

Older generations -- in particular, the baby boom generation -- often appear stuck in some old ways of thinking. They were raised during the wealthiest period of American history, when America dominated the world economy; when personal incomes rose faster in one year of the 1950s than they did in all ten years of the 1980s combined; and when the country could afford to hand out government benefits with almost no regard to need.

Government worked for them, delivering on basic promises like a decent education, rising living standards, and personal security. As a result, they've had relatively little incentive to see Washington fundamentally change. Boomers and seniors who are accustomed to post-World War II prosperity have become trapped by the past and caught in a political time warp that judges new ideas by old standards.

But unlike earlier generations, many in our generation see government -- and politics -- failing to deliver, plaving far more burdens on us than benefits. Sure, we're grateful for our personal freedoms and our situation relative to much of the world's population, but we're justifiably angry about the problems that have been dumped on our doorstep.

Why try to fix today's problems with yesterday's solutions? Washington can work for our generation -- and for the nation -- but only if we force our political leaders to implement future-oriented solutions.

For starters, new solutions will require a new attitude, one that steps out of the framework of the last 40 years and looks ahead to the next few decades. Who better than our generation -- a generation with the least to gain from the status quo -- to push that kind of agenda?

With this in mind, Lead or Leave contacted two dozen of America's leading public-interest, community, advocacy, and youth groups. Together with the groups, Lead or Leave designed a bold set of 13 generational "challenges" -- specific, incremental steps that Washington could take that would help to heal our country and ensure a sustainable future.

These challenges are not limited by traditional politics. Rather than focus on what's possible today, we want to start fighting to define what is going to be possible tomorrow.

For example, passing out condoms to stop AIDS is likely to be perceived by most politicians as advocating promiscuity. For our generation it's as simple as saving lives.

Each challenge -- from ensuring that federal programs meet an environmental "survival test" to controlling handgun violence to eliminating welfare for the well-off and reinventing Social Security so that it's solvent for the long term -- fits the times and the needs of our generation. Each is also backed by one or more national organizations that leads in advocacy on the issue.

Each of the organizations involved in designing these ideas will be working to win this change as part of their larger agenda. That means millions of people are fighting for each one of these challenges.

While there are many more good ideas than the ones presented here, these 13 challenges represent a good starting point; they are each battles that will be fought over the next decade or so, not issues that will be resolved during one Congress, or even one presidency.

Consider these a Cliffs Notes to a plan for national sanity -- realistic soltions to some of the most urgent challenges confronting our generation, essentially the bare minimum that we must push for to protect our future.

Thirteen Challenges for the Thirteenth Generation

Revolution X by Rob Nelson and Jon Cowan (co-founders of Lead... or Leave) poses the following 13 Challenges for the 13th Generation. The organization is dedicated to addressing these challenges; please see the book for comprehensive strategies toward them. If any of these are not yet typed in and you want me to type them in, please send me email.

  1. Create Good Jobs.
  2. Protect the Planet.
  3. Control Crime.
  4. Prevent AIDS.
  5. Reinvent Social Security.
  6. Design a Post-Cold War Military.
  7. Make Education Affordable.
  8. Give Equal Rights to Gays.
  9. Help End Homelessness.
  10. Guarantee Freedom of Choice.
  11. Trim America's Budget.
  12. Win Affordable Health Care.
  13. Reform Our Politics.

I'd also like to add an additional challenge: Stop prejudice and discrimination based on race, gender, age, economic class, political viewpoint, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle.
Maintained by Adam Rifkin, adam at xent dot com (last modified February 1, 1995)
From the Lead... or Leave WWW page.
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