Voices From Street Corners: 2012 Quite a Year Already

2012 has turned out to be quite an interesting and intriguing year already.

Thinking about the state of leadership in the country right now I recalled this thought from Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat and the Chrysler Group, from a recent Time Magazine profile:

“….Leadership is not a quantitative thing…people either smell it in you or they don’t…People need to trust you that you’re going to pull them out and they will follow you when you pull them out.   If they don’t get that comfort, they’re going to drop you.  This is true of organizations.  It is true of Countries…”

I found this admonition to be quite timely especially in light of the controversy that came up as a result the “Half time in America” Super Bowl commercial that offended Karl Rove. What is clear is that the Republicans still have to figure out how to pass the “Smell Test” before they gear up to go against Barack Obama.

With the official start of the presidential election season the punditry class has been quite busy with daily tracking polls and commentary on who is up, who’s down and who’s going to be the President. As millions of dollars continue to be spent,  those of us on Main Street remain untouched and unmoved.

The Obama Administration continues to remind us that the economy is on the mend. I am confident that the numbers are being reported accurately. Although, it must be emphasized that the focus of the mainstream media the so-called U1 number, the percentage of labor force unemployed 15 weeks or longer, is the is not accurate.  The U6 number, which includes part time workers who want to work full time, but cannot due to economic reasons, is a more accurate number reflecting a national average of over 15 percent. This is the true reality out there that is not being discussed.

Retail Center - South Orange CountyWhen the initial path to recovery began, there was talk of “green shots” and the corresponding happy talk that went with it. As I continue to travel around South County, though, I continue to see all those on street corners who holding signs asking for help. I continue to see signs of “For Lease” on every single shopping center.

Not too long ago, I saw the same couple occupying a Costco corner whom I had interviewed a number of times before and stopped to see how they were doing. This couple is one of the former members of the Middle Class who have joined the nameless, faceless persons who are victims of the change that has yet to truly work itself out. This change, though, is not just confined to the U.S.

I read a report on France24 (www.france24.com) that featured two homeless women in Paris. One was a 68-year old pensioner who received a disability pension of 894 Euros a month and was kicked out of her apartment. The other person interviewed was a 36-year homeless woman who had just lost custody of her children.

What continues to give me hope, though, is the resiliency of communities. I see it in schools as parents come together to help keep the school going. I see it in community organizations like the YMCA who are sustained through the generosity of the human spirit. The need to hold on and remain hopeful is as paramount as ever.