Being in charge or the buck stops here


By Vivian Blevins

Contributing Columnist

Are you or have you ever been responsible for an organization/ a company, a department at your work site, a committee? Think for a minute about the challenges you face/faced: division among the membership in terms of mission or processes for achieving that mission, one or more saboteurs, incompetent personnel due to laziness or ignorance, financial problems, outside influences over which you have no control, etc.

The largest organization which I headed was Rancho Santiago Community College District in Orange County, Calif. Without going into any details, just trust me that I faced all the challenges to which I just referred. Challenges go with the job of being in charge, and persons unwilling or unable to work with others to meet those challenges should neither seek nor accept leadership roles. Former U.S. President Harry S. Truman said it best with a sign which he kept on his desk, “The buck stops here.” History ultimately judges a U.S. president based on how he handles the challenges that face him. And this is never a solo act as respected, knowledgeable, and hard-working staff are essential for achieving any measure of success.

Read a little history and consider the challenges that any president of the United States has faced. As you do, realize that we are a democracy and unlike countries ruled by dictators, we have laws and norms which indicate what a president can do. We also have the three major branches of government designed as a system of checks and balances that seem to function relatively well when our presidents understand and respect their roles and the parameters.

It’s important also to acknowledge that presidents come to their positions with talents, intellect, and shortcomings. In other words, they are human beings.

Let’s look at our current president, who has been in office for a year plus, and itemize the challenges he has faced. As we reflect on a list, we need withhold our tendencies to oversimplify by saying he has brought all of these challenges upon himself.

Know also that there is no priority in my listing, and I am certain that you can add to my list:

· Little cooperation from his predecessor for himself and his staff in terms of executing a transition;

· Divisions among groups in the country regarding the nature of issues and how to address them, division that results in seemingly endless debates in Congress and among smaller actions, in the attack on January 6, 2021. Note that everything in my list is sub categories of this point, the dividedness: The COVID-19 epidemic and its variants; Afghanistan; Crumbling infrastructure across the country: roads, bridges, networks; Inflation and debt ceiling; Immigration; The media and social media; Social service safety nets; the Environment; Global unrest and threats; National security; Health care; Education; Racial issues; Supreme Court replacements; U. S. Involvement in initiatives such as NATO; Abortion; Law enforcement; Ukraine.

As Americans, we have a guarantee of First Amendment rights to express out opinions. We also know that deliberation is important and division is acceptable to a degree as we realize that compromise is ultimately essential. But what if we are so unwilling to compromise that the division we are experiencing threatens the very existence of our democracy? We have some serious thinking to do as individuals, as voters, regarding our country even as many struggle within their own family units with the impact of national issues.

At times, making a list helps, and I would encourage you to make your own. If there are ways you can take action, including educating others, please consider doing so.

Vivian B. Blevins, Ph.D., a graduate of The Ohio State University, served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints nor the independent activities of the author.

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