"Leaders have a significant role in creating the state of mind that is the society. They can serve as symbols of the moral unity of the society. They can express the values that hold the society together. Most important, they can conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations, carry them above the conflicts that tear a society apart, and unite them in the pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts" (John W. Gardner, "The Antileadership Vaccine").
America is at one of those moments in time when it is hurting and looking for leaders with the moral courage needed to see it through these hard times. Our nation is torn apart over outdated immigration policies and now finds some of our leaders lacking the courage to act. Some seem willing to do anything to avoid making a decision on fixing immigration laws.
Among the most ardent in trying to avoid making a decision appears to be junior Sen. Mike Lee. It seems disingenuous for him to say: "Fundamental reform is badly needed and long overdue," then proceed to try to kill the current proposals offered by his colleagues. Instead of leading, he is calling for more delays, debates and taking a piecemeal approach rather than a comprehensive approach in making national policy that affects all elements of our society. His approach fails to understand that societies are dynamic organisms in constant change.
Unfortunately for Sen. Lee, there is no on-the-job training for lawmakers. He seems to think linearly when he says we must first secure the borders before taking other steps; it's another tactic to avoid making a decision. One of the traits of a good leader is to be able to understand the forces affecting the lives of citizens and to offer a vision and solutions — the big picture. Sen. Lee's approach, on the other hand, appears myopic in understanding the world, the plight of people and how to solve problems.
The problems we face today are not simply undocumented immigrants. Rather, challenges come from the new digital revolution our society is undergoing triggered by technology, the Internet, demographics and globalization. We are all entering an unknown world where the laws and institutions we created are now unable to keep pace with change — immigration being one of them. Our immigration policies have always been a means for America to meet its workforce and economic needs in hard times.
History has shown immigrants become part of the American fiber and an asset in promoting our economy. Today's revolution is dramatic and has disrupted the quality of life we created. Now, we are all struggling to cope with change, jobs, family, income; and doing the human thing when fearful, looking for leaders to help us find solutions. Finding none, we look for scapegoats — immigrants. In doing so, we fail to realize that with each new wave of immigrants the American character is rekindled — the willingness to risk, work and dream of a better tomorrow. Immigrants strengthen America's aging and shrinking workforce and increase the consumer pool.
In America's moment of agony, she doesn't need naysayers or leaders only interested in keeping their seat. We need leaders who will offer a vision, solutions, hope and who will call upon us to pull together as Americans have always done; and to "conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations, carry them above the conflicts ... and unite them in the pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts."
A Utah native, John Florez has been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, served as former Utah Industrial Commissioner and filled White House appointments, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor and Commission on Hispanic Education. Email him at [email protected]