President’s Corner October 2020

The Need Deficit Society on Life Support

Have you ever been in NEED?  Real need as in dire straits?

The dictionary definition of “Need” is: To require something because it is essential or imperative. The definition of “Want” is: To have a desire to possess something or wish for it. It’s critical to understand the importance of need versus want.  In our daily lived experience, a need ensures existence in a Maslow’s hierarchy sort of way, and wants are the extras in life that make us smile for sure, but we could do without them.  I can hear my Mom in my ear like it was yesterday, “Listen, kid, my job is to provide you with what you need, not to satisfy you with what you want!” I don’t know about you, but early on, I understood the value and importance of having my needs met.  

To lack a need, an essential aspect or function of your life will threaten your very existence. The apparent needs: food, water, shelter, health, and resources are easily recognizable, but there are some other essentials we seem to be forgetting.

In these times, our country and society have some very distinct needs rapidly diminishing that jeopardizes our very existence.  We need leadership. Altruism. Equity.  We need, and I mean desperately need, an infusion of common sense.  If we aren’t careful and laser-focused on securing our needs, the outcome will be deadly. Cities will burn, supremacy (which is already unchecked) will spread as fast as COVID-19, and any goodness left in people will begin to dwindle like the faint fire of a candle that’s run its course.

Surely, this isn’t the America any of us need, and I hope it’s not a want for anyone!

We need real leadership! The type of leadership that causes individuals to act in a “just” manner. The kind of leadership that doesn’t subscribe to popularity, the bystander effect, or function in a cycle of selfishness. We need the type of leadership that people want to follow. We need leaders in roles that don’t play with a pandemic or create uncertainty about their ability to represent us all. We (yes, you and me) must be leaders, take active roles, and make the change we wish to see. We don’t have the luxury to support leaders who care more about “likes” than they do the real needs within our lives.  I am referring to every leader from elected officials to the front clerk in charge of your customer service at a local print shop.  Leaders need to provide what we need, not secure only what they want.

Altruism!  What if everyone looked out for others in the manner that they did themselves? I mean a genuine, unselfish concern for the welfare of others. The Altruism gap we are experiencing has made way for the destruction of our communities. It’s one of the Reasons we must scream BLACK LIVES MATTER. 

It’s why we have unhoused and undernourished neighbors displaced and forgotten. It’s why property gets justice before Breanna Taylor. It’s why there is an election coming, and the focus has to be the soul of our country and not merely the laws that govern it. Think about that; we are so far off course that we are trying to restore the concept of mortality in our basic engagements. Kindergarten teachers everywhere should be outraged to see their lessons like “the golden rule” so quickly abandoned. I find it fascinating the number of people who refuse to treat others with dignity and respect. I imagine they might be the same folks who refuse to wear a mask in public; that whole common sense thing, right! The war waged against decency is real and must be won. We can and must do better!

Equity. It’s simple, the people who don’t want everyone to thrive are racist and need removal from any aspect of positional or perceived power where their treasonous convictions are sucking the life from us all one “ism” filled policy or procedure at a time. We have to do better.

It’s so dangerous to live in a time where common sense borders extinction. When leaders show up without common sense, COVID-19 attacks an entire legislative branch. When the past’s racist policy overtakes common sense, liberty, and justice for all are forsaken. Common sense is in distress and needs rescuing from the sunken place.

The challenges we continue to face aren’t so complex that only a village comprised of savants have to address them. It’s quite the opposite. We only need leadership, altruism, a collective commitment to equity, and a good dose of common sense. Simple enough, it seems, but the reality is we failed so long at this and have been without these essential functions for so long that we are now on life support with the wrong people tasked with the question of pulling the plug.

We can and must do better. We cannot sit idly by and allow the yanking of the plug on decency.  Our ability to thrive depends on decency being alive and well.  We need it. 

It is time for every able person to get knowledgeable on the issues and vote! It’s time to address voter suppression and eliminate any acts to silence members of our community.  

It is time to address every “isms” swiftly and unapologetically. Those who consciously become barriers to our needs must be outed and ousted from formal duty within our communities. We must be intentional about the fight for Black Women. We cannot continue to leave them on an island when they need and leverage their brilliance when we are in need! This is unacceptable and must stop now.

There is no unique playbook or strategy. The answer is us. We are actively in a war on decency, and until we stand up and address our needs, we will stay cornered in the ropes on life support.

It’s time, friends. Shall we address our needs and choose to thrive? If you aren’t sure where to start, start this November at the polls with your vote because, like you – It matters!!!

Dr. Ryan Ross

ryan ross signature

President and CEO
Urban Leadership Foundation

Dr. Ryan Ross
Dr. Ryan Ross

Dr. Ryan E. Ross is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Equity, and Inclusion for the Colorado Community College System and President & CEO of the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado.