By Jim Kempton
The Greatest Generation had many achievements, but among the most impressive was how decisively they committed and how quickly they implemented solutions to their crises. This adaptiveness not only saved the world, it improved the lives of every citizen of their time—and put in place the great America we live in today.
In the face of devastating unemployment, they began a national infrastructure program that built thousands of dams, subways, schools and parks. They repaired roads, bridges, train tracks and ports. It revolutionized our commercial capacity. And they did it in less than the time our D.C. representatives have been talking about health care costs.
In the face of Nazi aggression, they stood up to totalitarian terrorists—together. All went. All served. They converted yacht, aircraft and auto factories into military plants overnight, producing hundreds of millions of jeeps, bombers and battleships.
That Yankee ingenuity seems to be overwhelmed by the current resistance to change that crippled other great nations in the past. Somehow, Americans in 1945 could refit their industry from tractors to tanks in nine months, but converting gas guzzlers to electric cars is going to take 20 years. A generation ago, we thought big, built bold and did well by doing good.
And why not? As a nation and as a city, shouldn’t we look to lead the world? Why shouldn’t San Clemente be the first Orange County municipality to achieve 100 percent renewable energy? Georgetown, Texas did it. Their conservative Republican mayor saved ratepayers a boatload of money doing it too. Our town would be environmentally clean, immune to regional power outages and rate-paying residents would be millions of dollars richer.
How about recycling our water—I mean all of it. California has a drought, and long-term rainfall will not likely improve. But what if San Clemente put two more stages of filter in our reclamation plant and made it as clean as rainwater, and cleaner than bottled stuff you pay $4 a gallon for now? Residents would pay pennies for water and would be self-sufficient against drought, storm and aqueduct sabotage.
What if we offered innovative tech startups a tax-deferred, expedited program to locate in our business park—in return for a share of their profits in five years? If just one of these companies hit pay dirt, the city government would be funded until the end of time.
Some of these things may not work. But how Americans fixed the Great Depression—as then-President Roosevelt famously stated was to “take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
Since the mid-20th century, the world has looked to us for hope, but also for products, services, freedoms and concepts that made life better. America is the greatest country. California is the most innovative state. San Clemente is the best city. Why not try something?
Jim Kempton has tried to be many things: surfer, writer, restaurateur, marketer, publisher, soccer coach, executive, teacher, speaker, cook, curator, snowboarder, salesman, student and many others. Trying hasn’t always worked, but it’s kept him out of a lot of great depressions.
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