JFK, Donald Trump and the Stick of Success

measuring-stickHave you ever wondered about measuring sticks? Have you ever wondered what makes something the standard? In the business of delivering aid measuring success is a major driver of funds. But really, measuring sticks for success always determine funds, everywhere, in all sectors, in all aspects of modern, post-industrial life. Banks, schools, and soda companies all have their measuring sticks, all ground in numbers, all resulting in cash payoffs. But what strikes me is how rarely we stop and think about our measuring sticks, our standards for success. What strikes me is just how content we are to measure positive outcomes with simple mathematical equations that usually are tied to increases in cold hard cash. And the funny thing is, way back in the 1960’s, a guy known as JFK was struck by that same propensity to trust the cash metric. In his time he wondered aloud about our national obsession with measuring success by our Gross Domestic Product: “GDP counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. ... Yet [GDP] does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

JFK was saying something important, something we should revisit as we await our new president and his particular standard of success. May we recall that some things can only be measured by the soul, out and beyond the world of numbers, deep within the human heart.