INDIANAPOLIS – Let’s get excited about our upcoming 201st year of Indiana statehood. We are a good place to do business because of the comparatively lower costs to employee our people and power our factories. We are leaders in the ever increasingly important areas of agriculture and life sciences. Our institutions of higher education and medicine are some of the world’s best.
And the elections are over! What a relief for all of us. It is time now to set aside the inclination toward competition. It is time to work together, all of us, to resolve those lingering issues that negate our advantages and keep all of our people from sharing in our successes: Addiction. Low Wages. Hunger. Sexual violence. Illiteracy. Poor health. Civil rights. The reality is this: Too many of our citizens live lives with problems not a lot different than people in developing and yes, even war-torn, nations. We like to think of ourselves as living in a happy and wholesome place, and Indiana certainly has the potential for greatness. But we won’t achieve greatness unless we tackle our very complicated and serious challenges.
Consider that Indiana is one of the most obese states in the nation. We have had a surging suicide rate. Nearly 10 percent of the babies born here are born opiate-addicted. Our infant mortality rate is shameful; among African-Americans, it is the worst in the nation. By so many measures, the fabric of family has frayed for too many in Indiana.
Real needs exist that require a proactive approach: Indiana has no strategic plan for energy, for protecting our water supply, for public infrastructure.
No wonder Hoosiers have an issue with self-esteem. We suffer from a long decline and with it, low expectations. Add to that the intense and hyperbolic rhetoric of the recent election cycle that has contributed toward a lack of public confidence in candidates, and more importantly, a lack of enthusiasm for the role government plays in our state’s prosperity or decline.
Success won’t be difficult to measure. We’ll know it when we stem the bleeding of our best and brightest young people to other states. We’ll know it when wages keep up with national averages and grow steadily. We will know it when disease and addiction decline along with the ever-increasing population of our prisons and jails.
These issues are intertwined and complex. Just as no one party or class of individuals is responsible for them, no one party or person has been able to resolve them. That may be because instead of working together we’ve been split apart. Instead of bringing together the best minds from all parties — Democrat, Republican and Libertarian — we have wasted our efforts jockeying for political advantage and denying the realities facing our state’s citizens.
This is why politics need to be set aside in favor of action-oriented leadership.
As leaders we have an important opportunity to step up our game. Let’s do that by working for solutions rather than playing it safe or auditioning for our next jobs. Let’s be brave. Let’s be willing to challenge each other to use our collective intellect, to open our hearts toward collaborative approaches and partnerships that move us ahead even though many of us won’t get all that we want. Let’s engage in long-term strategic thinking, rather than continue to ignore evidence in favor of the anecdotal. Let’s be more coordinated and less politically charged.
This January promises a chance to set the negativity and backbiting aside and take on the work of the people. During this time with so much at stake, with so much to be done, and so much potential for good, our leaders must focus on the right issues with a mindset for the kind of work that will make Hoosiers greater future for us all, truly proud of their leaders, and confident of a greater future for all of us.
Hale was the 2016 Democratic lieutenant governor nominee and a two-term member of the Indiana House from Indianapolis. This is the first of her Howey Politics Indiana columns.