Are you feeling uneasy about the state of our economy and our broken political discourse? If so, you’re in the vast majority. According to recent polls, 70% of American voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. For Democrats, increasing income inequality is the most alarming threat. For Republicans, its over-regulation and government interference.
Personally, I’ve never been more discouraged about the deck being stacked against the working class. Especially when I read that the average retirement package for a Fortune 500 CEO is $49 million, while the average American can expect $18,000. However, nearly half of us won’t get any retirement package from our employer.
This shows why the corporate model is broken and unsustainable. If CEOs continue to make fortunes, while consumers see their paychecks shrink, there won’t be anyone left to buy their products.
But I’m confident there’s a new economy on the horizon: These businesses will be creative, community-minded and commercially successful. I’ve already profiled several Forest Park businesses that fit this model.
There’s also cause for optimism with our rising millennial generation. Millennials may not reply to your e-mail, respond to your phone call, or even make eye contact during a conversation. But their hearts are in the right place.
According to a recent international study of millennials, 65% said that one of their top goals was to get a job that gives them the opportunity to make a difference in their community. Nine out of 10 said they would relocate to find a job where they could impact their city, or country, in a positive way. Millennials around the world share many of our concerns: 56% are worried about social and economic inequality, almost half are concerned about climate change, and a third are disturbed by current educational trends.
Half of these young people do not trust their government to be fair or honest. These same folks distrust the media. They are also not fans of most religious and military leaders. Who do they like and trust? Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis top the list.
These international statistics are encouraging, but I also see positive developments among the young people of Forest Park. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of addressing our local Boy Scout troop. It was gratifying to meet this diverse group of boys, so smart and engaged. Some of them knew more about my topic than I did. They’re also a very caring group who contribute to our community.
Young leaders like Bill and Veronica Gerst are also inspiring. Bill is aware that the world has shifted since the days he worked at Forest Park National Bank. There used to be more camaraderie in Forest Park and a more communal spirit. Bill and his wife are intent on restoring that atmosphere. They attend functions all over town. They are also very active in Kiwanis and have promoted successful events like our Soap Box Derby.
“We want to reach back to those days,” Bill said, “so people feel a part of the community. We can do it by opening doors for people to walk through and give back to the community. We see results. We’re for real. Together, we can get more done.”
With people like Bill and Veronica and the young leaders in our village government and park district, I’m confident that, if nothing else, Forest Park is headed in the right direction.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.