14
Jun

Health Beat continues to set the standard for brand journalism with trusted storytelling—when our community needs it most.

Our friend Jim Ylisela at Ragan Consulting Group recently wrote a blog post that highlights how companies’ brand journalism platforms have been essential to their communications and overall brand clarity and visibility during the COVID-19 crisis.

Jim and RCG are tremendous communication partners to some of the world’s leading brands, and these companies he’s profiling all have great stories to tell. As Jim points out, building a brand journalism platform (not just a blog or newsroom) for your organization will be even more important going forward, in your efforts to remain highly visible in the digital realm with clear, authentic, and relevant storytelling, directly to your customers and prospects.

So we won’t fault Jim for not mentioning Health Beat, a brand journalism site Elexicon , and we’ll gladly report on their accomplishments during this strange and scary spring and summertime of 2020.

Where the mission meets the moment

As the Coronavirus pandemic swiftly descended onto West Michigan in March 2020, the entire Spectrum Health organization confidently mobilized into action. As the largest health system in the region, Spectrum Health would be the epicenter for COVID-19 diagnosis, testing, and care in West Michigan. Through best-practices preparedness and strong leadership from system President Tina Freese-Decker and Chief Medical Officer Darryl Elmouchi MD, Spectrum Health has been weathering the storm as effectively as can possibly be expected.

Testing and case treatments have been handled with the utmost care and dedication from the inside, and Ms. Freese-Decker and Dr. Elmouchi have also spearheaded constant, transparent communications that kept the community informed and led to Grand Rapids and West Michigan residents successfully managing the “curve” of cases (as of this writing, trends have been carefully, optimistically, positive).

Health Beat, as you might imagine, played an important role alongside these executive communications. Information on hand washing and social distancing and telehealth options could be found everywhere, but Health Beat’s journalism clearly and authoritatively provided this type of detailed information directly from the region’s leading health experts. And, in true Health Beat fashion, they didn’t stop there.

On-the-ground reports

Health Beat delivered “on the scene” reports with photo galleries and video of drive-through testing operations, helping to reduce stress by giving patients an idea of how it works and what it would be like when they arrive.

More authentic personal stories

Health Beat’s beautiful storytelling about health journeys continued, but with a different focus: The caregivers on the front lines of Spectrum Health’s response. Health Beat created amazing profiles of the courageous nurses and doctors, where their dedication to saving lives — in the face of danger — shined through.

A steady flow of clear, trusted advice for keeping yourself and your family physically and mentally healthy

Over the past several weeks, Health Beat has delivered an incredible succession of advice for dealing with COVID-19, from identifying symptoms to staying safe and sane at home: At-home exercise, easy and affordable meal ideas, sleep advice, mental health tips, even an article reminding folks who can’t go to the hairdresser that some hair color products can cause an allergic reaction.

As our nation—and our city of Grand Rapids—were forced to once again come to grips with racial inequality and inequity in the wake of police violence and the outsized impact of COVID-19 on minorities, Health Beat continued its thoughtful reporting from the perspective of Spectrum Health’s role as a pillar of community health.

In the last few months, Health Beat has once again proven why it has achieved over 120 web site, public relations and content marketing awards, and why it’s a standard-bearer among brand journalism platforms. Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help you develop a brand journalism platform for your communications strategies.

11
Jun

Managing the fifth risk

Posted by: Matt Saler

How Elexicon’s retainer service can help you manage risks to your marketing efforts in uncertain times

When rafting down a new river, it’s good to have an experienced guide.

I’ve been re-reading Michael Lewis’ The Fifth Risk. It’s a slim volume, but I consider it one of the most important books to come out in the past few years. Lewis masterfully demonstrates the critical role the federal government plays in managing an enormous portfolio of risks that no other entity has the resources or inclination to handle.

The “fifth risk” of the title is the threat stalking out of mind, crowded out by focus on more seemingly urgent threats one, two, and three—maybe four. Lewis writes about people whose job it is to think beyond the usual prioritized threats.

Many of these risks are things most people don’t know about or ever think about—things we can live our lives without worrying about because they’re being “handled.” For example, he writes in a chapter about the Department of Energy (DOE):

Roughly half of the DOE’s annual $30 billion budget is spent on maintaining and guarding our nuclear arsenal. Two billion of that goes to hunting down weapons-grade plutonium and uranium at loose in the world so that it doesn’t fall into the hands of terrorists. In eight years alone—2010-2018—the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration collected enough material to make 160 nuclear bombs. The department trains every international atomic-energy inspector; if nuclear power plants around the world are not producing weapons-grade material on the sly by reprocessing spent fuel rods and recovering plutonium, it’s because of these people. The DOE also supplies radiation-detection equipment to enable other countries to detect bomb material making its way across national borders.

So, basically, the DOE is why tales of a dirty bomb or homebrew nuke going off in a city or airport somewhere in the world are only told in fantastical spy movies.

In other chapters, he writes about the Department of Agriculture’s role in ensuring a stable and robust food supply—it doesn’t just happen—and the Department of Commerce’s role in weather forecasting through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—your Weather Channel app would be far less reliable without government data. He could have written a book five times the length and not run out of material.

I should say that part of Lewis’ project is to show how the management of those risks is often itself at risk for various political reasons, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

The takeaway that I went to emphasize is this: The Fifth Risk argues persuasively you want people at the wheel, thinking about all the ways present stability can dissolve, and working to avoid those trip points so you can keep on living your life.

Basically, you want prevention over mitigation. But it follows that if prevention fails, you want the smartest, most experienced people on hand for dealing with the fallout.

That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot as the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed the world. The virus burst on the scene late last year as a major threat we didn’t prevent—but could have. Now we have to mitigate the threat, with measures that are far more painful than prevention would have been.

Now to Business

You know the #1 risk to your digital and traditional marketing efforts—which is not far off from saying you know the #1 risk to your business. Right now, after three months or more of economic upheaval due to the pandemic, it’s probably painfully obvious. You probably have contingency plans against it and risks #2-3, maybe #4 on the outside. But what’s the fifth risk? Is anybody managing that for you?

It’s also worth pointing out that not every business is facing the same challenges right now. Maybe consumer demand for your product or service has dropped to critical levels because of the pandemic and you need to adapt efficiently to a difficult market reality. Or maybe due to the unique changes to society brought on by the novel coronavirus, your product or service is in unusually high demand and you need to ramp up effective marketing and communications quickly. Either situation carries with it deep uncertainty about the weeks and months ahead.

Whether demand is up or down or just wobbly, it’s smart to have a rapid response team available for the fast-changing reality your business faces—so you’re able to focus on your core mission. Sometimes you have such a team available internally. Often, though, you need to bring that kind of expertise in from the outside. In the latter case, how do you budget for that?

Project or Retainer?

I talked recently with a client about a budget for work they are planning for the year. The question was whether the work would be project-based or funded from a retainer. I suggested a retainer would be a valuable insurance policy for needs that may arise around their goals.

My thinking: from a budget planning standpoint, there can be more uncertainty with projects. That’s because projects often risk expectations being set with unintentionally rose-colored glasses and assumptions about best-case scenarios. When a client and a vendor try to calibrate specific project spends within a fine-tuned overall marketing budget, we find it can be easy to leave too little room for what isn’t known. When you inevitably find out what that was, it can mean costly project overages.

And even if the project goes well and stays on budget, there’s always the question “what now?” A week later, the CMS or a plugin for crucial site functionality requires a critical security update that impacts functionality. The person trained and responsible for maintaining the site content leaves for another organization a month after that. The new Chief Marketing Officer wants to change direction by next quarter. The original project is over—how do you quickly account for these new needs?

A monthly retainer is a recognition of the inherent messiness of life and work, projects and marketing. It can encompass all that is good about a project budget while offering ongoing stability and certainty.  It can position an expert agency to manage risks an organization may not have the resources or expertise to manage itself, while offering flexibility to change direction that a project-based approach lacks.

The marketing department challenge

Effective marketing translates to increased sales and profitability. To get there, you need a highly-skilled team with expertise in several key areas, as well as the right technology. Depending on the size of your business, it can be difficult and costly to make the right moves in the right sequence to build that team and bring on the right tools.

If you manage a team with marketing responsibilities within a larger organization, you may have budget, hiring, or internal resource usage limitations that restrict you in similar ways.

The marketing and digital retainer solution

An Elexicon retainer matches your marketing needs with the skills and technologies necessary to meet those needs, at a predictable cost.

We do this by:

  • working closely with you, within an overall strategy and toward set goals, with regular communications and monthly reports.
  • providing a skilled roster of experienced staff, using proven tools that are ready to plug in.
  • sharing a vested interest in the overall success of your organization—we’re always thinking ahead about what can and should be done.
  • letting you mix and match skills to goals on a month-to-month basis, making sure you only pay for what you need, when you need it.
  • harnessing the momentum that’s made by being constantly engaged, thereby avoiding the frequent startup time and costs that come with the estimate process for tactical needs.
  • offering a discounted hourly rate due to the annual commitment of the retainer

This partnership means you always have the resources and confidence to set and achieve marketing goals. A retainer approach allows your needs and costs to stay synchronized (even when needs change from month-to-month), and delivers the talent and tools you need, when you need them. The talent and tools specifically manifest in our full slate of services.

Stay vital to being vital

Our user interface design and user experience services ensure that you’re thinking through every aspect of your customer journey and user flow, whether you have a software or SaaS product, or an e-commerce ecosystem for your physical products. Your development teams may be collaborating with your sales and marketing teams to deliver the features that help the product sell, but do they help the sales “stick?” We help map out the big-picture and long-view of your user’s relationship with the product, to identify where they may be running into frustrations, and opportunities to boost customer delight.

Customer delight is especially important in times like these, when folks need to prioritize what they’re spending money on, and are thinking about what subscriptions and memberships they find vital. Your user interface and digital experience is vital to being vital.

Laying a foundation that stands the test of … anything

With our strategic services, we help our customers not only envision the big picture and the long view, but plan it and map it out. We build and iterate early product prototypes. We research, refine, and report on your digital traffic and optimize audiences. We place the right messaging and content in front of the right prospects and customers at the right time. All of this establishes a solid foundation for customer loyalty, and a clear strategy for acquiring more of those ideal customers.

Teamwork makes the dream work

All of this works on a project basis, but is particularly powerful with the continuity of an ongoing retainer relationship. Such a relationship forges the kind of bonds of teamwork that only come with practice.

With the right resources in the right place working together in the right way, you can finally accomplish things like:

  • Refreshing your site’s design
  • Updating your logo and branding
  • Setting up a digital ad and remarketing campaign
  • Getting a handle your site’s security (i.e. stopping that spam)
  • Standing up an email campaign for the first time
  • Developing a new type of communication page for your customers/audience

You can probably add to that list.

But what does it cost?

If you’re thinking “I’ve just finished my pandemic lockdown rewatch of Mad Men. Retainers are expensive. I don’t have room in my budget for a retainer,” let me put your mind at ease: a retainer is what you make it. You can, of course, do more with more. But even if it’s just a way to ensure you have somebody to call when something goes wrong with your website, that’s okay too. We’re confident you’ll see the value because we know from experience that retainers work.

If you’re ready to make a safe investment in your digital marketing, if you’re ready to have your marketing risks managed—#1-5 and beyond—by an experienced team dedicated to your success, get in touch.

15
Apr

Lessons in leadership, perseverance and improvisation, on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about John F. Kennedy’s 1962 “we will go to the moon” speech. I detailed my thoughts of how I felt that inspirational speech is relevant to today’s COVID-19 crisis. This past weekend was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission, which happened eight years after JFK’s speech. The U.S. had already a year earlier in 1969 reached the moon with the Apollo 11 mission, “in this decade” as Kennedy aspired, and ahead of the U.S.S.R. The Apollo 13 mission had a much different result, but its story still draws a through-line directly back to Kennedy’s spirit of determination and innovation, embodied in the phrase “…that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

A ‘successful failure’

Most of you are probably familiar with the Apollo 13 mission that—due to an explosion and damage to the spacecraft—failed to land on the moon. But the craft didn’t come crashing down on the moon or back to earth. Instead, the crippled technology successfully ferried its crew safely around the moon and back home, due to the leadership, perseverance, innovation and hard work of the mission control crew in Houston. If you need a refresher, the 1995 Apollo 13 movie directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise is excellent work, and should be on everyone’s social-distancing list for a watch or re-watch. And an insightful new interview with the mission’s captain Jim Lovell was posted by USA Today this weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary.

Whether you are one of my fellow small business owners and entrepreneurs, or one of Elexicon’s clients or colleagues, I’m sure we’re all feeling uncertain and at least a little shaken right now—if not overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of this crisis’ impact on the economy. We’ve all been setting goals, and organizing the best our energies and skills. We’ve been planning our own versions of successful moon landings, and we’ve pulled some off.

But now the course that we were on has been obscured, and in some cases, seemingly erased.

No playbook, no blueprint

As I talked about in another recent post, we were holding “maps”—plans, projects, targets—for the territory our businesses and teams would traverse in 2020. Now that terrain has changed and we need new maps. The Apollo 13 mission team’s response to their sudden reversal of fate set a great example of how to rise to a challenge for which there was no playbook or blueprint, with resourcefulness and determination. Sometimes we do our best work by developing a well thought-out strategy, and then implementing that strategy to successfully reach an objective. But other times we need to respond to unexpected adversity. We need to set aside the original aspirations we had, let go of “what could have been,” and focus on what needs to be done now. In these moments, with these decisions we can still achieve our “finest hours.”

Here’s Ed Harris’ Gene Krantz* defusing any thought that “This could be the worst disaster NASA has ever experienced.” Instead, he delivers a counterfactual, that this team is going to adapt to the new reality, and “…this will be our finest hour.”

“We have a new mission”

Many of us entrepreneurs, business owners and team leaders are now throwing out our flight plans, and are faced with a new mission. “I don’t care what anything was designed to do, I only care about what it can do,” says Harris’ Krantz in this scene. In normal times, for all of us, this is counterintuitive. We envision, plan, design, and create products and processes to do a certain thing or produce a certain result. But when we’re faced with a seismic shift in outlook or an unexpected crisis, we need to decisively and creatively determine what our business, product or services can do to first survive and then thrive in a new way.

Creativity under constraints

I’ve always loved this scene where an ad hoc team “downstairs” at mission control needs to quickly devise a way to connect a square fitting to a round hole, to give the astronauts the carbon monoxide filtering they’ll need. They need to “fit this into this, using nothing but that,” with “that” being only the spare parts and gear available on the spacecraft. The sequence is a great example of creativity under constraints, and inventing a solution with limited resources. In different ways, we’ll all be facing new constraints on our processes, where before we typically had all the resources we’d need. Sometimes, it is from within constraints that true creativity and innovation happen, and new solutions are invented that we may have never thought of before.

Communication, trust, teamwork

Finally, this roughly 4-minute scene—terrifically written* and acted—depicts the flight crew exercising their problem-solving and leadership brainpower as a team. We all know how to deliver advice on subjects that we’re experts in, and how to be a good team player. But in times like these, we need to dig deeper, below all that stuff we read and learned, and into our instincts and guts. This scene is timeless, but is especially timely and relevant in the context of current events (whether we’re talking about leading our own businesses and teams, or our leaders in government):

  • Communication: Loren Dean’s EECOM John Aaron, clearly and authoritatively arguing that “power is everything,” that the module’s electrical battery power needs to be shut down to be conserved for later. He states exactly why, and that has the data to back it up.
  • Trust: Harris’ Gene Krantz to Dean’s John Aaron, “That’s the deal?” Then after a deliberative pause, “Okay, John, the minute we finish the burn, we’ll power down the L.E.M.” Krantz knows he’s not the smartest guy in the room and sets aside any need to prove that he is. Instead, he trusts their advice, puts a plan in motion based on that trust, and then sends them off to work with a little pep talk. But the trust he instilled was probably enough extra motivation already.
  • Teamwork: Gary Sinise’s Ken Mattingly is called in to run the power simulations, to determine how to most efficiently bring the L.E.M. power down and then back up again. Mattingly requests that the simulator be “cold and dark” like it is up in the spacecraft, and he’ll need a flashlight. When he’s handed a random flashlight, Mattingly says “That’s not what they have up there … don’t give me anything they don’t have up there.” Even though the kind of flashlight is probably inconsequential to the power-up procedures, but Mattingly instinctually knows he needs to practically put himself in that cockpit with his teammates in order to precisely do his job.

While it’s no silver bullet for our anxiety, I hope that looking back on the early days of the U.S. space program provides some lessons in what we’re all capable of, and reminds us that perseverance, ingenuity, and sometimes improvisation are in our nation’s DNA.

*According to interviews with the astronauts and flight teams, and with the filmmakers, the Apollo 13 movie falls somewhere between being “firmly-” and “loosely-based” on actual events and characters. Some roles were composites, such as Ed Harris’ depiction of White Team Flight Director Gene Krantz, which also incorporated decisions made by Black Team Flight Director Glynn Lunney. Some quotes such as “Failure is not an option!” were added with artistic license for dramatic effect. Regardless, I find the movie’s dramatic portrayals to be an effective embodiment of the leadership, teamwork and problem solving that led to saving the astronauts’ lives. The movie captures the spirit of “toughness and competence” that the real-life Krantz would make a central theme of his autobiography (which, interestingly, Krantz went ahead and titled, “Failure is Not an Option”).

09
Apr

We’re all in this together … no matter where “this” is.

Hey, everyone,

If you’ve clicked on this post, you’re probably one of our clients or colleagues, (also known collectively as our friends). If you’re a “new” friend, thank you for clicking! I’m the founder and owner of Elexicon. I can’t believe it’s been over three weeks since that Monday in mid-March when we all returned to work from the weekend, for the most part via webcam from our home offices. The COVID-19 crisis arrived so quickly, and now does not appear to be leaving any time soon — like it’s moving in fast-forward and slow-motion at the same time … such a strange time. We’re all in uncharted territory without a map, as parents of children, as children of older adults, and as professionals and business owners.

From my point of view of being a small business owner, I wanted to give you an update on what we’re doing and how we’re doing, now that I have a few weeks of perspective. At Elexicon we’re doing our part to social-distance, we continue helping our clients, and we stand at the ready to help more. We’re especially thankful for the health care workers who are on the front lines of the battlefield for us. They inspire us every day.

Work and the office

We moved into a new office in downtown Grand Rapids in December, and we’re located just above the row of restaurants, a coffee shop, bars and a microbrewery on Ionia Avenue. It’s been sad and surreal to see the once-bustling street go quiet, and those great new neighbors that we were just beginning to get to know need to close down. We’re looking forward to hearing the muffled sound of voices and music from HopCat below us, and the shouts and honks from the street outside again soon. Now that we’re settled in, we might otherwise be planning an open house right now that would spill down into visiting you all, as well. We wish everyone the best.

Patiently awaiting the return of our guests.

Our new office is smaller than our previous home base, a decision we made because our team had become a hybrid of office- and home-based workers. Some were in the office all the time, some worked from home most of the time, and some had a mixed schedule. As a result, the all-work-from-home approach for Elexicon has been a smooth transition. Our work continues, perhaps not quite business-as-usual, but let’s call it business-as-unusual.

Our clients

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted our clients in different ways. I won’t go into much detail about who they are or specifically how they were affected, but our clients are generally falling into three categories of impact. We’ve had a small handful of great clients who unfortunately were abruptly impacted, each in their unique way, by the cancellations and postponements of live events. We’re already seeing them improvise their offerings into the virtual space, but they have understandably needed to scale back their work with us on digital services and marketing.

For businesses like these, we’re advising them to stay visible through their own communication channels and remain on the minds of customers and prospects. Online events are a great idea, even if they are no substitute for the live alternative. Another activity to consider may be easier said than done with so many other stresses and concerns on your mind, but organizing your thoughts into occasional social media, video or blog posts may be therapeutic, as well as helpful to organizing wrapping your mind around your business’ return plan.

Smaller businesses may need to adapt and become something different when you re-emerge, but stay focused on returning. Get creative, rediscover that passion … this crisis doesn’t change the fact that you’re an entrepreneur and survival is in your DNA.

Healthcare

As many of you know, we have several healthcare clients, as well. I mentioned above how thankful we are for the front-line caregivers, and we’ve also been unsurprisingly impressed with our client colleagues in the digital and communications departments. Michigan communities are getting concise and transparent information from their healthcare organizations, about an ever-changing medical crisis that can otherwise be frightening and confusing. We’ve been proud to simply have the opportunity to be called upon here and pulled in there to help support these monumental efforts for some of the best of those organizations. We’re also glad to see some of the digital communication platforms we’ve built get called into a new level of service to inform the community.

These clients have truly risen to the moment and were well prepared (even for this), so our only advice to them has been to keep up the awesome work, while proactively sharing creative ideas and keeping technical platforms running smoothly. Simple, direct, transparent and clear communications are such an important resource to communities that are stressed, scared, and otherwise confused by the barrage of information overload and noise they’re receiving from elsewhere.

Homebound sales

A third category consists of midsize and large companies who have been, for the most part, weathering the storm over the past month, aside from adjusting to their significant transitions to a remote workforce. One impact on the sales and marketing front has been — and will continue to be — travel restrictions and trade event cancellations. We’re working with some of these clients — and would advise any business that falls into this category — to develop alternate strategies for using digital communications and channels to demonstrate their products and services, from videos and explainer animations to mobile apps and “virtual” showrooms. This crisis won’t be an extinction-level event for trade shows, but they may never be the same, so there’s no better time than now to plan alternative strategies to trade shows, conferences, and seminars. We recommend thinking outside the box of Zoom events and webinars to really stand out.

Redrawing the maps

I will expand on some of the thoughts above, as they relate to what lies ahead of us in the coming year as the “new normal,” in some upcoming blog posts. In January we all held our own maps to navigate the landscape that lay ahead of us in 2020. Now that landscape has drastically changed, and those maps suddenly would get us lost. We need to quickly and decisively understand the new landscape, and draw new maps. As expert digital strategists, communicators, designers, developers and marketers, that’s what Elexicon does, has done before, and will be here to do it again: Understand new landscapes of business opportunities, and draw new maps to find them, together.

Stay safe, everyone,

Brion

20
Mar

Revisiting inspirational quotes and speeches during these times? JFK’s “go to the moon” speech is a good one—especially the less-famous part of its most quoted sentence.

An insightful presenter at a conference I attended a couple years ago drew my attention to this part of JFK’s speech.

Before I share my thoughts about an inspiring speech from 57 years ago, I’d like to thank all the medical professionals and caregivers who are on the front lines of this health crisis right now and truly inspiring us every day.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” — President John F. Kennedy, Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort, September 12, 1962

The first half of that quote gets printed onto motivational posters and placards, and is the oft-used sound bite in archival footage of President Kennedy, standing before a large crowd in Houston. I personally have always liked the second part, though. I interpret JFK’s words as stating that while the destination is putting a man on the moon, the journey to get there—to create, to innovate, to find bold solutions to new problems—is what will truly benefit the nation in the long term.

A few sentences later Kennedy inserts a mention of “winning,” and the fact that the U.S. did beat the U.S.S.R. to the moon in 1969 was a point of national pride. But the collaboration—the “meeting of the minds”—of the best entrepreneurs, experts, scientists and engineers led to a new era of technological advancements in health care, public safety, transportation, computing and more. And the journey that began with that speech still has not ended. To borrow another iconic quote from these events, the “giant leap for mankind.”

A thought for these times

I’m reminded of how we are now being forced to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills today, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. While we as a nation did not “decide” to take this journey, and perhaps we were instead un-prepared in many ways, I think it’s important to remember that we as Americans and as humans are capable of re-inventing the world as we know it for the better.

Sometimes we are challenged to do so, like emerging mere decades after World War II with not only a powerful, greatest-nation-on-earth United States but also a rebuilt and productive Europe and Japan. Other times governments or entrepreneurs set a goal, like someday relying completely on autonomous vehicles to save time, lives and natural resources. I’ve been a skeptic of when and if a driverless society will happen, but I am very certain that the energies and skills involved in that quest have already led to safer vehicles today.

Now we face a new challenge, and this health and financial crisis may be the biggest we’ve seen as a nation and as a global community. On March 20, 2020 these events seem scarier than any world war or terrorist attack. We’re all looking for reassurance, and my article here can’t give you a whole lot of that. All I do offer to those who are reading this is a reminder that the United States has shown a great tendency for collaborating and innovating toward a long-term goal, with a complete acceptance that the journey to that goal will require a lot of hard work and heartache. Another passage just a bit later in Kennedy’s speech:

“We ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous, and dangerous, and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”

We need to control the spread of, treat, and find a vaccine for COVID-19, that is no doubt the goal. And we must organize the best of all our skills and energies for the journey toward that goal and beyond. We can find better ways to minimize and control viruses. We can discover effective new ways to travel, educate and work, even as we return to our old airports, schools and offices. We can re-invent logistics and the supply chain. We can improve how we care for our elderly and protect our children. These are unprecedented times that will require unprecedented vision and innovation, and these qualities are embedded in our nation’s DNA.

When social distancing ends, we can also end cultural and political distancing. We can emerge from this less divided, and more whole. The years since our last all-encompassing crisis in 2008 have also been among our most divisive culturally and politically. But now it’s time to re-examine our shared DNA, to re-discover who we really are—a nation built on one moon shot after another.

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