Even after multiple readings of Community Wealth Partners’ Dream Forward Manifesto, I still get the chills when I review it again. I started to wonder why it had that effect on me. It inspires me because it is a representation of a philosophy, the Stockdale Paradox, that I have relied on ever since being introduced to it by Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great. Admiral Jim Stockdale was held captive for eight years in Vietnam. His survival depended on being realistic about the obstacles in his way but at the same time never giving up on his ability to overcome them. The Dream Forward Manifesto is unique in that it admits to the fears and difficulties inherent in transformational work and yet inspires us to want to work harder to change the world for the better.
I decided to try to apply the Manifesto language to our work at the Colorado Health Foundation. Here it goes:
Together, we will make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation.
We dream of a place where all kids are healthy and fit, where the healthy choice is the easy choice, where kids eat fruit the same way they automatically put on their seatbelts.
We are not shy about our bold goal; we scream it from the eastern plains, from the mountain tops, and from the mesas on our western edge.
Our eyes and ears are continuously looking for ways to reach families with healthy, affordable food – how about kids taking home from school healthy family dinners prepared by the school lunch staff?
We get impatient because we want everyone to see the urgency and the long-term benefits the way we do (they are so obvious) and yet we live in a short-term culture that does not value investments for the long term.
We get discouraged with the lack of physical education in our schools and the dramatic increase of screen time over play time (recently named “arm chair suicide”).
We sometimes secretly fear that the countervailing forces are stronger than us, that we will not be able to overcome the hurdles of raising healthy kids – time, money, cheap and popular but unhealthy food.
But we don’t give up. We won’t give up. We keep going.
We didn’t set this goal because we thought it was low-hanging fruit; we set it because we believe it is essential to the prosperity of our state.
The dream is worth pursuing because kids are the future. Healthy kids will do well in school, be great employees, raise healthy kids, and allow our state to spend money on education, transportation, and other critical needs rather than health care for diseases caused by obesity.
And the dream always asks more of us and when it does, we have to elevate ourselves to match the challenge. We need to redesign our buildings and our communities to make physical activity a part of our everyday life, not a required trip to the gym.
I love being unreasonable if that means disrupting the norm so that a new normal can be created – a normal that makes health a right just like education is a right.
We will make everyone an ally in the fight for healthy kids. Even soda companies will want to participate by formulating healthy beverages that kids love.
We can’t afford to act any way but boldly and when the world pushes back, man, do we Dream Forward all the more.