The year 2008 hasn’t been a lot of fun.
In fact, most Americans probably look back on the past 12 months as a time of anxiety and stress. The nation’s economy has been a bummer, causing millions of workers to lose their jobs. Millions of Americans lost their homes. The just-completed national elections seemed to focus more on negative issues rather than the many positives citizens of this country enjoy. And there is concern about what is going to happen in the coming 12 months.
A year or so ago, maybe a year and a half, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the worldwide threat of terrorist actions, was the No. 1 concern of Americans. However, within a short time, economic conditions soured, and the wars and terrorism moved off the front pages.
The federal government, in growing numbers of actions, is taking greater control of our lives, and there is justification to worry about what is likely to happen with the new Obama administration and with both the Senate and House in control of the Democrats.
How long is it going to be before various economic indicators provide information that gives individuals reason to believe times are getting better, that private business, job opportunities, employment numbers and the stock market are on the upswing?
And how safe is this country from terrorist attacks? President Bush may be criticized for many actions or lack of actions but, either by excellent intelligence, superior hard work by thousands of unheralded security men and women, or by good fortune, there have not been any successful terrorist attacks on American soil since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington.
Will situations develop in other parts of the world that will cause American troops to be deployed and perhaps engaged in combat conditions?
Again, there are many worries and concerns, and millions of American citizens face dire circumstances. Headlines in this nation’s newspapers paint a rather bleak picture. According to passionate Obama supporters, today’s problems are due primarily to the past eight years of the Bush administration. They claim he hasn’t done anything right. However, these same Bush-haters and Obama fanatics say Obama and his team of all-stars will quickly turn things around, millions of new jobs will be created in the next year, America will regain the international admiration and support they claim was lost during the Bush years, U.S. dependence on foreign oil will be eliminated in 10 years, and Obama will deliver on the campaign pledge he made some months ago to have American troops out of Iraq in 16 months. When this 16-month count begins has yet to be specified.
All of these national and international situations do affect what goes on in Lawrence and the state of Kansas, but Lawrence and Kansas face their own challenges.
What is the state going to do to counter the likelihood of a $1 billion budget shortfall in the next fiscal year? How will the state fund badly needed programs?
Will Gov. Kathleen Sebelius complete her next two years in office or will she receive such an attractive offer from Obama that she will leave her Topeka office to move into an important Washington, D.C., or international post?
Can Kansas develop the know-how to build the nation’s cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power plant? Will the state’s divided Republican Party join hands to create and reinvigorate itself into the strong, progressive party of past years?
How long will it be before the handful of state bioscience organizations join forces into a single body with outstanding leadership to be a more effective, well-coordinated effort that uses dollars far more efficiently for the benefit of the state?
The No. 1 challenge facing Lawrence, as well as the state, is to make sure a superior individual is selected as the next chancellor of Kansas University. A top-flight chancellor can do wonders for the university, the city of Lawrence and the state.
However, chances for finding such an individual and selling him or her on being a candidate for this position will be determined to a great degree on the composition of the search committee and who chairs that committee.
How committed are members of the committee? What do they know about hiring a chancellor, and do they have the knowledge of high-profile current leaders, as well as future stars-to-be who would be ideal candidates for the Mount Oread job? How well are they able to identify and sell a candidate on the benefits of the KU job? Professional search firms can offer some names, but, in a sense, the main role of such firms and the usual cookie-cutter search teams put together by the university for the Kansas Board of Regents to approve is to ensure a politically correct search process and give the impression that anyone and everyone has a shot at the job.
Another factor is the problem that some think the entire search process should be conducted for all to see, with the finalists identified and brought to the campus to get a thumbs-up or thumbs-down from students and faculty. Such a policy is sure to keep some very highly qualified candidates from saying “yes” to the invitation when such action would force them to tell their current employer they are looking for another job.
Lawrence faces many challenges, but finding a top-flight, outstanding individual to move into the chancellor’s office is the most important task. It cannot be overstated, and yet, it is in the hands of a 15- to 20-member, politically correct committee that probably doesn’t sense any urgency to its assignment.
Hopefully, by this time next year, Obama will have shown true leadership and Sebelius will have governed in a manner that is best for the entire state, not in a partisan political manner. It’s debatable whether the KU chancellor search committee will have this strong leadership and the sense of urgency to have a new chancellor, a chancellor who is a true winner in every respect, in office by June 2009.
All of this represents a large “wish list,” but there is no reason it cannot be fulfilled.