Driving in to work today, Springsteen was singing “We Take Care of Our Own.” As I have been mired in the angst and deliberation of finalizing next year’s budget, his words gave me an opportunity to pause, smile and reflect on the great impact of our daily commitment to youth. College Bound graduates our seniors (96%) and sends them to college – more than 1,000 during the past four years; our Arts Academy expanded our Monday-Friday arts programming and is now providing advanced instruction and performance opportunities during Saturday mega-sessions; our growing sports leagues provide great competition, but more importantly, an opportunity to have fun and develop an active lifestyle that will hopefully last for decades.
Facilitating the Club’s budget is analyzing and choosing – considering all of the opportunities and then prioritizing and developing a plan that will allocate primarily for the most important and impactful programming while designating lesser amounts or sometimes zero for other options. Nothing different than what you do with your business and/or home budget – we can’t have it all so we try and make the best choices possible to have the greatest positive impact within our limits. And even though our organization’s budget is $5 million – we still have to make choices as we now operate 17 sites and serve over 12,000 youth annually while sadly thousands more must watch from the sidelines.
I am writing on this issue because as a nation we have the same budget limitations with one added twist – besides taking care of our own we have long accepted the responsibility of being the world’s security leader as well as its greatest foreign aid provider. The reality is that all of our domestic needs must compete with budget considerations such as Iraq ($2 trillion over the past 10 years), Afghanistan, North Korea, Syria, world hunger, global disasters, drought, terrorist camps and third-world infrastructure needs just to name a few.
As a nation, we are once again subjected to our annual budget debate – a debate that includes a national debt that could strangle our children and grandchildren in the decades to come. Other facts and factors not necessarily a major part of the discussion is that we have the highest percentage of children living in poverty since the Great Depression. Our senior citizens are living longer while we are considering cutting back Social Security and Medicare. The number of Americans living on the streets or in their cars is shameful and debilitating. Public education is reeling from rhetoric rather than having the funding needed to once again include the arts, vocational training and support for our adult immigrants. And violence in this country continues to prematurely end lives while shattering many more. Add the growing need for Americans displaced by hurricanes and tornados, the lack of proper support for our veterans when they return home from foreign wars, a nation whose infrastructure needs FDR and the WPA, and the reality that tens of millions of Americans have little or no medical or dental care – then you have to admit that the needs of our citizens have been taking a back seat to other “priorities.”
Budgeting is not a perfect science but requires tough decisions that must decrease some needs while eliminating others completely. Also, we as a nation cannot be isolationists both on a moral level as well as the necessity to protect our borders from afar. Regardless, budgeting for the 21st century must further prioritize the needs of the children and families of this great nation over everything else. We can’t make The Boss a liar – we must do a better job of taking care of our own. spt