2012 SCI Luncheon Chairman's Remarks
By Alberto B. Calvo, Board Chair
On behalf of the Board of Directors of SCI, I would like to welcome you to our 10th Anniversary Luncheon. SCI has been a leader and innovator in strengthening communities in Massachusetts. In these difficult times facing our communities, “building social capital” has been front and center in defining a new paradigm for our nation’s future. Since the publication of the seminal book, “Bowling Alone”, by the sociologist and political scientist Robert Putnam,matters have become worse not better.In his book, Putnam carefully documents and helps to explain the loss of “social capital” in the United States in recent decades. I just finished reading the “Price of Civilization” a provocative book by Jeffrey Sachs,a renowned international economist from Columbia University, who assertsthat we have become a “distracted society”.We have equated greater personal consumption and the pursuit of wealth with human happiness.We have become a society glued to the TV and enamored with electronic communications at the expense of human interaction. In the process, we have forgotten the less fortunate among us and have left the poor behind creating one of the widest personal income gaps in the world, between the rich and poor. We have focused on our own individual risks and wealth creation at the expense of being more sensitive to compassion, trust and honesty. This erosion in social capital is quite visible today, evidenced by the collapse of the financial system, the housing crises, the ballooning national debt, the impasse in Washington and the weak economy. Sachs states that the US is one of the world’s richest nations measured by per capita income, however, it ranks 17th in measures of “life satisfaction”.
Sachs proposes an alternative;he calls it “a mindful society”. Building this society requires a more considerate understanding of our social responsibilities as workers, citizens and members of our local community. He offers eight dimensions for this “mindful society”, which includes: 1) Mindfulness of others with the exercise of compassion and cooperation; 2)Mindfulness of politics: the cultivation of public deliberation and shared values for collective action; 3) Mindfulness of the world with the acceptance of diversity as a path to peace. These eight areas will help refashion our own personal priorities and institutions so that the economy serves the ultimate pursuit of life happiness and satisfaction, which he considers to be the ultimate economic measure.
SCI has been front and center in the pursuit of this “mindful society”. SCI is educating future leaders in civic engagement, promoting volunteerism, working with youth in strengthening communities and building social capital. I’ve experienced this personally in partnering with SCI’sAmeriCorps members in conducting food drives in our stores, in the cities of Lynn and Chelsea. The building of social capital requires commitment, trust and hard work by all of us, along with the financial resources to carry the mission forward. We ask you to join us in this cause. President Kennedy summarized the true meaning of building social capital when he said, “"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country".