I do not think John Lennon could have imagined this happening. I have never been to Trapani, a coastal city in Sicily, Italy, but I can guess how beautiful a place it must be. One of its city residents, Alberto Anguzza, an Italian musician woke in his apartment in early March 2020, amid a nationwide lockdown in Italy, unable to leave his apartment because of the coronavirus pandemic. That day, Alberto elected to go out on his balcony and provide some much-needed entertainment to his neighbors and friends. There were many songs he could have selected to begin his ad hoc concert with, but on that day, in that moment, he chose to perform John Lennon’s iconic song, Imagine.
In the fall of 1971, John Lennon released his classic and somewhat provocative song Imagine. The song will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in the fall of 2021 and has certainly stood the test of time. Like today, at the time of its release, Imagine provided a moment of hope during a tumultuous period filled with civil unrest, protesting, racial tensions, political division, and rising income inequality. The song, while considered idealistic by some, was a call for optimism and what is possible if we can learn to work with one another. Author David Sheff recalls in his book All We Are Saying, (a compilation of John Lennon’s last interview before his senseless murder in 1980) Lennon reflecting on the 1971 song:
“Imagine is not a mindless plea for peace, a dour elegy for victims, or simply a song against the Vietnam war. It’s a thoughtful, straight-forward message of belief that things can be better if we all believe it’s possible, and [recognize] that we all have the power to believe it’s possible.” — John Lennon
As we push ahead past the tragic and challenging events of 2020, I think the celebration of Imagines’ 50th birthday is serendipitously appropriate. Of course, while the song can be interpreted as disruptive, the underlying message of the song is about the power of unity as a tool for facing serious challenges. Perhaps we can all be reminded of and imagine what is possible when we work together to find common ground. Maybe one starting point is to acknowledge that we all would have rather done without the horrific impact that COVID-19 has had on people’s lives and livelihood. We have already begun the process of thinking of ways to work together to lift us out of this pandemic. Despite all that has occurred, I remain hopeful about what the future holds, and I am excited to see how I might be able to contribute in my small way toward that end.
When speaking with friends about ways we might contribute to a reset, post COVID, some friends and colleagues of mine have told me that this might be challenging for me because I am very direct, sometimes to a fault, and that I have very high expectations for myself and consequently those around me. I suppose I get that from my upbringing in New York City. Other people have told me that I have a strong sense of empathy and a drive to help others, and that I should leverage that passion to work on potential solutions. I am not sure if that one is correct, but I certainly like to think of myself as being someone with empathy and understanding for those around me.
Opportunity on a silver platter
During the past six months, I was both fortunate and surprised to be presented with the opportunity to co-author a new book with two friends. That experience has made me a better person, and better equipped to help contribute toward the rebuilding (post COVID), through the work I am engaged in as a community college educator. I am very aware of the serious degree of economic, social, and racial inequality that exists, but the book project caused me to become more acutely concerned about these inequities, and how COVID-19 has accentuated and magnified these imbalances.
Conservationist and educator Thomas Lovejoy wrote the forward for our new book, Impact ED, in which he says “Far too many face urgent problems of health and economic security, but almost all of us [whether we want to or not] are reinventing our lives in one way or another. Meeting the immediate needs of the less fortunate is obviously a priority, and a big one. But beyond those compassionate imperatives, there is also tremendous opportunity for what some people are calling a “Great Reset.” Our nation and the world at-large is embarking upon the next leg of this “reset.” This expedition will lead us down a road riddled with uncertainty, as we try and figure out together how best to emerge from the pandemic and begin the process of co-creating a more sustainable and equitable world. I anticipate this trek to be arduous, exciting, exhilarating, frustrating, and purposeful. The road travelled will present many challenges and unforeseen opportunities that unfold. Like all complex projects, success will depend greatly on taking this journey with a team of people that are driven to make our communities better. I am gratified to be part of a wonderful team of innovative problem finders and creative solution developers. One of our secrets is a willingness to give things a go, knowing that not everything works, but understanding that what we learn through our mistakes makes us better able to develop impactful solutions that last.
Every journey, especially one mired with significant challenges requires a map and compass, and we believe our book Impact ED is exactly that. A Roadmap for how community college entrepreneurship education creates equity and prosperity. This is of particular importance today, as we begin to think about emerging from the pandemic over the next year and consider all the questions that arise. How might policy makers, educators, leaders, and everyday entrepreneurs navigate their way through what lies ahead? What programs and structures may help to begin the healing process of a nation bogged down in division, and intensified racial and economic inequity? What skills will be needed to help us to adapt to all the uncertainty and resource constraints that we all are facing? How do we learn to rapidly test our ideas, and embrace the learning that arises from failure?
These are difficult questions, and I certainly do not know the answers. What I do know is what I have experienced firsthand working as an entrepreneurship educator and working along with students, colleagues, and thought leaders that inspire me by their actions in the face of such a disruptive time. I have witnessed the power of entrepreneurship education as a means for helping students to learn that what they had long felt was out of reach, is attainable. The inclusive and diverse nature of community colleges brings together students with varied life experiences, skills, and capabilities. As I explore our book in future articles, it is my hope that we can not only imagine but implement the many shovel ready projects profiled in the book that will help to combat inequity and create a new and more sustainable form of prosperity.