“All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days; nor in the life of this Administration; nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”
President John F. Kennedy spoke these words at his inauguration more than 50 years ago, and they still ring true today.
At a tour of the San Francisco County Jail recently, Eileen Hirst, Sheriff Michael Hennessey’s Chief of Staff, echoed similar remarks. She noted that 32 years after taking office with a pledge to bring down the dilapidated jail, Sheriff Hennessey would finally be able to swing the wrecking ball on the old jail as he leaves office this upcoming January. As she finished recounting the lawsuits, court orders, bond measure efforts, and the other roadblocks in demolishing the old jail, she came to a point that we have heard repeatedly from many individuals working in government. Results rarely appear overnight. It takes a serious commitment to see real change happen, and even then it may take 32 years.
In some ways, it’s a challenge to all of us Fellows to look inside ourselves and see if we are ready for the long haul. For the petitions from advocacy groups and the editorials in the newspapers. For the long nights and weekends of work that may be undone by a single decision that we have no control over. For the waiting for that golden policy moment. Are we up for the challenge?
As discouraging as it may be to hear that we aren’t going to change the world overnight, it is encouraging to know that there are so many people who are committed to seeing change occur. We know that the path ahead is not going to be easy. We know that there are going to be times when we feel like it would be easier just to stop. But, we also know that we are not alone.
This year I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to meet 10 outstanding individuals who are going to be the doers of tomorrow (and today). They’re going to advocate for those without a voice, shape the policies of the future, and implement the programs that will improve the lives of everyone around them.
In his inaugural speech, Kennedy said, “Let us begin.”
We all have.
Kelvin Vuong is a 2012 San Francisco Fellow.
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