Sometimes one wonders if the Navajo Nation has seen better times, whether it is past its better days but the nature of things is that things get better, that things improve and that one can get out of the slump.
It seems like the past 20 years or so, the ship of the Navajo Nation has been rudderless, that the ship of state has floundered in a sea of doubts and uncertainty.
Are things really that bad. Maybe, maybe not. Here is the list:
• No major economic development for the past 20 years.
• No coordinated efforts to quantify and adjudicate Navajo water rights.
• No success in decentralizing the Navajo government, with greater services at the local level.
• Only one chapter has been certified in the last five years and that chapter is barely functioning.
• No major resort center has been built at the Antelope Point even though capital to finance such a center is available.
• No major effort to develop a tourist resort complex at the edge of Grand Canyon since the Big Bo Ranch was purchased in 1988.
• No success in developing a casino center along I-40 even though the potential is there.
• No long-range development plans or economic strategies have been developed since the 1980s
Why? What’s wrong? Since the 1980s, the Navajo nation has been leaderless for all practical purposes.
The 88-member council, while it has all the potential powers, cannot govern, cannot lead simply because 88 voices cannot coalesce into a unity of purpose with a single clear vision, or an objective, all of which are the necessary ingredients of effective leadership. The Navajo nation cannot succeed, will not succeed with a divided people.
The Navajo government cannot succeed and will not succeed if it tries to accommodate every little concern. Every successful individual, every successful enterprise has succeeded, not by listening to every complaint or criticism but by setting a clear goal and striving for that goal against all odds.
We may have a government but we have no leader, we may have programs but we have no plans, no objectives, and no goal for which to strive and struggle.
Add to this state of affairs is that Navajo people are divided politically, therefore no single solution will be politically viable, there must be a comprehensive approach. Navajo government, Navajo leadership must be global in vision, cosmopolitan in scope, yet locally designed to be successful. One size fits all is no longer viable for an increasingly complex Navajo society.
A leader who wins with one slogan will not be successful, a leader who appeals to all segments of the population and wins will have the necessary mandate to lead and succeed.
Applauds recent area graduates
Congratulations to this year’s graduates. You know better than any other members of our communities that we can improve education for rural Arizona’s children. Where we are failing today, we can succeed tomorrow.
Decades ago, Robert F. Kennedy wrote, “No nation, not one, has entered the ranks of modern economic society without trained and educated people …”
In order to build our communities throughout rural Arizona, employers will require a well-educated work force. It is critical to offer prospective employers for rural Arizona a well-trained and highly motivated work force.
As parents, we can teach our children the value and the excitement of education. As adults, we must support our teachers as professional educators who are entrusted with an important task. As taxpayers, we must support our superintendents who wish to provide the best educational framework in which to educate.
“The school has always been the most important means of transferring the wealth of tradition from one generation to the next.” (Albert Einstein)
Our schools must be safe havens, adequately constructed, and complete learning centers. Staff, books, instruments, athletic equipment, computers, and Internet connectivity (allowing exploration of the great libraries of the world) are all critical components for teaching and learning.
The teacher retention rate in rural Arizona must be improved with funds, housing, and ongoing education. Class sizes must be reduced. Success can be achieved by courageous participation, not by headline seeking numerical fixes. We must provide the opportunity so that our students have a choice upon graduation. They should see the opportunity in rural Arizona as well as elsewhere.
We must never accept failure where our children are concerned. Together, on behalf of today’s graduates, let us commit ourselves to improvement for tomorrow’s student. This is right for our children, right for our educators, right for our communities, and right for all rural Arizonans.