Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Brother, can you spare a government bailout?

This is actually a post from our newest BrightBlueBlog contributor, Susan Dodia. I wanted to introduce you to her personally to say that she is one of the smartest, funniest, kindest people on the planet. Several of us at BrightBlue worked together at a Dallas software company, and have had the pleasure of knowing each other for 12 years. Enjoy!

It's a new year, the time when we are all feeling like we have a chance for a fresh start. That's why they are called “New Year's” resolutions, not “Mid-summer's” resolutions. Watch an hour of television, any hour, and you will see even more aggressive advertising for diets, gym memberships, and educational opportunities during the month of January.

But this year seems different. In addition to a Presidential Inauguration that has fascinated the United States, as well as the rest of the world, like no other in recent memory;

We are living in strange times, economically. On the last Monday in January, 50,000 jobs in the United States were lost in one day. This type of economic purge is unprecedented in my lifetime. It looks like a lot of people are getting a fresh start this year, whether they planned to or not.

I had four grandparents who were children and teenagers during the Great Depression. Sadly, none of them are alive to advise me during this time, but I think I have a good idea of what they would tell me, if they were still here:

Be patient, they would say - life is long and nothing last forever. Be kind; we don't know what other people are going through until we have walked a mile in their shoes. Be smart; look for opportunities, even in the bleakest times.

Both of my grandfathers were keenly interested in the stock market and were lifelong investors, even though their early memories and experiences were shaped by the Stock Market Crash of 1929. If they were alive today, they would probably tell me about the successful companies that were started, or those that grew and thrived, during The Depression. The lesson, they would tell me, is that these companies offered something that people wanted, regardless of what the headlines on the business page said.

My grandfathers might mention the White Castle hamburger chain, which started in 1921 and expanded to over 100 locations around the U.S. by 1930. The first A&W Root Beer stand opened in 1919; in 1933, there were 170 locations nationally. Harland Sanders opened his first restaurant in Kentucky in 1930, and specialized in fried chicken. Today, we still visit KFC for chicken made with the Colonel Sanders original recipe.

In an ironic twist, those quick service restaurants that gave rise to today's modern-day fast food purveyors actually contributed to the creation of another multi-billion dollar industry that thrives today: the ones that are advertising diet programs and gym memberships on my television set this cold January afternoon.

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