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Our Big Tent: Two Views – Choices and Opportunities

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Our Big Tent: Two Views – Choices and Opportunities

by: 
Peter Kowalski, CEO, John F. Murphy Homes Inc.
ANCOR members are passionate people. Perhaps our passion is what brought us to our work in the first place, or maybe it is a necessary ingredient to survive our turbulent profession; those without the passion simply melt away and leave for saner waters. Surely ANCOR members are survivors; just look at the battles we have had to fight. I have been an ANCOR member for over 30 years and cannot recall a meeting that I attended that we weren't looking at threats, devastation, or massive changes to our service system, yet somehow we have survived.
 
We, as ANCOR members, are not immune from either our passions or the polarization that is part of our human condition. For some the outcome of this past election is a celebratory occasion and for others a devastating loss. Our members encompass both positions. We need to accept that we have members on all sides of the political spectrum. They are all equally passionate, dedicated, well-meaning and smart people; people who on either side believe they are supporting what is right. We have different points of view. But that is OK. However it's imperative that we acknowledge and understand that we can have dramatically different points of view and be able to move forward together to do what WE do best – and that is advocating for and supporting folks with intellectual disabilities. We are still WE.
 
Within this ministry that engages us we see one of our skills and necessary qualifications as promoting change. Change in society; change around us. However at the same time we are all afraid or made uncomfortable by uncertainty; yet change and uncertainty go hand and hand.  There is a lot of anxiety about what this change will mean. We do have choices: we can choose to give in to our fears that the worst will happen, or, grab the opportunities that will be present and insure the best outcomes. Remember the words of Sir Francis Bacon: A wise man makes more opportunity than he finds. It is up to us to find those opportunities.
 
We often remember the past with a fondness that is at odds with our actual experience. As a long time ANCOR member I have lived through many changes in administration, each bringing the unknown. No matter the party, there has not been a Camelot. Each administration, whether perceived as friendly or aversive, has brought us challenges – none have brought us prosperity. Look at our most recent threat: the DOL overtime rule. Our members tell us this will devastate them. Look at how many administrations have had the opportunity to solve our work force crisis – the National Advocacy Campaign was launched days after 9/11 – yet we still struggle.  Please tell me when we have received enough funding and we weren't fighting funding cuts.
 
My friends it's time to move forward. We need to assess the opportunities this Administration will bring, and there will surely be some. We need to honestly reassess some of our positions and use that as strength and not a liability. For instance we should see a business friendly environment – how can we use that to our advantage. So let's rethink the options we have to address the DOL rule moving forward. ANCOR made a strategic decision not to oppose it – what happens if we change course and join with the Chamber of Commerce and propose other options to December 1 full implementation – we will have developed new bed fellows  that may be helpful in the process. In Maine we, for the first time, went to the state chamber of commerce looking for support in our advocacy against continued rate cuts imposed by both D’s and R’s. Much to everyone’s surprise they embraced us and promised support. What they saw was that we are a big business in Maine. We are changing  our political approach that has worked for years by showing that we are good people doing good works as well as businesses getting hurt by Government policies – it may or may not work but it's an opportunity we saw and grabbed, let's do the same thing.
 
The election is over. No matter your position, a change has happened. The people we support will not benefit from our hand wringing or our strutting. They will not benefit if we take a defeatist attitude or the attitude that we can wait this out and do better next time. They will not benefit if we decide to discount the new administration. They will however benefit if we come together and remember who WE are: no one is more capable of finding the opportunities where they might not readily appear than ANCOR members.
 
Our opportunities are only limited by our ability to see them.