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Millennials want to work for employers committed to values and ethics

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Of those born between 1981 and 1996, 62% want to work for a company that makes a positive impact.
by Matthew Jenkin

There’s a quiet revolution happening across Britain’s workforce, but it’s not about pay, hours or contracts. It’s a coup d’état led by the nation’s young, politically engaged jobseekers who demand employers enshrine values and ethics in their business model, not just profit.

Almost half the workforce (42%) now want to work for an organisation that has a positive impact on the world, according to research carried out by consultancy Global Tolerance. The survey of more than 2,000 people in the UK found 44% thought meaningful work that helped others was more important than a high salary and 36% would work harder if their company benefitted society.

The change, it would appear, is being driven by the so-called millennials. Of those born between 1981 and 1996, 62% want to work for a company that makes a positive impact, half prefer purposeful work to a high salary, and 53% would work harder if they were making a difference to others.

This has serious ramifications for employers. Ignoring the mood of the next generation means closing yourself off to two thirds of the young talent pool. It’s not surprising therefore that companies big and small are eager to trumpet their values and ethical policies.

The business case for running a values-driven firm also extends beyond recruitment. Consultant Simon Cohen believes having a company-wide aspiration to make a positive difference will also boost staff motivation and lead to an increase in productivity and efficiency.

Cohen, a writer and social commentator, left a lucrative career in advertising in 2003 because he felt unhappy about the lack of values at the heart of the company’s business model. Aged 23, he set up Global Tolerance (now run by CEO Rosie Warin), a company which prides itself on working with people committed to positive social change. Its impressive portfolio includes the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson and Prince Charles.

He explains the success of the business was not despite their values but because of them. There’s more to doing the right thing, he says, than receiving a patronising pat on the shoulder – it just makes really good business sense.

Cohen says: “By creating a culture and environment which has values that are meaningful and aligned with those of staff, people are more motivated to work for you and will bend over backwards for things that they believe in.

“Employees are not just doing it because it is a job, the work becomes an extension of themselves. Values don’t stop or start when you get into the office or go home, they are a part of you and what you are passionate about.”

Whether you are a twenty-something graduate or in an established career, a level of cynicism is wise in a market now saturated with businesses falling over themselves to prove their worth as an ethical employer. Cohen says he has observed a huge boom in corporations which have seen the business potential of positivity in the market and being perceived to be values driven.

There has been a lot of greenwashing and people are right to be wary, he says. “There’s no point just saying that compassion is a value on the homepage of your website – compassion needs to permeate the whole business.

“Businesses need to reflect very deeply about what their values are and how they can demonstrate it across the business culture. We live in a time where we have a very astute public and they can smell bullshit a million miles off.”

Sharon Goymer, resourcing manager for National Grid, says the growing trend for more values-driven business models has had a massive impact on recruitment. She agrees, however, that it’s not good enough for the business to wear its values on its sleeve. In order to gain the trust and loyalty of staff you need to walk the talk.

“A lot of the energy industry is made up of male workers in their 40s, 50s and 60s. One of our big priorities is improving diversity and bringing in the next generation,” Goymer explains. “Having our values up front attracts these individuals to the organisation, but it’s not about just saying it, it’s about presenting the evidence to support it.”

National Grid is achieving this through running educational activities in schools to encourage young people of all levels and backgrounds to pursue science, engineering, maths and technology careers, while staff are encouraged to undertake some form of volunteering during their time at the company. The company, which was named Responsible Business of the Year last summer, also set up an employee group aimed at fostering ethnic diversity and inclusivity among its workforce.

If companies are keen for their values to reflect those of their workforce, what role do employees have in shaping the business’s policies? Goymer warns that changing a company’s values too often at the whim of staff can be problematic in a large corporation with a diversity of views and cultures. However, in a small business there may be room for more flexibility.

Entrepreneur Ciaron Dunne founded Cambridge-based Office Genie in 2008 after graduating from the city’s university. He was keen to recruit a team of hard-working creatives who would lead the digital startup to success. At the same time, however, he wanted a workforce that was motivated by more than just money and placed an emphasis on giving back to the local community.

Staff members have taken part in voluntary work including a litter-pick at the river and renovating a charity premises. Staff are also encouraged to focus on professional growth and the company is introducing a 20% rule where all employees are required to spend that amount of office time on a professional growth project.

Dunne admits that most of these projects were not solely management decisions – they were initiated by staff members.

He says: “When you recruit people who are looking for more out of life than just money, it is inevitable that those individuals will suggest you should be doing more for the community.

“The feedback from employees is also that it is something they want to do. In our staff survey, we had 100% saying they would recommend working for us. The retention rate is therefore high.

“I believe in Office Genie as a business, but there are some aspects which are of course relatively dry. But you can get people very motivated very quickly by buying into what the company stands for, what it wants to achieve and the culture it wants to have.”

 

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4 Questions Experts Can Answer Without Thinking by Scott James, Greenleaf Book Group

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This spring, I spent a lot of time at happy hours during SXSW Interactive, and while the venues changed, many things stayed the same: Smart people wearing clunky lanyards, sipping free drinks and talking about the future. The energy was electric, and everyone was there to learn, meet interesting people, and grow.

I got to talk to a lot of established experts as well as a lot of people building a platform and reputation around their expertise. In many ways, my SXSW conversations weren’t all that different from the conversations I have everyday with authors about brand strategy around their books.

As I talked to people, it struck me that there was a clear line between experts who have built a platform and brand around their expertise and experts who are great at their work but haven’t figured out how to launch that one big idea or build a truly successful platform.

I think there’s indeed a “secret sauce,” and it’s simple yet profound. Experts know the answers to questions like these:

  • What are you doing right now that’s working?
  • What is it about what you say that makes people care?
  • What are you doing next?

Experts who have built a platform around their expertise are ready to talk about these things at the drop of a hat. Their answers, at any given moment, may be trending positive or negative, but the telling fact for me is that experts with big ideas think about specific, high level gauges of success, progress and growth all the time and guide their actions and initiative accordingly.

If you’re building your own platform as an expert or have a big idea you’re looking to launch in the not too distant future, here’s your chance to test yourself on where you’re at with these questions.

  1. What’s working? Experts know. Why? Because they measure. This is true in every aspect of what’s happening, whether it be on the web, in print, or in person.

Experts who build a business around their expertise know which email approach adds the most to their bottom line, they know which events get them more clients, and they know if flying to a certain city for a certain client is the right move. They know this because they have a system in place to keep track, and they take the time to assess and understand. They take the guesswork out of trying new things. Every successful expert I talk to can tell me the two or three things they do that drives their business and expands their audience—and they can tell me without thinking about it too hard. It’s part of everything they do and how they do it. Can you tell me the two or three most effective things you did last year?

  1. What is making you stand out? This is always compelling to hear from someone who knows. If an expert understands his or her differentiator and personal brand, it sounds simple and obvious—of course, that’s because they’ve done the work.

Most people just stumble through an answer and talk about what they themselves like about what they do, or what they are excited about. This misses the point. Experts with strong personal brands know that they are swimming in a crowded ocean, and they can pinpoint what it is about what they do that other people get excited about, and they know how to talk about what they do in a way that honors their uniqueness and targets the specific needs of the people they want to influence. Can you tell me how the essence of what you do will change my day to day life?

  1. What’s next? Experts have a long-term plan, but they also know the specific project (or projects) they are doing next.

Experts think several steps ahead, and that ability to be deeply in the project that is happening now but also already be thinking at 50,000 feet and how today is laying a foundation for three years from now is a difficult mental tightrope to walk. But where some people get buried in the details of their current project and let everything else go, missing the forest for the tree, experts can walk that tightrope because they know it’s critical. Experts can’t afford to wait until after their current project to think about what’s next. And really, none of us can. Can you tell me the next big idea you’re launching?

  1. What do you want to be doing in 5 years? This may feel like cheating because it sounds similar to #3, but I think of it as distinctly different. I’m talking about what you want to be actively doing day-to-day, not which accomplishments you want to check off.

This is a key nuanced difference I see over and over in the way experts who are making it happen talk about their future vs. those who are still looking for the right way forward. Successful experts build a community that they can work and grow within, so the question becomes how they want to be doing their work and with whom, rather than what award do they want to win or what endgame they want to pursue. Do you have a vision for how you want to be spending your time 5 years from now?

Scott James is the manager of brand strategy at Greenleaf Book Group, a publisher and distributor best known for its innovative business model, distribution power and award-winning designs.

 

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Did Tesla Just Kill Nuclear Power?

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Tesla Motors TSLA -0.71% CEO Elon Musk was about to announce an industrial-scale battery, Gundersen said, that would cost about 2¢ per kilowatt hour to use, putting the final nail in the coffin of nuclear power.

Thus Tesla’s big news broke first not amongst the throng of reporters gathered under swirling colored lights at the carmaker’s Los Angeles press conference, but in the middle of a debate on the future of nuclear power sponsored by students agitating for a “Fossil Free NU.” It was Gundersen vs. Jordi Roglans-Ribas, the director of the Nuclear Engineering Division of Argonne National Laboratory.

Roglans-Ribas had just finished arguing that any future free of fossil fuels would need nuclear power, which provides carbon-free energy 24 hours a day, supplying the reliability lacking in renewables like solar and wind.

Gundersen called that claim a “marketing ploy.”

“We all know that the wind doesn’t blow consistently and the sun doesn’t shine every day,” he said, “but the nuclear industry would have you believe that humankind is smart enough to develop techniques to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, but at the same time human kind is so dumb we can’t figure out a way to store solar electricity overnight. To me that doesn’t make sense.”

Then Gundersen told the audience of about 80 students and visitors that it was a momentous day in history—because of something that was about to happen in California. He evoked Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal , chairman of SpaceX and SolarCity SCTY -0.28%, and the product architect for Tesla Motors:

“At about ten ‘o’clock tonight he’s going to hold a press conference and he’s going to announce that he’s going to build industrial scale storage batteries. While the announcement is still two hours away, it appears that they’ll be able to produce these large batteries for about 2¢ per kilowatt hour. That’s an enormous breakthrough,” Gundersen said.

“So the nuclear argument that they’re the only 24-7 source is off the table now because Elon Musk has convinced me that industrial scale storage is in fact possible, and it’s here.”

And a few hours later Musk announced the launch of Tesla Energy, ”a suite of batteries for homes, businesses, and utilities fostering a clean energy ecosystem and helping wean the world off fossil fuels.” Many had anticipated the batteries—but not the price.

Tesla will sell the home battery, the Tesla Powerwall, for $3,500, a fraction of the $13,000 price observers had expected, and perhaps more importantly, a fraction of the cost of the $10,000 battery announced earlier this week by European competitors Sungevity and Sonnenbatterie.

Musk did not describe the cost of the utility-scale battery, but the prospect of a cheap new battery powered Gundersen’s economic argument as he collegially set out to demolish the nuclear claim:

The UK government just signed an agreement guaranteeing a price of 16 cents per kilowatt hour for power generated by a reactor proposed for Hinkley Point, on the coast at Somerset, England. That fresh contract represents an example, Gundersen argued, of the market price of new nuclear power.

Solar power costs six to seven cents, he said, and wind costs four or five cents. Add 2¢ for the cost of a utility-scale Tesla battery, and renewables with reliable storage are still at half the price of new nuclear power.

They’re also approaching the price of existing nuclear power.

“Here in Illinois you know it’s true because Exelon EXC -2.26% is threatening to close five nuclear plants because they can’t compete with wind anymore.”

The real cost of various sources of energy is a topic of debate. Last year the U.S. Dept of Energy said the cost of wind power had reached a new low of 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour (pdf). The cost of solar is typically pegged much higher, but the UN Energy Information Agency estimates solar is on a path to a cost of about 4 cents per kilowatt hour in coming decades. [Lazard has utility-scale solar at 6 cents in 2017.]

Gundersen is a former nuclear engineer and executive who lost his job in 1990 after reporting safety violations to his employer. He testifies and campaigns against nuclear power for Fairewinds Energy Education, a non-profit founded by his wife, Maggie Gundersen, also a former nuclear industry employee.

Gundersen’s debate opponent, Roglans-Ribas, did not address the Tesla battery development. He based his argument largely on reliability before Gundersen played that card, and he suggested that reliability alone would not sustain nuclear power—that it would need regulatory help to compete.

“To actually be able to incentivize reliability in the electric grid will be the key,” Roglans-Ribas said. “And that is where nuclear power can play a key role.”

Each kilogram of uranium burned in a reactor saves “thousands or millions of tons of CO2 emissions,” he said, conceding that “renewables can do the same thing.” But if the U.S. depends entirely on renewables, he predicted, a point will come when the supply cannot meet the demand.

“The solution to moving way from fossil fuels, moving away from greenhouse gas emissions, the solution is a mix that includes nuclear and includes also renewables and also other sources, including for example gas turbines that provide peaking power,” Roglans-Ribas concluded.

Curbing Cars: A Forbes eBook
Find out why a growing number of Americans are giving up their cars for good.

But Gundersen dismissed the nuclear contribution as too expensive and too slow—even if the U.S. could license and afford new reactors, they could not come online before 2023—and he replaced the nuclear contribution with batteries and conservation.

“The operative word in this discussion tonight is now. What are we going to do now to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere?”  he said. “These things can be implemented immediately. We know how to insulate a building. We know how to put double and triple-pane windows in them. We know how to build windmills and put solar cells up. These are immediate things. We don’t have to invest $50 trillion and wait 15 years for that to come to fruition.

“Producing our way out of the problem with renewables is half the solution. Conserving our way out is the other half.”

Read The Followup:

Why Tesla Batteries Are Cheap Enough To Prevent New Power Plants

China: Electric Vehicle-To-Grid Technology Could Solve Renewable Energy Storage Problem
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Cisco names Chuck Robbins as CEO, John Chambers stays as chairman

cisco-600xx3183-2122-0-0by Cromwell Schubarth

Cisco Systems named Chuck Robbins as John Chambers’ successor as CEO, effective at the end of July.
Robbins, the San Jose company’s senior vice president of world-wide operations, joined Cisco in 1997, two years after Chambers became CEO.
Chambers, 65, will remain as executive chairman. In his time the company grew into the world’s dominant networking equipment company, going from $1.2 billion in annual revenue 20 years ago to about $48 billion today.

“This is the perfect time for Chuck Robbins to become Cisco’s next chief executive officer,” Chambers said in a press release.

The move comes at a time when Cisco is facing what some consider to be its toughest challenge, staying on top as the network and infrastructure market it has dominated shifts from a hardware focus to a software focus.
Robbins was a key player in two of Cisco’s biggest acquisitions in recent years, done to help it ward off the challenge of cloud-based rivals. He was executive sponsor of the $1.2 billion purchase of San Francisco-based Meraki in 2012 and the $2.7 billion purchase of data security company Sourcefire in 2013.
But in addition to the challenge for software upstarts, Cisco is facing reduced purchasing by telecommunications carriers and lower demand in China.
The company is also moving to position itself as the continued networking leader as data demands are expected to mushroom from connected automobiles, household and commercial equipment that make up the “Internet of Things.”
Board members Roderick McGeary and Francine Katsoudas said in a blog post that the search for a new CEO has been going on for the past 16 months.
“Chuck will both accelerate what makes Cisco an undeniably great company and also drive the transformation to carry the company to a whole new level,” they wrote. “Chuck has the full confidence and trust of the Cisco Board as we enter this next chapter.”
Chambers’ time at the helm was not without its rough patches, particularly after a failed move to consumer electronics that was highlighted by the $590 million purchase of Flip video camera maker Pure Digital in 2009. Two years later, Chambers cut that effort short and began a restructuring that eliminated nearly 8,000 jobs in two years.
At one point during the dotcom bubble, Cisco was the most valuable company in the world with a market cap of $555 billion. It’s market cap today is around $149 billion.
Cisco stock on Monday was relatively unchanged from its Friday closing price of $29.13. It has risen about 6 percent this year and is up about 30 percent in the past 12 months.

 

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Happy May Day, which used to be green instead of red

by Lloyd Alder

This is a reprise of an May Day post written earlier.

The first of May used to be a happy celebration of spring. According to The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of MAY DAY, everybody was into it.

The Greeks had their sacred groves, the Druids their oak worship, the Romans their games in honor of Floralia. In Scotland the herdsman formed circles and danced around fires. The Celts lit bonfires in hilltops to honor their god, Beltane. In the Tyrol people let their dogs bark and made music with pots and pans. In Scandinavia fires were lit and the witches came out.

Everywhere people “went a-Maying” by going into the woods and bringing back leaf, bough, and blossom to decorate their persons, homes, and loved ones with green garlands. Outside theater was performed with characters like “Jack-in-the-Green” and the “Queen of the May.” Trees were planted. Maypoles were erected. Dances were danced. Music was played. Drinks were drunk, and love was made. Winter was over, spring had sprung.

Harpers Magazine coverage of Haymarket Massacre/Public Domain

Really, everyone was having such a good time, until the industrial revolution and the long hours that made a thing such as May Day impossible for most workers. In 1886 there was a nationwide call to limit working hours to 8 hours a day; On May 1, in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, it turned into a debacle. Dynamite was thrown; Police reacted by shooting into the crowd, killing four; a trial was held and four workers were hanged, who came to be considered martyrs for the labor movement. From that day on, it became a day of protest about workers’ rights. In 1889 the Second International declared it to be International Workers Day. The Russian revolution started on it, which really turned the day from green to red in the minds of Americans, many of whom do not think much of the labor movement. Everybody has been trying to kill it ever since.

© Veteran Owned Business

In 1921, in response to the Bolshevik revolution, May 1 was observed as Americanization day. In 1958, President Eisenhower declared it to be Loyalty Day, ” a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.” That’s where it remains today in America.

Village Scene with Dance around the May Pole, Bruegel./Public Domain

It was so much more fun before it got political. In honor of how it used to be, get outside today and admire a tree.

Tags: Holidays | Wayback Machine

 

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Not another Bush or Clinton: political dynasties reach for ‘regular Joe’ status

Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush – the US is overflowing with dynastic ambition. Why are Americans still getting the same names on the ballot?

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George Bush Sr, George W and Jeb play golf at the Cape Arundel club in Maine in 2001. Photograph: Corbis/Reuters

Dan Roberts in Kennebunkport, Maine

 

A short stroll from Walker’s Point, where the ancestral estate of the Bush dynasty juts out commandingly into the Atlantic ocean, there is a political campaign slogan in urgent need of fresh clarification.

“Barbara’s husband for president,” joked the original badge from George HW Bush’s 1992 campaign – still proudly on display in the Bush family’s local lobster restaurant in Kennebunkport, Maine.

That is, at least, until someone helpfully scrawled over the word ‘husband’ and added ‘son’ instead; updating the joke when George W Bush ran for the White House eight years later.

Within days, it will be time to update it again, to “Barbara’sother son”. Jeb Bush is set to announce – against his mother’s initial advice – that he will be joining the family tradition and seeking the Republican party nomination for president.

The Bush predilection for power is nothing new. Jeb’s grandfather, Prescott, was a US senator. Great-grandfather George Herbert Walker, developer of the Kennebunkport promontory that still bears his name, also founded a Wall Street bank.

But New England is overflowing with enough dynastic ambition right now to make even scions of the gilded age blush.

In nearby New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton has been retracing the steps of her husband in the Democratic primary race.

Ahead in the polls by more than 50 points over a clutch of possible rivals who haven’t even confirmed yet if they will dare run against her, the former first lady is touring furniture factories in towns like Keene, where, she confides, she once celebrated her 44th birthday helping Bill in a campaign that ultimately kicked Barbara’s husband out of office.

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“My husband was here 15 years ago,” Clinton was overheard telling kitchen workers at a Concord technical college as she tries to break the ice.

With Clinton’s experience as a secretary of state, senator and previous candidate, there is much more to her presidential résumé than the family name, but even Clinton’s biggest fans admit she lacks her husband’s common touch when it comes to retail politics.

Combine this with a tactical decision to withhold any major policy pronouncements until later in the campaign, and Clinton’s heavily manicured tour for now takes on more of the appearance of a royal visit than anything as grubby as appealing for votes.

“The press will have plenty of time to ask her questions,” her campaign chairman, John Podesta, told PBS recently, after complaints she was too aloof to even field enquiries from the media. “She wants to go directly to voters to listen to their stories, to understand what the challenges of their lives are, and that’s why she’s back in the van and on her way to New Hampshire.”

Driving to small-town venues – in a vehicle nicknamed the Scooby van by her campaign staff, but a good deal smarter in reality – is central to an effort to defuse the effects of family fame and associated reputation for snootiness.

It is hard to imagine many other politicians worrying about the optics of flying, but America’s new aristocrats appear more aware than most that privilege and fame is both their biggest asset and an awkward handicap.

“Everybody knows me as George’s boy. Barbara’s boy. W’s brother,” Bush complained to party activists in New Hampshire the previous Friday. “We’re not always like our brother or sister or mom and dad. We all have our own unique DNA and our own life experiences.”

But rather than run from the family name entirely, the former Florida governor is appealing instead to his party’s sense of noblesse oblige – crafting a new version of his brother’s somewhat faded brand of compassionate conservatism.

“I am blessed … It turns out I won the lottery, and I wish that everybody would have the kind of upbringing I had,” Jeb Bush explains at the event in Nashua. “My set of values believes that the most vulnerable in our society should be in the front of the line, not in the back of the line. And Republicans, I think, do better when we show our consciousness to do the exact same.”

Even those explicitly running as outsiders – crusaders against the “Washington machine”, as Kentucky senator Rand Paul puts it – have family connections to thank for their prominence.

Senator Paul’s father, Ron, may not have made it as far in his presidential campaigns as the two Bushes and Bill Clinton, but he bequeathed to his son a powerful legacy of goodwill among libertarian-leaning voters, without which it is hard to imagine him getting as far as he has done.

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Rand Paul with his father Ron at a campaign event in 2011. Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP

Ironically, all three of these dynastic candidates are seeking to distinguish themselves by stressing their credentials as cheerleaders for social mobility and change.

“Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion,” says Clinton.

Bush argues that America will succeed only if “more and more and more people have a chance at earned success”.

“So often, we pick politicians who all look alike,” adds Paul, also in Nashua. “They all sound alike. They all dress alike. And guess what? Nothing ever changes!”

It is true that the clans of 2016 are hardly the first political families to repeatedly seek high office. John, Robert and Ted Kennedy also collected two Senate seats and a presidency between them.

Last November’s midterm election witnessed an extraordinary array of established political dynasties vying for seats in Congress: the Nunn and Purdue families of Georgia, the Begichs of Alaska, the Pryors of Arkansas, the Landrieus of Louisiana and the Lundergans in Kentucky – to name just the races in swing states.

But the very real chance of Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush both winning their parties’ presidential nominations in the same year is another leap entirely, raising the prospect of voters having no choice but to choose from members of two families that have already clocked up two decades at the top of US government since 1988.

Such unprecedented elitism in a country that prides itself as the “exceptional” democracy has begun to provoke uncomfortable comparisons from unlikely quarters.

“If the presidency were to pass back and forth between two or three families in any Latin American nation, we would call it an oligarchy,” wrote Gary Hart – a Democrat who might well have beaten George Bush Sr were it not for a sex scandal.

It has not gone unnoticed abroad, either. Clinton’s campaign has already become a source of endless fascination for the foreign media – attracting 140 journalists from around the world so far and adding another public relations headache for aides who have been forced to dramatically ration reporting space inside her events.

Yet the response in Washington has been strangely muted.

Though some presidential rivals, such as Republican Marco Rubio, are deliberately selling themselves as fresh faces, the consensus among Beltway pundits is that it might even help Bush and Clinton if the other ran – since their dynastic handicaps would cancel each other out.

A more cynical explanation might be that the incestuous political media world is too full of its own privilege to be that shocked. Prominent examples of family connections certainly abound: NBC’s congressional reporter is the son of the influential Meet the Press host Tim Russert; MSNBC’s flagship morning show is co-hosted by the daughter of former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski; and CNN’s morning rival is co-hosted by the son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo and the brother of current New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

But the cosiness of Washington’s political and media class may just as easily be regarded as a reflection of modern America.

One of the reasons Bush and Clinton have stressed the need to focus on “everyday Americans” is a growing consensus in both parties that the American dream is in trouble – that rising income inequality is choking off social mobility.

Could the current lack of mobility among presidential families simply be an extreme manifestation of the very thing they claim to want to tackle?

Academics who have studied the relationship closely say the reality is more complicated than the soundbites of this year’s presidential campaigns suggest. Widening income inequality in US is real enough – though more so among the very rich than the very poor – but evidence that this is leading to reduced chances of people climbing the social ladder, perhaps even all the way to the White House, is harder to come by.

“There are a bunch of papers now that show the United States isn’t all that different from Germany, France, Britain or even Sweden,” says Christopher Jencks, a leading social policy professor in the field at Harvard University.

“The revisionist line on this is going to end up being that there really isn’t that much evidence that we are much worse than these other countries.”

Which is not to say that politicians cannot or should not do anything about rising inequality for other reasons.

For Jencks and other liberal academics studying social mobility, the biggest area of potential concern is how soaring student debt is deterring poorer families from going to college and earning more in future: precisely the area that Hillary Clinton is being pushed hardest to address by those on the left of her party who want bold promises to subsidise tuition fees.

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Hillary and Bill Clinton step across the South Lawn at the White House in September 1998. Photograph: Richard Ellis/Zuma Press/Corbis

It may also simply be the case that the peculiarities of choosing presidential candidates say more about America’s broken political system than they do about whether the American dream is broken, too.

One factor in the swift rise of Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush in 2016 has been their ability to draw on advisers and donors built over many years by their predecessors.

Though her campaign is officially only a few days old, Clinton’s team has already been able to assemble more staff on the ground in New Hampshire than almost all the Republicans combined. Some 19 of the 21 experts identified as helping Jeb Bush on foreign policy worked for his father and brother.

“Running for president now starts a lot earlier and it requires this enormous organisation,” argues Jencks. “If you have already got relatives who have done a lot of this stuff, your ability to put that organisation together is a lot greater. The existence of these primaries makes inheriting the machine more of an asset because the primaries are playing a bigger role since the 1970s.”

Above all, the family name is a shortcut to national recognition, something that the Marco Rubios of the race may need months and many millions of dollars to match – although the inherited advantage may evaporate as fast as Clinton’s did in 2008 if newcomers can gain enough momentum to turn voters against the dynasties. That is a factor Barack Obama used to great effect and Rubio and others will try to emulate this time.

“Brands have become more important,” adds Jencks. “It’s a huge advantage to have everyone know who you are. You don’t have to spend as much money to get there.”

Back in Kennebunkport, it’s certainly clear that the Bush dynasty has a brand. Much of the town’s thriving tourism industry trades off its proximity the family summer residence.

Yet the Bush ties to socially liberal Maine have also helped balance out the family’s more conservative roots in Texas.

In the Kennebunkport general store, HB Provisions, there is still a surprised delight that George HW Bush agreed to serve as a witness at the same-sex marriage of its two owners, Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen, in 2013 – a scenario that has flummoxed many candidates in the current crop of conservatives.

But the biggest shock is that a family dynasty that has proved so ruthlessly effective at capturing political power can otherwise prove so “surprisingly normal”.

“We were just chit-chatting away,” recalls local baker Ellen Hansbury. “Then someone came up to me and said: ‘Hey, do you know who that is? That’s Jeb Bush’s wife!’”

A clue, perhaps, to the next campaign badge being readied.

 

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Earth Day: The History of a Movement

Each year, Earth Day — April 22 — marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

The height of hippie and flower-child culture in the United States, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Protest was the order of the day, but saving the planet was not the cause. War raged in Vietnam, and students nationwide increasingly opposed it.

At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news.  Although mainstream America remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962.  The book represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries and, up until that moment, more than any other person, Ms. Carson raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and public health.

Earth Day 1970 capitalized on the emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns front and center.

The Idea

 

The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land.

As a result, on the 22nd of April, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. “It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”

As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders asked Denis Hayes to organize another big campaign. This time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1995) — the highest honor given to civilians in the United States — for his role as Earth Day founder.

Earth Day Today

As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign, this time focused on global warming and a push for clean energy. With 5,000 environmental groups in a record 184 countries reaching out to hundreds of millions of people, Earth Day 2000 combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. It used the Internet to organize activists, but also featured a talking drum chain that traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa, and hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Earth Day 2000 sent world leaders the loud and clear message that citizens around the world wanted quick and decisive action on clean energy.

Much like 1970, Earth Day 2010 came at a time of great challenge for the environmental community. Climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians, a disinterested public, and a divided environmental community all contributed to a strong narrative that overshadowed the cause of progress and change. In spite of the challenge, for its 40th anniversary, Earth Day Network reestablished Earth Day as a powerful focal point around which people could demonstrate their commitment. Earth Day Network brought 225,000 people to the National Mall for a Climate Rally, amassed 40 million environmental service actions toward its 2012 goal of A Billion Acts of Green®, launched an international, 1-million tree planting initiative with Avatar director James Cameron and tripled its online base to over 900,000 community members.

The fight for a clean environment continues in a climate of increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more manifest every day. We invite you to be a part of Earth Day and help write many more victories and successes into our history. Discover energy you didn’t even know you had. Feel it rumble through the grassroots under your feet and the technology at your fingertips. Channel it into building a clean, healthy, diverse world for generations to come.

“Frequently Asked Questions”

When is Earth Day?

Earth Day is honored around the world on April 22, although larger events such as festivals and rallies are often organized for the weekends before or after April 22. Many communities also observe Earth Week or Earth Month, organizing a series of environmental activities throughout the month of April.

Why do we need an Earth Day?

Because it works! Earth Day broadens the base of support for environmental programs, rekindles public commitment and builds community activism around the world through a broad range of events and activities. Earth Day is the largest civic event in the world, celebrated simultaneously around the globe by people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. More than a billion people participate in our campaigns every year.

What can I do for Earth Day?

The possibilities for getting involved are endless! Volunteer. Go to a festival. Install solar panels on your roof. Organize an event in your community. Change a habit. Help launch a community garden. Communicate your priorities to your elected representatives. Do something nice for the Earth, have fun, meet new people, and make a difference. But you needn’t wait for April 22! Earth Day is Every Day. To build a better future, we all must commit to protect our environment year-round.

What is Earth Day Network?

Founded by the organizers of the first Earth Day in 1970, Earth Day Network (EDN) promotes year-round environmental citizenship and action, worldwide. Earth Day Network is a driving force, steering environmental awareness around the world. Through Earth Day Network, activists connect, interact and impact their communities, and create positive change in local, national, and global policies. EDN’s international network reaches over 22,000 organizations in 192 countries, while the domestic program assists over 30,000 educators, coordinating thousands of community development and environmental protection activities throughout the year.

 

 

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