How optimistic are you about the future of the state of Illinois? How optimistic are you that you can do anything about it?
If you're like a lot of people in Illinois, you're not very optimistic on either front. In fact, if you're like a lot of people, you're downright pessimistic.
That's a big problem.
That's a big challenge for our governmental leaders, for those politicians who truly do want to make a difference.
It's an even bigger problem for you and for all of us. Because, as Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right."
Here are some astounding poll results The Associated Press reported last month:
• Half of the people surveyed in a Gallup poll of Illinois residents said they would move out of the state if they could. Weather and location had something to do with that. But the biggest reason people want to leave is the dismal climate for work and business.
• Another Gallup poll found that Illinois residents have the lowest degree of trust in state government in the country -- by far.
• A poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found 89 percent of the Illinois voters surveyed believe corruption is common in the state.
These are hugely disturbing numbers. And while we put the story about them on Page 1 of our print editions, they haven't received nearly the attention they deserve.
In one respect, they are a reflection of how far Illinois has fallen.
But more importantly, they are a call for how far we have to climb.
Prosperity will not arrive until we believe again in its possibility. Corruption will not end until we view it as an abnormality. State government will not solve problems until the faith of its constituents provides its life force.
To those in office and aspiring to office, to those in government jobs and public service, we say this: You have no higher calling than to restore the public trust.
This has to be your priority -- above attack ads and political advantage, above short-term policy gains or self-interest. Restore the public trust. There is nothing more important.
Government cannot function effectively without the trusting consent of the governed.
To those of us in the citizenry, to the voters and the nonvoters, to the informed and the uninspired, we say this: If you do nothing, you are not part of the problem; you are the whole problem.
Instead of complaining and sulking, show your resolve. Get involved, demand results, reject despair, believe again.
We can make a difference. But first, before anything else, we must believe we can.