Guest opinion: It is truly time to have perspective
Submitted by Jeff Russell, president and CEO, Delta Dental of Iowa
A video has been making its way around social media putting the current coronavirus pandemic into perspective. It shows the world from the perspective of a person born in 1900. It calls out the hardship of four wars with millions killed, the loss of life from the flu pandemic, smallpox and polio, and the suffering of the Great Depression. At the end, the video states that we don’t have much to complain about today when our biggest challenge in this pandemic is watching Netflix from our couch and ordering from Amazon Prime. The message is to be grateful for what we have even in this time – a good message, for sure.
But the video caused me to think about perspective a bit in the last few weeks. I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Pat Summitt, one of the all-time winningest coaches in women’s basketball. She said, “It is what it is, but it becomes what we make of it.”
While the video focused on the negative aspects of the 20th century, think about the amazing things you would have seen if you were born in 1900 and lived to be 80 years old.
- Mass production.
- Air conditioning and refrigeration.
- Vaccines that made diseases like polio and the measles nearly extinct.
- The scientific success of atomic energy.
- Semiconductors and computers.
- Rockets that took humans to the moon.
- Medical advances that extended life expectancy from 45 years old in 1900 to 75 in 1980.
Sure, each of these achievements has a downside. The same scientific achievement that allowed humans to discover how to split an atom also created the world’s most destructive weapon. But during that 80 years, a person born in 1900 would have seen incredible change and growth – arguably the greatest advancements in the history of the world.
This is true today as well. The current pandemic has been devastating in loss of life and economic damage. Yet think about the progress we have made in 2020. No matter how tired we are of video calls, our ability to connect and work together from our own home has dramatically increased. In April, Microsoft’s CEO estimated that our collective digital transformation advanced two years in two months. I think that transformation is much further along now.
There has been the incredible acceleration of the biotechnology to develop the first vaccines for COVID. In fact, Moderna estimates its new RNA messenger technology was accelerated by at least three years because of the work on the COVID vaccine and may revolutionize how vaccines are developed to treat other diseases. Telemedicine began to come of age as we were forced into remote visits because of the transmission of COVID. There will be other achievements that we don’t fully recognize today.
In our recent history, there have been devastating events – 9/11, the Great Recession and now the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been wars, hunger and suffering. Yet our perspective matters. As we enter this new year, I believe we should choose to see what is wonderful around us. The negative will always be with us – it is what it is. But we can choose how we move through those events – it becomes what we make of it.
Certainly 2020 was different for all of us, but in the midst of it all, and as we enter 2021, remember the blessings we have and the achievement around us.
It is truly time to have perspective.