January 28, 2015
Read time : 4 min

What’s your commitment? Have you been asked that question recently, or ever? How about from a stranger? Well, brace yourself. As I have found out, that is the polite way to greet someone at a CGI U conference. Not going to lie, that audacious question made me feel — ehh — slightly inferior explaining my mercantile “commitment” to what amounts to national bookkeeping at a sustainability-oriented, social-enterprise, do-gooder conference.

The energizing souls there, who by the way are your peers and quite possibly younger, are providing lighting to destitute barrios in countries you cannot pronounce, creating innovative ways to provide education in rural villages in Southeast Asia, and empowering young women in male-dominant societies so women too could legally drive a car — well heck. Amidst this intensely ain’t-no-mountain-high-enough atmosphere, I grabbed a plate of nachos and went over to the STEM table, trying to strike vague, pseudo-intellectual conversations, such as “perhaps it is time to lend the STEM movement a new meaning?”

I am certainly not trying to mock my CGI U experience, but I do want to put things into perspective and invite all you fiscal warriors to rethink your commitment as a sustainable commitment, just like any other perhaps more apparent humanistic cause. You see, after a plate — or dos — of nachos at the STEM table, I quickly realized that those other brilliant commitments would become increasingly unrealistic if the government does not have money to support basic research, education, and diplomacy. Sure, one does not need money to do good per se, but it would be much harder to do a lot of good without it, including government support. This is the issue.

It is often said that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. The former I will leave to your philosophical imaginations to sort out, while the latter cannot be simpler, conceptually. The flip side of taxes is spending. As homo sapiens, we love spending — and to overspend — because deferred gratification is much harder and quite frankly not as fun. The result: debt, which constrains spending choices today. See, it’s simple. But to actually raise awareness about this issue, we would need to talk about the facts. That is where Up to Us comes in, and that is where your commitment matters.

The “us” part begins with you and your commitment to fiscal sustainability, or whatever you want to call it. What’s your commitment? Whether you use that question to network, learn, or reflect, consider it carefully. Though it may be an awkward way to introduce yourself, it is an inherent challenge: how are you going to make this world a better place? So really, this commitment question is the question in life. While you are at it, grab a plate of nachos: a little bit of queso is good for the soul.