Shaylyn Romney Garrett, author, public speaker and social entrepreneur, invited the BYU campus community to come together and create America’s next upswing during her address on March 28.
Garrett began her address by speaking about the history of America and how it came to be.
“It’s a story about how we got here — into the multifaceted crisis facing our nation today,” she said.
At the beginning of America’s history, people from foreign lands observed the new country and its balance of “individual liberty and the common good,” Garrett said.
Overtime, challenges arose such as the gap between the rich and the poor, the idea of success defined by self-interest and racial inequality, according to Garrett. She said these problems are not the problems of today, although they sound almost identical to those of the present, but instead was describing the America of the 1880s and 1890s.
She explained how in the past, Americans experienced their own upswing after this period of challenges when the desire for the prosperity of the country became their collective concern. However, this upswing of the twentieth century has swung back down over the last five decades as the country shifted back to what Garrett described as the “I” mentality.
This trend, labeled the “I-We-I” curve by Garrett and the co-author of her latest book, Robert Putnam, is essentially the idea that there is a “gradual climb into greater interdependence and cooperation, followed by a steep descent into greater independence and egoism.”
The leading variable of the upswing and antidote to the downswing, as discovered by Garett, is culture.
Garrett said that in order to turn the social tide and move to a culture of “we,” Americans must look at shared values and enter “places of heart (and) places of connection.”
She referenced the moral leaders and storytellers, such as The Social Gospel movement and Ida B. Wells., that paved the way for a cultural shift that had a ripple effect in all areas of society.
“We are the inheritors of the democracy they saved. But we are also the inheritors of an unraveling, a backslide that has landed us right back where they started,” Garrett said.
Garrett said in this moment in time, America is presented with the same question of whether or not they decide to continue to drift or to “master the moment, and right the ship.”
In reference to the present and this call to affect the next upswing, Garrett asked her audience to ponder on what their role might be. Garrett gave examples of roles such as being a moral leader, a truth teller or a civic innovator but assured that no matter the role, there is a place for everyone.
“This is how we turned our last multifaceted crisis into a multi-decade upswing. And this is how we can reclaim our nation’s promise once again,” Garrett said.