It’s getting difficult to watch the news. It has been difficult for some time, with all of the problems that the world faces: poverty, disease, natural disasters, and economic woes. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve been verbally accosted with all of the “bad news makes popular news” mentality lately. It is important to be informed about current affairs around the world, but, in the U.S., we seem to thrive on bad news. I think that a lot of the fodder for negative reporting comes from our adversarial political system. It is no secret that we are a nation divided, with several smaller political factions thrown in to the mix to keep things fresh. It is in these times that counselors have the most important role to play: tending to the needs of the people in difficult times, when spirits are low. Starting in 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt started giving his famous ‘fireside chats’. With over thirty informal talks aimed directly at the American people in a relaxed, but professional manner, FDR did something revolutionary for his people: he talked about his and their concerns in a straightforward manner. After every chat letters would pour in to FDR’s desk and he established rapport with the American people. I’m not sure where that rapport has gone today, (maybe it left with Carter’s soft-touch approach) but it is severely lacking. Ever since FDR’s chats, every proceeding U.S. President has given a weekly radio address to the American people. This is a good idea, but it has become a forum for back-and-forth political battles, (official rebuttals from the opposing political party included) much of the time not addressing the needs of the people. It is because of this current circumstance that I propose a new position in American government: the Counselor in Chief. This new position, part of the presidential cabinet under the Secretary of Health and Human Services, oversees all social wellness in the nation. The Counselor accompanies the President and/ or Vice President around the nation assessing the emotional and social needs of the people in different areas of the country. Working with social workers, counselors, and other helping professionals, the Counselor will establish sub-committees for each state to serve its people, including departments of mental health and non-profit agencies. This position is not to be viewed as a political role. It is a support mechanism for both the governing body for the country and the American people. The Presidential cabinet can only accomplish so much, due to the enormity of the task of governing the U.S. The Counselor would be a helping professional that would listen to the true issues and human concerns of the people apart from a political context. The objectives of the Counselor are two-fold: I. Identify social and emotional needs of distinct American populations and develop infrastructure to address those needs by connecting social agencies and helping- professionals. II. Provide consult to Congress and the Presidential cabinet that addresses special needs of various populations around the country, furthering interconnectivity between higher levels of government and the people. III. Implement strategies to work with those in need, exercising advocacy, counseling, conflict resolution, and transparency in dealing with all peoples. IV. The Counselor will do all possible to remain politically neutral, enabling him/her to successfully connect with the greatest number of populations in the country. All future offices and committees created under the Counselor will also remain politically neutral in assistance with the mission statement of the Counselor. Wouldn’t it be a step in the right direction to have a position that specifically dealt with the human needs of the people? I hope that those fireside chats aren’t a thing of the past. To be able to push political aspirations aside, a position filled by an intrinsically-motivated professional whose altruism knows little bounds; that would be something worth advocating. There would be many hurdles, mostly of political nature, but what is the cost of leaving things as they are, unattended and functioning by the status quo?
Matt Krauze is a counselor in training at Seton Hall University. He has interests in counseling in higher education as well as college student development and gender studies.