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Keeping Optimism in Public Administration

 

Shining eyes.

I love to see shining eyes.  Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, coined the term shining eyes as the moment when possibility is awakened within us. When possibility is awakened, the face lights up and the eyes shine.

Like Alice in Wonderland’s White Queen who “dreams of six impossible things before breakfast,” possibility is second nature for children.  Kids’ eyes shine when given a fresh coloring book and a box of crayons, when they spot a gigantic Moon Bounce, or when that favorite song comes on the radio for the 97th time.

For us adults, shining eyes are rare.  The vagaries of everyday life allow reality to limit possibility.  In our quest to focus on the tasks at hand, we may even discipline ourselves for daydreaming.

But, every once in a while, possibility escapes its work day trap, and our eyes shine.  And it’s a great moment to watch.

Sometimes, it’s obvious.  A colleague will say “I have an idea” and her lit eyes clue into the possibilities about to come.  More often, however, it’s more subtle as the person I’m listening to doesn’t even realize his words move from the reality realm to the possibility realm.  His face fills with light and excitement,  and the pace of his talking quickens.  First person language goes away as he talks of great things we can accomplish and how to move the county to the next level.  He can’t  conceal the smile on his face as the fire hose of optimism sprays possibilities into the conversation.

As the shining eyes talk, I fmd myself focusing more on the exuberance and less on the words.  And I can’t  help smiling and be infected by the optimism of possibility.

Imagine the possibilities if we think only one impossible thing each day.  Please pass the crayons. Thanks for all you do.

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Submitted by Anthony Romanello

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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