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A supply-side holiday (Scripps Howard News Service) November 24, 2003

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
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Here’s a little secret about you: Your live is dominated by demands. When you awaken in the morning, you are already behind. You spend your day working through an endless series of to-do lists. One friend carries a five-year calendar in his pocket.

But now we celebrate a holiday that is based not on demand, but on supply. As President George Washington said, in his powerful Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789, this is a day to acknowledge “with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God.” It’s a presidential mandate to count your blessings.

Use the Thanksgiving holiday this year to remember that we can keep life in balance, not just by managing the demands, but also by celebrating our supply. Families, corporations and governments have all learned the painful lesson that in building a budget, supply and demand must eventually balance. But after centuries of working mainly to limit the demand side of expenses, two-thirds of the nations of the world have adopted some form of supply-side economics, which seeks to stimulate the economy and increase financial supply.

So, too, in our personal lives, supply and demand must balance. Even while we use lists and calendars to manage our many demands, and we learn how to say “no” to others, it is also important to increase our supply. Everything else in life needs to be supplied and renewed. Did you remember to plug in your cell phone when you got home, recharge your razor, renew the battery supply for your computer? So, too, people need to renew their supply.

A good place to start is by inventorying and, as George Washington suggested, giving thanks for our supply. Invest as much time counting and appreciating the revenue side of your personal ledger as you do managing the expense side. Give thanks not only for your personal or family blessings but also, as the Presidential Proclamation proposed, for our national liberties and our “just and constitutional laws.”

As you reflect this Thanksgiving, focus on activities tha energize you, and be certain they are part of your weekly regimen. Few university presidents take time to teach students, but I did, mostly because it gave me needed energy. Spend time with the people in your life who supply you. Do not spend all your work with the people who drain your energy with problems and needs, but also with those who excite and energize you.

There is also a spirit of place that renews us. Our family took the same walk every Thanksgiving. Surely there are places where, at least for you, the air is different, somehow life-giving. Find and return to those places where your heart beats more contentedly and your mind thinks in fresh ways.

It is amazing that we live in a time when people are often energized and increasingly effective in their careers, but their personal lives are often characterized by fatigue, dullness and worry. Someone has said that many of us read only in our own fields, play only to relieve stress, eat only to make business contracts, and vacation only to re-create in shorts the same stresses they experience the rest of the year in business attire. Much of this is because we do not allow our cups to be filled by the renewal of our supply.

The first Thanksgiving celebrated so very little and today we have so very much. While you feast on turkey and football this thanksgiving, also take some time for reflection. Thanksgiving reminds us of the possibility and power of supply-side living.

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