Good Luck, Joe Biden

static2.politico-1We wish all possible progress to Vice President Joe Biden as he seeks not only to promote, but accomplish, greater sharing of cancer research data among scientists for the benefit of cancer patients. Accomplishing that life-affirming aim may not be easy.

Biden’s son, Beau, died of brain cancer last May. We don’t precisely know the pertinence of that to the vice-president’s follow-up resolve, but it can’t have been an entirely uplifting experience. For Biden is now calling for a cancer “moon shot” to bring together streams of data for enhanced progress against the disease.

The vice president noted, Politico reports that “vast troves of research were ‘trapped in silos, preventing faster progress and greater reach to patients.'”

How often similar refrains are heard! On a less lofty, but still critical, level, here’s the Standard-Times in San Angelo, Texas, reporting on its City Council’s frustration in trying to get direct answers on how city departments are handling new communication technology.

In one jarring discovery, the council learned that a technology upgrade at the Public Safety Communications division didn’t work with the Fire Department’s older system. The two branches of city government simply didn’t coordinate their actions. And so insensitive communication goes – it has long been the bane of bureaucracy, virtually its definition.

“(Assistant Fire Chief Jeff) Fant likened the Fire Department’s Zetron (system) to a bicycle tire that has been patched too many times and continues leaking. When it fails, there will be no more patches available because the parts for it are hard to find.”

And this in a crucial area of public service! Why are we so often clumsy with communication, hampered in getting into confident accord, even when lives may be in the balance?

“We didn’t replace it because it has been working fine,” said Fire Chief Brian Dunn. “It just won’t work with the Police Department’s new CAD system.”

Turf and presumptions, presumptions of correctness, instances of good intentions not thought through – these are examples of our core doggedness often to plow ahead without gleaning how our words, policies and actions are affecting others.

Communication can have great reach for the common good – that’s what Joe Biden is trying to accomplish, and what San Angelo’s procurement officials should have been aiming for in the actions unfolding there. Effective, other-focused communication – or its lack – can make or break any of us who may not be mindful of what’s involved as we plunge ahead.

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