Giving Compass' Take:

• Walter Russell Mead argues that America currently sits on the cusp of change, much as it did during Reconstruction. He suggests that times of political disappointment offer an opportunity for Americans to make their own way and seize opportunities. 

• How can philanthropy minimize suffering and capitalize on potential during this time? What movements can use a philanthropic push to get over the edge and create change? 

• The National Center for Family Philanthropy offers this toolkit for foundations looking to make big moves toward equity. 

As Americans struggle to make sense of a series of uncomfortable economic changes and disturbing political developments, a worrying picture emerges: of ineffective politicians, frequent scandals, racial backsliding, polarized and irresponsible news media, populists spouting quack economic remedies, growing suspicion of elites and experts, frightening outbreaks of violence, major job losses, high-profile terrorist attacks, anti-immigrant agitation, declining social mobility, giant corporations dominating the economy, rising inequality, and the appearance of a new class of super-empowered billionaires in finance and technology-heavy industries.

That, of course, is a description of American life in the 35 years after the Civil War. As Reconstruction proved unsuccessful and a series of devastating depressions and panics roiled the economy, Washington failed miserably to rise to the challenges of the day.

In hindsight, it was a period in which the United States failed its way to success as the consequences of the Industrial Revolution made themselves felt.

But if these were disappointing years in the annals of American governance, they were years of extraordinary importance in American history. This was the period in which the United States became the largest and most advanced economy in the world. As transcontinental railroads created a national market and massive industrial development created new industries and new technologies, astonishing inventions poured out steadily from the workshops of Thomas Edison and his imitators and rivals. John D. Rockefeller turned petroleum from a substance of no commercial importance into the foundation of global economic development. The United States’ financial system became as sophisticated and powerful as that of the United Kingdom.

The United States is passing through something similar today. The information revolution is disrupting the country’s social and economic order as profoundly as the Industrial Revolution did. The ideologies and policies that fit American society a generation ago are becoming steadily less applicable to the problems it faces today.

Read the full article about opportunity by Walter Russell Mead at Hudson Institute.