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Posted: January 10, 2010 12:01 a.m.

The right book at the right time

"Let me say it as clearly and succinctly as I can: we screwed up," Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele wrote in his new book, "RightNow: A 12- Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda" (Regnery Publishing, 2010).

Steele is extremely courageous and exactly right.

Few people like to admit mistakes — they see it as a sign of weakness.

Instead, it can be empowering and energizing.

Steele’s acknowledgment could translate into increased Republican Party credibility, according to one expert. "In isolation, perhaps little," said Stuart Sheldon, resident of the Atlanta division of Escalate: An Experiential & Word-Of-Mouth marketing agency. "As part of a sustained conversation over time, perhaps a great deal."

Part of growing up is realizing we make mistakes — they should be addressed as rapidly as possible. This allows one to move forward rather than cover up and make excuses.

Acknowledge, Own and Address. When you find you have made a mistake: Acknowledge it (admit it happened), Own it (take responsibility) and Address it (make it right).

This morning, our children went back to school after two weeks off. The goal we set at dinner last night was for them to leave at 7:20 this morning.

When I woke up at 7:05 this morning, I knew I had made a mistake. No alarm.

My husband began breakfast while I woke up the children. They asked me what happened, and I acknowledged and owned the mistake (I had forgotten to set the alarm).

No one became upset, and we addressed it by working together and readjusting out schedule. Let’s just say that, instead of leaving the house with a clean kitchen and made beds, I will be addressing the cleanup later today.

While this example might be simple, it lays out an effective process that is transparent and authentic, and focuses energy on addressing and moving forward.

The American people crave transparency and authenticity, and we certainly need to focus our limited energy on moving forward.

Last year began with "hope" and "change we can believe in." It turned into a year of the Obama administration attempting to change what we believe.

Our nation was founded on a belief that our individual rights come from our Creator. Throughout this past year, the policies of the administration have given more and more control to the government — at the cost of individual liberty.

Steele’s book acknowledges where key Republican mistakes have been made. "Republicans once insisted that our nation’s opportunities rest not in government but in the hands of individuals," Steele writes. "Over the past decade or so, however, we Republicans lost our way."

Steele continues by articulating the differences between the current policies of the governing Democratic Party and the Republican Party’s conservative principles.

"Conservative principles produce policies that empower people ... . Liberalism teaches people to give up."

In addressing how to move forward, Steele writes, "We need to communicate our values, not impose them."

In a Tuesday interview on Fox, host Sean Hannity asked Steele whether he thought Republicans would be able to take over the House.

"Not this year," Steele responded.

This sparked a flare-up of "What does this mean?" by political pundits. Instead of guessing, I asked Steele.

"I gave a candid assessment on how difficult it will be for us to take the House back," Steele said in an e-mail. "Some of my teammates didn’t like that. So let me be clear — I’m not a pundit. I think it is a long-shot, doable, but a long-shot. There is no question that the American people are fed up with Speaker Pelosi and President Obama. They are ready to take Congress back.

"The hard part is putting in place the candidates and resources given that the Democrats control massive amounts of resources. But, here is what I can tell you for sure: We will leave nothing on the playing field. We will spend every ounce of energy and money we can to win every race we can, just like we did this year in the Virginia and New Jersey governor’s races."

Sheldon’s take on whether the Democratic Party will use Steele’s acknowledgment of a mistake against the Republican Party: "Count on it. In my personal opinion, ‘mud-slinging’ is now a 24/7/365 tactic in our political landscape. This is a sad state of affairs and keeps our focus off meaningful conversations about important topics that matter to many."

Steele’s book, "RightNow," is the right book for the right time. It will be interesting to see if this ability to acknowledge and refocus is isolated and therefore has little impact, or becomes part of a sustained conversation that brings with it Real Big Change.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman founded and is chairman of the board of the Learning Makes a Difference Foundation.

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