America’s present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrums but normalcy; not revolution but restoration.
Warren G. Harding
There’s a long-running joke on social media with some of my friends that I should run for President and sometimes I think they are right. The current political climate has left me with little faith in the people that the nation has decided to nominate for President. We have two of the most polarizing figures to ever walk across a debate stage in our lifetime.
As the gulf between the parties continues to widen, more fractures within each party continue to form. There are those who have formerly chosen either Blue or Red who are not only unhappy but understand that the country actually operates in shades of purple.
Instead of focusing on the current dilemma, we need to look past November 8th and even January 20th and start the work on the next batch of leaders. We need to start creating new options and forming leaders who will help the country and create the best America possible for our children.
While joking about the Presidency, I started to wonder what my slogan would be and almost immediately it popped into my head:
Unite, Heal, Build.
As those words started to play over and over in my head, I realized that those words were at the core of my beliefs as a leader. Before grandiose visions of living on Pennsylvania Ave could even start knocking on my brain, reality of the truths of America struck. Unless you are a billionaire or a well-known politician, it’s virtually impossible to elevate yourself to a place where you would receive a nomination. So I thought, let’s go smaller: Governor? Maybe smaller: Mayor? Then it dawned on me. I have to start way smaller. I have to start where I am now: simply as a doer.
Over the last six months my focus has been on three main points:
I realized that I would have to start at that point, as a person who is committed to doing something small, right where I live that can cause a ripple effect and change lives on the national scale. The most amazing thing about all this is that every single person reading this has the ability to affect change in the lives of others. We can start a chain reaction of Uniting, Healing, and Building America today. With just a few of us, we can light a wildfire that cannot be contained.
Unity is at the heart of every successful, championship team and without it, being the best isn’t an option. Our country has various issues that we can and should tackle but at the heart of each matter is the concept of unity. It’s the main thing we are lacking and the one thing we must relentlessly fight for in order to change this country.
Merriam-Webster defines unity as a condition of harmony. The beauty in this is so amazing. If we treated our country like we do the harmony that can be produced by a guitar, a piano or a voice then we could work the pieces together to create something that sounded beautiful to those around us. That leads into another definition that Merriam-Webster gives us which is: a way of combining the parts in a work of art or literature so that they seem to belong together. Unity is what this country needs. Minor issues go away when we are united and are working for liberty and justice for all. Unity is what we have to strive for. In order for Unity to occur we have to take the different, unique parts of the art and put it together in a way that causes it to belong and that, in turn, creates harmony.
With this in mind, creating a post-racial society in America could become a reality. As we just learned with the definition of unity, we do not want the outcome of all we are going through to be an erasure of culture, color and distinction. No, what we need for unity and harmony are those distinctions to be celebrated and incorporated into the plan for a better, stronger America.
But how do we as leaders accomplish this? How do we do something that seems difficult and create a majestic work of art? We have to first deal with our own perceived and implicit biases.
As a black man in America, I must understand my own stereotypes and biases that I hold towards other races and cultures. Contrary to popular thinking, not all of these are negative but they still must be dealt with. I have always though of Asians as being highly intelligent people but if I allow my implicit biases to rule I can also add a view of them being very passive.
If I am unaware or cannot overcome my own cultural bias towards Asians then I would be taken aback if I met someone who was not passive. I would equally be taken aback if I met an Asian man or woman who was not that great in math but was an incredible artist. That kind of thinking leads me to say things like “Wow, you’re different” or “I didn’t expect you to be like that.” These are the same biases and stereotypes that I am working against in my life, be it “good” or “bad”.
Once I become aware that I’m unfairly categorizing all Asians based on one biased thought, then I can eliminate that surprise when I meet someone who doesn’t fit “the mold.” I can then appreciate them for their uniqueness and not make comments about how they are a unicorn or some other rare mythical creature.
The same is applied in the negative sense: All black people are violent. All white people are rich snobs. All Hispanics are illegal. From birth, we are taught these ways of seeing the world in a negative light and for some reason it is ingrained in us to the core. There is no way this leads to unity. That doesn’t mean however that hope is lost; it just means that we have to work harder to achieve greatness. The easiest way is rarely the right way and it is never the way that displays beauty to the rest of the world. No artist has ever been fulfilled by completing a Paint-By-Number picture. You have never seen a simple stick figure in an art gallery. What we value is the beautiful tapestry, the colorful paining, and the illustrious portrait. That is what we have to work towards in America; uniting those various parts around us into a beautiful piece of art that brings joy to the spectator instead of sadness.
Once we decide that we are going to embark on a journey of unity, the next step is to engage in healing. The quote above by our 29th president embodies the thinking that America needs to have. We don’t need heroics, we need healing, we need restoration and we need that to become the norm.
Healing, however, does not come naturally. It takes effort and purposefulness. Healing usually only happens when you have the combination of a few main factors: empathy, vulnerability, and selflessness.
We know the saying, “Time heals all wounds,” but obviously that isn’t 100% true. Things might heal over time but we are usually left with scars. If we are not careful we can allow ourselves to believe that the scar indicates that we are dealing with a healthy individual. Scars are not a bad thing and we can live with them but often times, the damage is deeper than that. Often times we suffer from organ failure and surgery is required and if surgery isn’t enough, we need new organs.
Most people can see the scars and believe that everything is good, unaware of the devastation going on internally. But if we do a complete checkup of our nation we can see that although we look healthy overall, underneath the surface, organs are dying.
How do we start the surgery? How do we begin the repairs? It starts with having empathy for those around us even when they are different, even when their beliefs contradict ours, when their children play loud music or their fathers drive expensive cars. But in order to get to that we have to get beyond ourselves, we have to see others the same way we see ourselves. When we are late for a meeting we have an excuse but when someone else is late we instantly judge them. Instead lead with empathy and compassion in every situation. Does that mean you let others run over you? Of course not but vulnerability and selflessness are the key to healing. When we are vulnerable and allow ourselves to admit that there’s a possibility that we need a change; it opens doors we could have never imagined. You let other people into your life. Your empathy towards them grants you access into their life. Selflessness allows you to treat them like family, or even more importantly like yourself.
We forgive family. When they screw up, we give advice and even guide and correct with love. If we can see our friends and neighbors this way, we will start the healing process in this country.
Now that we’ve become unified, acknowledged bias and started the healing process; now we can build. America could and should be the greatest nation on earth; not only from the outside but from the inside as well. The beauty is that we don’t have to always keep the same order during the building phase. As you are building with one person, start the healing process with another. As you are healing, begin to share that unity with others. Unity, Healing and Building can occur at the same time and even in different orders.
The best way to build a better future is to replicate yourself. The best leaders create other leaders that value the same things they do. Share Unity, Healing and Community building with those around you. Once they catch the vision they will do the same for others. You never know if the person that you reach out to has the power to make political change. I used to get frustrated because I didn’t know what to do, where to start, or who to talk to but then it dawned on me: with six degrees of separation between everybody, you could easily influence somebody who in turn influences somebody else who is a senator or governor, teacher or maybe even the President.
Recently a friend of mine asked what she could do. She wanted to know how her family could help. How they could make a practical difference with those around them.
Find ways to intentionally create unity. Invite someone of a different race over to have dinner with you and your family. Get to know them, find out what makes them tick and celebrate those differences. Go to the movies with someone in a different demographic or socioeconomic status. The main issue we have right now is that we aren’t selfless, we are thinking about ourselves instead of the common good of all.
If we could put aside our selfishness, pride and arrogance, we could build a strong, compassionate, united country. One that could be seen as the world leader in everything good and just. A country that sets the example for others. A nation that proudly exemplifies liberty and justice for all.
I believe that we can get to this place. Each person has the ability to Do Something. As a nation we can Be Better. United as Americans we will be able Change the World.
Until that day comes, keep pressing forward. America’s fix may be simple but it sure ain’t easy.
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