4 Pledges to Build Resilience – as American enters the 100-day race

Note: I hope no phrase in this message is partisan. Forgive me (and point it out to me) if I stray. I write not for a candidate but for us, the voters, the everyday leaders required to make a representative democracy function.

Well into my adulthood, I nurtured aspirations of being a political leader. I have experienced politics as a spectator, campaign worker, campaign manager, advisor to candidates, and spouse to a former Attorney General and Governor (of Michigan). Like most all Americans, I have had a love-hate relationship with it all.

The primary season has left a trail of bodies. 16 Republican hopefuls, with their contributors, workers, families and fans are left to wonder whether it was and is worth it. The Bernie supporters wonder whether they have truly begun a revolution, how to continue it, and perhaps wonder whether to give up. I imagine that even party leaders like the Bushes and Romneys are left with rising levels of distaste for the system they have given much of their life to.

I’ve been wrestling with how I enter this season, for I am deeply divided. I have my candidate whose positions I feel lucky enough to align strongly with, and I have my love for free and fair elections.  But I also have my disdain (to the point of nausea, at time) about how the candidates, the parties, the media, and US — that is the US that ultimately is the U.S., have been behaving.

I am making four pledges. I hope they will keep me resilient rather than resentful, and purposeful rather than self-pitying.  

  1. I will continually talk about my vision for the country that I believe in.  I will seek not to incite fear, but to speak to what I believe is possible (things like justice, growth, opportunity, and freedom).
  2. I will not reduce my political speech to name-calling. I fervently believe the presidential candidates should model civil behavior, refusing to call others “stupid” or “idiots” or other words we teach 7-years old not to use.  So there is no reason in a democracy that I should not hold myself to that same standard.  I must stop….tempting though it may be.
  3. I will listen. There is a lot I don’t understand, e.g., about people’s fears of their guns being taken away. And I know there’s a lot that others don’t get about things I believe in, e.g., that government spending actually can be a good thing.  I am not going to understand others without listening, and they’re not going to understand me if all I do is talk, not making the effort to appreciate their questions, fears, assumptions, beliefs, experience and logic.
  4. I will not quit.  Resilience comes in part from having purpose and in part from taking purposeful action. Bernie is right that the only thing that will really change the system is — US. It’s what got women’s suffrage, it’s what got us out of Vietnam, it’s what got a Voting Rights Act, and it’s what got us to look at the environment and planet in a different way.  I admire the Libertarians who stay in the game, despite their numbers being small. I admire the Pro-lifers who will demonstrate (or pray) all night long in a vigil. I may not agree with them, but I admire the fact that they don’t give up.

We are in the midst of so much change and the worst sense of insecurity I have seen in my 50 years of following politics and people.  It’s thus a time for concern, but especially a time for purpose, patience, and positive politics.

How do you think you and we can get through this and emerge stronger than we are today?  How do you intend to

Lead with your best self?

  • Dan,
    I read with interest your 4 pledges. I’m thankful for your thoughts; I would offer another one: compassion. Right now, there seems to be no compassion for anyone or any issue. With thoughtfulness, empathy, encouragement, kindness might be helpful in the tensions and anger that is seen around the U.S.

  • Dan,
    I agree that civility should be an expected standard for our political leaders AND I would think you should ad a 5th item to your list. Honesty. We should respects our fellow U.S. citizens, by being truthful as individuals and we should absolutely demand it of our elected leaders. Integrity is a cornerstone of democracy. Unfortunately as a Nation we have cynically grown to accept that our leaders lie.

    We have two awful candidates heading up the major parties. One is a pathological liar who believes her own lies. The other has the civility of a 3rd grade bully and lacking in emotional intelligence when it comes to empathy. One is bad, the other is worse. American just doesn’t agree on which is which. Truly, God help us.

  • I will:

    – make a conscious effort to get out of my political echo chamber, in which I share my views only with people who agree with me
    – actively seek out those who have difference opinions
    – listen intently to them
    – not try to change their mind
    – look for shared concerns and goals

    …while at the same time doing what I can to help elect the candidate who I think will be most successful in rallying our country and Congress to make our country as good as it can be.

    • David,
      I love your pledges, especially the first one – to get out of your “political echo chamber.”
      As you and I have always shared respectfully from our respective and beautiful religous traditions, here’s a quick thought from my world: One of my favorite lines – seemingly a throwaway in the accounts of Jesus’ life – is that the writers would say, “Jesus crossed over to the other side.” Sometimes it was for silent retreat. Often it was to meet with those outcast, like the lepers. And then sometimes it was used, for example, for the religious people who crossed over to avoid the wounded Samaritan (something I confess I have done when I’ve seen someone pandhandling, mentally ill, etc.). So, our country could use a lot of what you recommend — crossing over to the other wide, getting outside our echo chamber!
      Thanks, as always, DGH.

  • Great insight Dan! I wish there were room to repost something I saw posted by a friend. I will attempt to paraphrase.
    Basically half of us will be happy with the election outcome and half will not but real change happens with us at work and in our homes. We are the ones that teach and demonstrate values and good moral character. The person in the oval office can only reach so far and do so much. America is and always will be “we the people”.

  • Dan. Thank you. This is perfect. May I have permission to print it in our church bulletin next Sunday? As a pastor with a full range of opinions expressed (and encouraged) within our congregation , I have been stressing tolerance and civil discourse for the next 3 months.This article helps much with practical ways to participate without demeaning others’ views. Jennifer’s speech at the DNC was spectacular! Thanks for your insightful work!

    • Terry,
      I’d be honored if you would share these thoughts. People are also welcome to sign up for Reading for Leading.
      God bless!

  • Dan that was well stated and summarized in 4 steps, a process that can really be utilized for every area of life and especially during this next 100 days. Thanks for sharing your view.
    In addition, beyond this election I would love to also see campaign election reform eliminating items that pull power away from individual voters(ie superpac funding). Also in the running of our country, regardless of who wins this fall, the dismantling of the lobbying system as we know it, could only help the legislative and executive branches focus a bit more on “we the people”. Thanks again for keeping a useful dialog going. #GoCubs

    • Kyle,
      How great to hear from you . . . 40 years from 7 Mile Road :-).
      I agree that we have allowed money to so profoundly infiltrate our process and sell candidates like processed cheese food.
      The Citizens United decision seems to hard to square with the founders’ notion that PERSONS had rights to free speech; and the majority opinion that complained that businesses weren’t able to be heard under former limits seemed to come from some parallel political universe. While state legislatures are continually trying to limit access to the ballot, it hardly seemed that businesses were being frustrated from not being able to speak.
      Maybe the great WE can bring what seems like common sense in the years ahead.
      Go Cubs,

  • Dan, I lead with my best self when I am given all the information needed to make knowledge-based decisions. Except for the requisite Constitutional criteria for someone to be a candidate for President, there has never been any sort of “cheat sheet” of skill sets or background experience that could serve as a guide for the “job”!
    We are plagued with a media barrage of either useless shock smearing or editorialized opinions of political insiders. Performances in interviews or debates mostly show us how well rehearsed a candidate is, or glimpses of their personality.
    I sure would benefit from a realistic appraisal of what our Chief Executive/commander in chief should have in their resume……military service? Business acumen? Civil service as a what..Senator, Governor, Congressperson, or none of the above? Foreign versus domestic policy understanding? Etc. etc.
    Give me such a requisite laundry list and I can at least make as close to as a knowledge-based (and not emotional) decision.
    Go Independents!

  • Dan, Good 4 points. From this foreign shore what a vastly expensive & bile filled 18 months to produce the nominees.
    What a choice your nation has: the Devil or the shark infested deep blue sea!
    Time for your “we the people”, who are merely “You the sheep” to power mad vote seekers, to have another revolution?
    Good luck with Nov.’s result; lest the initials USA reminds the world you really do have a unlimited supply of assh****!

  • Adults so what’s with their name calling, (like 7 year olds). People can’t handle others’ opinions and go off on people (not just elections). But all you have to do is post e.g., “Hillary 2016” and you’re called many names. (Being called idiot by someone who can’t even spell idiot-and they’re 51 years old). Big problem is the GOPs-they have followers that does what they themselves do, and it’s not anything good. Then people and their guns. The government isn’t taking their guns away but the GOPs keep putting the fear into people to get their vote. People needs to start thinking for themselves and not what others are telling them to think.
    I do try not to pay attention to some people’s behavior because our time is limited. God only puts us on this earth for a limited time and I am not going to waste that time on people who’s looking for argument.
    Dan, one of the things I admire about you as well as your wife; you have respect for others and their opinions. You’re not much older than me but I’ve learned from the two of you.

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