If Secretary Clinton and President Obama can move on with grace and dignity as they did in their remarks yesterday, I certainly can move forward too. As President Obama noted, when he welcomes President-elect Trump to the White House today, he will be keeping a tradition most recently demonstrated when President George W. Bush graciously hosted him after the election. The presidency and our democracy are greater than any one individual. I am thankful for that, as it is an important source of our country’s greatness.
I know many friends and colleagues have strong feelings of disappointment, anger and fear in the wake of President-elect Trump’s surprising victory. This is understandable in light of the many disconcerting comments Candidate Trump made throughout the campaign. I have seen many posts from such people that they are ready to be part of the vigorous, peaceful opposition that is another crucial element of our democracy. Certainly vigilance is warranted to ensure the darker elements of the campaign rhetoric do not come to pass. Other friends and colleagues are moving forward by focusing on caring for their kids, doing their work, and finding ways to make a difference in their community.
I am ultimately a bigger believer in our democracy than any single candidate or elected official. The electorate was very divided this year, often heatedly so. It appears likely that Secretary Clinton may win the popular vote while losing the electoral college.
President-elect Trump clearly generated much greater support on Tuesday than any prognosticator anticipated. Though there were many disconcerting remarks made by Candidate Trump, from that I will not label my fellow Americans who supported Trump. Clearly Candidate Trump connected in a powerful way with many Americans, speaking to real anxieties about our nation and individual circumstances in a rapidly changing world.
The surprising aspect of the election results serves as a reminder of the many divides in our society today. We in deeply blue Massachusetts know little of the struggles of the working class Rust Belt communities that provided the key to Trump’s victory. I will seek to understand more about the underlying issues that led to the election result.
For me, this rancorous election is another of the many divides we have in our society. Too often we surround ourselves with people that think like us and look like us, reinforcing our views and providing little meaningful exposure to significantly different world views. Facebook is clearly not a sufficient public square to engage in meaningful dialogue needed to bridge our divides.
The divides we face are surely not only the red and blue differences that are top of mind this week. Race issues have also shown the deep gaps in understanding we have, with many whites having trouble grasping the fears African American families have for the safety of their sons should they interact with police–to name just one of the many issues of race and difference that have simmered to the surface over the past year.
One reason for the strong disappointment many felt after the election is that it seemed like 2016 would be the year a major glass ceiling would be shattered with the election of our first woman president. I am sure that breakthrough will come soon. But meanwhile we were reminded that sexism still runs deep.
I started by noting that the peaceful transition of power, that begins once again this week, is a hallmark of our democracy. But our greatest source of strength is our collective commitment to democratic values. This includes respect for the will of the majority along with protection of equal rights for all. Protection of those rights always requires vigilance, and that is certainly true today.
Rich or poor, black or white, PhD or GED, we all have an equal vote in the direction of our country. And we have a responsibility to role up our sleeves and do the work needed to have our nation live up to the greatness of its ideals.
Early American communities came together and literally rolled up their sleeves for communal barn raising events. While we may not have barns to be built, we certainly have a need to roll up our sleeves and do the work required by a healthy democracy. After an election cycle with so much emotion and tense disagreement, listening and respecting those with different views and different backgrounds is an essential part of that work. I am committed to being part of this process through our work at Social Capital Inc., and finding opportunities to listen learn from my fellow Americans.