The future may feel bleak as we celebrate our nation’s birthday on July 4th. We remain divided politically, inflation is too high, capital markets are volatile, social issues remain divisive, and war in Europe is ongoing. Nevertheless, consider the following as we contemplate our collective future.
This is not the worst time – Our country evolved during a window of unity towards an external foe, but a degree of division is part of our social fabric. There have always been differing views on how to conduct government business; who should have a seat at the table. It is one of the reasons we cast votes every two years to have a say in how government represents those views.
At best, it is a release valve that holds the promise of a better day, regardless of your political opinion. At worst, pressure builds to the point of fighting each other on the battlefield to resolve debates we could not settle in the halls of government. We are nowhere near that now.
Our democracy was built to handle this – To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms.” We created our democracy for public debate, citizen input, and accountability. We get frustrated when it seems we cannot have constructive conversations, when those in power do not hear our voices, or when wrongdoers avoid accountability.
Sometimes that means forcing the conversation, raising your voice until someone listens, or pushing until our leaders do what is right. Because flawed and imperfect men and women like us pull the levers of democracy, governing is messy. Sometimes exceptionally messy and unpleasant. But examples of patience and persistence winning out abound. The mechanisms to effect change are there if we are willing to do the hard work.
Leaders will emerge – We face serious problems that require thoughtful, levelheaded, and committed leaders who can shine when the pressure is high. Some of the strongest leaders emerge from challenges like those we are addressing now. Leadership is an action, not a title. We naturally look to those in positions of power for leadership, but sometimes we find it lacking.
We would do well to remember that leaders and leadership often come from unexpected places. Leaders who promote negative messages and divisiveness often burn out early. People with the courage of their convictions and the ability to craft a positive, unifying, and forward-thinking vision are better at bringing together supporters from across the lines that usually divide us in our daily lives. Keep your eyes and ears open. The next leader you meet might be standing right in front of you.
Happy Independence Day!