In 1838, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech about citizenship and the preservation of America’s political institutions. He warned that the greatest danger to our nation came from within. Today, his warning rings true. Politics and partisanship are fracturing the nation into a dangerous disunity. There are problems in our country, yet we must exercise strength and avoid cynicism. Trust is essential in a democracy. Cynicism can destroy the very foundation of respect for one another that democracy requires.
A Work in Progress
Overcoming these divisions and distrust begins with identifying and teaching the principles that citizens in our democracy must embrace to achieve common ground. America is not a finished work or a failed project but an ongoing experiment. Our Constitution was designed to withstand great stress, and it has given us a form of government capable of profound correction to address injustices. If parts of our system are broken, then it is our responsibility to fix them.
Keeping an Open Mind
The founders agreed on a Constitution that requires compromise for our government to work. They believed that democracy works best when multiple perspectives are considered in rigorous discussions. Such a dialogue means listening to others combined with a willingness to be persuaded.
The Way Forward
Effective leadership will not come from one person. We must hold all of our elected officials to higher standards of character, investing leadership in those bringing competence and compassion to bear. While it is tempting in tumultuous times to be pessimistic, let us remember that forward progress starts with participation versus sitting on the sidelines, using scorching rhetoric to score political points.