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Better Together: Finding Strength in Unity


Published November 5, 2020

Overcoming divisions and distrust within our nation begins with recognizing that America is not a finished work or a failed project but an ongoing experiment. We must hold all of our elected officials to a higher standard. This requires us to reject pessimism and to participate in the democratic system. Embracing these principles will help us achieve common ground, improve our country, and pass along our freedoms to the next generation.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is disunity dangerous for democracy?
  2. How can you exercise the principles discussed in this video?

Additional Resources:

  • Read “It’s Hard Work Building a Country,” by General Jim Mattis via Hoover Digest. Available here.
  • Read “In Union There Is Strength,” by General Jim Mattis via Hoover Institution. Available here.
  • Read “Duty, Democracy, and the Threat of Tribalism,” by General Jim Mattis via the Wall Street Journal. Available here.
View Transcript

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 paralyzing our country—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 fosters a distrust of reality and provokes a suspicion that hidden, evil forces are at play. It can destroy the very foundation of respect for each other democracy requires. Ultimately, cynicism solves nothing.

Overcoming these divisions and distrust begins with identifying and teaching the principles that citizens in our democracy must embrace to achieve common ground.

First, we recognize 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 use our freedom to fix them.

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.

Second, 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.

And, finally, while it is tempting in tumultuous times to be pessimistic, let us remember that forward progress starts with participation vs sitting on the sidelines using scorching rhetoric to score political points.

Every generation has a responsibility to improve our country and pass along our freedoms to the next generation. Remember that we’re building a country here. It is hard work yet it is also noble work that all of us must do together.