To say the political climate on the eve of this presidential election is divisive and contentious is a dramatic understatement. Here we are, many projecting who will win, will our votes be counted, what will happen the day after, will violence ensue, and in the backdrop of all this, is a pandemic that continues to ravage the US and the world and a revealing reality of racial reckoning on our soil. In all this however, I find myself thinking focused on three words. We the people. The first three words of the preamble to the Constitution. Why, you might ask? So glad you did!
Because those three words aspire to be a community like no other! They aspire to unity, partnership that transcends differences; an authentic community with a foundation of integrity and wholeness; they imply agency and power of the people. We the people. And while we have had to question, define and redefine who is included in those three words, those words aspire then and now to one community of folks dedicated to living out a dream for America, to form a more perfect Union. Sometimes when we have aspirations however, there is a gap between the dream and the reality. And this requires intentional gap bridging work. This type of bridge building begins with the people.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…Preamble to the United States Constitution
This work does not presume that we all agree on how to achieve the dream. And it does not propose that we walk on eggshells so as not to offend others, or engage in a potentially paralyzing world of political correctness, or play a tennis game of blame, shame and guilt. This is not about being polite, or kind to each other or even asking us to love one another. Rather it is the hard work of shifting the way we see each other and choosing to see avenues of common ground, opportunities for new understanding and new ways of achieving the dream together. Instead of seeing barriers and assumptions of difference, we can choose to see the vast potential and worth in each of us and in the very nature of the challenge itself.
Of all the words swirling around in our heads on this election eve, I hope we remember these three words. We the people. Remember that WE have the power to bring about change and we can leverage that power to maximize efficiency and yield real difference. WE don’t need to relegate this work to those with formal authority, rather the solutions can come from us, the citizenry. Remember WE can choose growth and loss so as to narrow the gap. Remember that WE each have a voice and a story and we can use them to foster understanding and as currency to see one another’s dignity. Remember that WE can choose to grow in courage and capacity and develop new competencies as we strive to achieve the dream. WE can choose to engage in tough conversations and learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. WE can hold our selves accountable to our community ideals and not be afraid of the consequences when we are not fulfilling the ideals we uphold. Remember that WE can choose to be creative in our thinking and imagineer new realities to nurture these innovations and interventions. Remember that WE can choose to align what we do with who we are and embrace authenticity.
Let us strive to becoming this type of community built on just these three words: WE THE PEOPLE.
A chapel talk to middle and upper school students at Baylor School, TN