For years I have been challenging myself, other leaders, and elected officials to offer compelling visions of the future that are inclusive, just, and propel all people and communities toward flourishing. Without hope (tempered by realism), we are left with either anarchy leading to new forms of totalitarianism, or timeworn experiments that have proven fruitless.
Here are some questions for those who care about our global and local future:
- Is your vision inclusive of all classes and cultures? Or are you preying on envy and resentment and fomenting conflict to secure power over others?
- Is your vision doable and can it be paid for without stifling creativity and opportunity? Are your ideas incrementally achievable or grandiose talking points rooted in scare tactics?
- Does your vision continue enshrining freedom of conscience, religion, speech, and peaceable assembly, or are you placing whole groups outside the pale because they are not enlightened enough?
- Does your vision include both changed hearts and just systems? Good intentions are helpful, but without access, equity, and opportunity, they will ring hollow.
- Does your vision allow for progress without instant perfection and proximate justice on the way to full liberation? Can you find ways for principled compromise?
- Does your vision build on the lessons of history so that old mistakes are not repeated, and wisdom can be applied afresh to new challenges? Or are you trapped in the recent fallacy that dismisses the insights of previous generations?
- Does your vision reflect the need for people of character as well as new public policies?
A fresh vision of “there” will require imagination, integrity, intentional action, and a love for continual learning and refinement. We will never build a perfect world, but we can make the present one better.
Dear “kneelers” and “standers” –
As you exercise your freedoms, I have one request:
When the cameras are off, please pursue the ancient prophet’s great call: “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” Character is proven when no one is looking.
Dear Mr. President,
I am grieved today.
Not at your love for the Flag, but your insulting remarks about those that disagree with you.
Your Christian values should include love for those that differ and self-control in your speech.
Plain speech can be a virtue, but there is no place for name-calling and vulgarity.
I agree and disagree with some of your policies, but your inflammatory reactions diminish your Office and hinder your positive aims.
“Make America Great Again” must mean living with our deepest differences, hearing each other’s pains and humbly forging alliances for good…not polarizing tweets and alienating many that would otherwise sit down and work out solutions.
You have better things to do that insert yourself into the NFL: healthcare, immigration, North Korea, the Middle East, national infrastructure, ballooning debt and a divided public square…these are worthy of thoughtful attention, not disinviting a kind voice such as Steph Curry.
Please demonstrate statesmanship.
People and politicians (who are the elected subset of “the people”) are full of contradictory feelings and ideas. The tendency to overgeneralize and universalize is rampant. Who speaks for “the people?” Why are we so quick to opine on what African Americans, Hispanics, White Blue Collar folks, Evangelicals, Women and even LGBTQ folks think on any and every subject? If we are going to engender consensus on vital issues and chart a prosperous future for America and the world, we must end such facile thinking and begin to regard people with more respect and expect more of the political leaders elected and supported by the people.
Each person capable of moral action and self-reflection is unique. This does not mean they are disconnected and do not share beliefs and qualities of particular groups. America’s founders understood the tensions between individual liberty and the common good, between public service and political factions. Some of the founders and framers hoped there would never be political parties, just gentleman (few could foresee the female franchise) farmers and citizens serving for a season and returning to work after their public service was complete.
This idyllic vision quickly gave way to parties and philosophies competing for voters’ attention. By itself, two or more parties are not bad for the public, provided all parties and people share enough common virtues for social cohesion.
For 2016 and beyond, catering to constituencies must take second place to framing a vision and set of values that people of many backgrounds can embrace. This is much more than a “big tent” ethos or chanting, “we have something for everyone.” Such pandering has led to the severe challenges we face today.
Progress begins with personal character being more important than perceived competencies or charisma. Back in the 1820s, a member of Congress wrote a letter back to a disgruntled constituent: “You elected me for my moral character and sound judgment, not to procure public resources.” Imagine politicians saying to the voters, “You cannot have everything you want from the hands of government.” If this kind of integrity is united with a spiritual awakening, there is hope for America and the world.