Sometimes, things can change simply because we want things to change. People can feel differently and that can spark a cascade of cause and effect. For instance, sometimes a recession can start simply because people feel as if there is a recession. So, it becomes a downward spiral, and our actions start matching our thoughts and words, and suddenly we have caused recessionary activity. Then we enter a downward spiral that makes reality from our thoughts.
Some of the things that Pres. Biden has done right away were maneuvers to undo what seemed like harmful policies and actions. But also, it was intended to have us think differently. Right away, he did things to try to reconnect us with the rest of the world. For example, the United States is back in the Paris Accord, he is not going to build the wall, he is going to reconnect us with the WHO, and many other things. But right away, he is sending a message that the United States will become part of the world and that is likely to undo the fragmented and rudderless direction and create cascade of positive actions that lead in the same direction – one toward openness and connectivity. I sense we are going to reconnect a little bit more with China, reconnect more generally with the world through global trade and cooperation on climate change, and many other important topics. It’s suddenly uplifting for people to focus their energy, and thoughts lead to words lead to actions.
The rest of the world is taking note. As an example, China has ostracized former Trump officials essentially sending a message that these people were intractable, illogical and absurd in their positions, and we don’t want anything to do with that kind of thinking. When this kind of implicit criticism applies to a former US Secretary of State, among other White House officials including the head of trade negotiations, it should be taken very seriously. The officials leaving the White House would otherwise be respected, but it seems they are being recognized as clowns, and among the worst, if not the absolute worst, government officials we’ve ever had. There is a message that this kind of thoughtless, narrowminded thinking should not be tolerated, especially by the United States itself – and certainly not by other important countries in the world.
Progress is not a smooth curve. We always have ups and downs and sometimes we make mistakes and bad things happen. But that series of events can sometimes create better things. For example, we now have many more people who understand the importance of good government, and that policy and focus really do make a difference and are not some distant if you real mental exercise. These things really impact our lives. We are understanding the importance of reconnecting with people, and recognizing that, even if you believe you’re the strongest and most influential entity around, we are still part of society and its essential that we join together and have connections among people, even if we disagree. It is not personal, it is policy. Engaging in policy, with debate and discussions, is essential. I’m not advocating we all think like a monolith – just the opposite. We must be humane and nuanced, and there are disagreements in how to achieve common goals. We also have different priorities and reassessing the value of those priorities is also fertile ground for disagreement.
An interesting experience I had recently was a virtual meeting with five colleagues from the Harvard Kennedy School. On the call, the six of us disagreed on most points. But it was not contentious, and even though we disagreed, discussion was respectful and courteous. No one talked over anyone, no one raised their voice, there was patience and no anger – we were simply talking about points and policies and the reasons behind them, exploring where our disagreements were trying to understand the other person’s perspective. Not many people changed their minds, but it was an understanding of where everyone was coming from, and each of us had the context with which we understand these positions change with greater clarity and understanding.
It’s possible to express one’s perspective while still acknowledging a different perspective. It’s a different spirit to the conversation. It’s not, “I disagree with you, you’re an idiot, your thinking is worthless.” It’s trying to understand someone else’s context and why they are making their points. It is fine to argue but no need to make it a personal attack or dismiss the individual discussing the policy as a mere idiot and a loser.
We have just gone through an experience where we had our leader identify people as losers, constantly insulting anyone who disagreed with him even in the slightest for four years. There was no real policy debate, even though there were specific policy issues. Most people in the country simply drew a bright line and chose a side. But we understand this is fundamentally flawed because we are all on the same side. We are Americans and we want our country to be better, we want our citizens to be better off, we want to play a responsible role in the world where, when we help raise the tide, ours is the biggest boat that gets lifted. It is in our self-interest to find ways to work together. Not agree on everything, but recognize our goal is to improve America. Our goal is not to insult the other side. Our goal is not “party first, everything else last.” We’ve seen selfishness and arrogance, as well as stupidity, taken to a new high level. It is the job of our leader to now wipe that away and have us think of loftier goals. What is best for everyone?
We come to realize that it’s one thing to have a position, but the quality of the leader is essential. We’ve just finished with a despicable character who, more than anything, was a con man. He said he was successful, but he was a failure. He said he was rich, but he’s essentially financially bankrupt. He said he was qualified and smart, but he was really just a clown and a fool. Personally, I happen to agree with many of the policies that the administration was putting forward, but the leader was so repugnant, and we could not have a reasonable discussion on any topic that allowed nuance or accepting compromise or middle ground (just think of that “debate” where he was interrupting like a petulant five-year-old). Leadership matters. Ideas need to be discussed and debated. But even a good idea espoused by clowns and idiots get us nowhere.
I believe our new president recognizes that he has an important legacy to build. He’s coming in behind probably the worst president this country has ever had, and he can be the one who brings our country back on the right track. That track is not one of policy or specifics. It’s a track where we debate what’s best for the country, constructively and respectfully. We don’t simply insult and ignore each other because we want to serve our own personal best interests. I believe Pres. Biden takes this position very seriously. After all, he is 78 years old. This is his legacy and his life’s work. Everything he will do during his presidency will resonate historically, and I believe he wants that resonance to be outstanding and a historical legacy. He can be the one who creates an environment where the pursuit of a greater good, regardless of which direction and priority, is still the best policy. America stands for a place of unity, tolerance, merit, success, and the melting pot of different cultures and perspectives that make us collectively much better. I hope that is his lesson for this country, beginning now.