“All men are created equal; endowed by their creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is as powerful a proclamation today as it was more than 200 years ago. It remains one of the best philosophical, moral, and ethical statements in our history. It is a core foundation of this great nation. Let us be reminded of this timeless sentiment over this upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday.
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn feast that symbolized the first Thanksgiving celebration. Individual colonies and states carried on this tradition for more than two centuries. Ironically, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
The Civil War was perhaps this country’s greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. In 1858, Lincoln said “A house divided against itself will not stand. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved— I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.” President Lincoln ultimately saw this nation through its most divisive period and was able to preserve our Union. Can we not put aside our differences and see the good in each other, if only for the holiday season?
In 48 hours, families will gather around dinner tables everywhere in America and express gratitude for all of the things for which we are thankful. There will be countless political discussions, arguments, disagreements, and rhetoric spilling from mouths far and wide. Stop. Change the conversation. Instead, consider doing #OneKindAct for just one human being: a family member, friend, or even a complete stranger. Do something that demonstrates support for one another no matter our race, religion, color, gender, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Then Tweet it, Instagram it, or Facebook it to show you care.
The anger, bitterness, and name calling have been unprecedented. Stop. Members in the same family voted differently. It has happened before and it will happen again. Do not allow those dissimilarities to tear families apart. There are hurt feelings on both sides. Acknowledge them and then stop. Your loved ones did not change overnight; their ethics, values, and moral beliefs are the same as they were before. Do not make blanket assumptions based on one single political decision without placing it in the context of shared family experiences over a lifetime. Life is too short not to see the goodness in each other.
In 1787, at the close of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “What have we got?” by a curious woman, as he left Independence Hall. He replied, “A Republic, madam, if you can keep it.” This is the vital task entrusted to us by our Founding Fathers. We must keep it. We are not a pure democracy, where the majority have unlimited power; we are a republic, where a written constitution places limitations on that power, thereby providing safeguards for individuals in the minority. Without these checks and balances, those in the minority, whether by race, religion, color, gender, or even political affiliation, would suffer at the hands of the majority. Our Founding Fathers created a representative republic government, which has served us well for the last 200 years. It is not going to fail us now.
The elections of 1876, 1888, and 2000 also produced an Electoral College winner who did not win the nationwide popular vote. The outcome two weeks ago is not unprecedented for us as a nation. We should search to find common ground and move forward. Lincoln said, “A government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” We can choose what we will become, as a country, as a family, and as a people. We can continue to name call, bash, insult, and cast our anger far and wide. Or we can choose to dust ourselves off, cast our conflicts aside, and rebuild by doing #OneKindAct at a time.
Republicans, Democrats, and Independents collectively abhor the violent and discriminatory events that have occurred over the last two weeks. No one can force another person to act out hate, bigotry, racism, and xenophobia; people are committing these reprehensible crimes of their own accord. Do not let these rotten apples spoil the bushel. We can change this by joining together and doing something constructive.
Extending an olive branch is never easy, but it is necessary. Commit to do just #OneKindAct. Make it extraordinary. Make it compassionate. Make it a statement that we do not tolerate hate, bigotry, racism, violence or discrimination of any kind. We are a people united in a common history and a common purpose; we are free to be kind to one another, philanthropic to those who are less fortunate, and patriotic toward citizens, non-citizens, and immigrant populations alike. This holiday season our loved ones are depending on us for guidance, reassurance, and unconditional love. Why can we not put our differences aside and do that for each other? We should. We must. We can. We will. Do #OneKindAct and have a very Happy Thanksgiving.