The morning after the presidential election is decided, some of us will awaken to heartache while others feel a sense of joy and relief.
That's just the first day of the future: What do we do next?
Take a deep breath and grieve, if you feel the need. If your guy wins, have the courtesy to celebrate in the privacy of your kitchen – not at church, at work, or on your front lawn. This has been a hard-fought election and my hope is – whoever wins – will behave like a leader, not a winner.
The day after the election, visualize a more collaborative type of political conversation. Close your eyes. Imagine the conversation that can change your life in four years. Imagine a conversation that can change the world.
Powerful conversations result from strategic actions. I am proposing a blueprint for developing an American conversation that will keep us from experiencing a campaign as divisive, mean and unproductive again. Let's not go any lower than this.
Gather your family, neighbors and adversaries together. Ask them to imagine the nation they would like to see four years from now. How is it different? Instead of continuing the heated, partisan debate over where America needs to go, let's start a conversation that begins with the end in mind.
Four years from today, America will be a diverse, inclusive nation that serves its citizens, rather than its political parties and special interests. People who want to work have life-sustaining jobs. Corporate leaders are acting responsibly. How did we manage to leave behind this campaign, and arrive at so special a place?
It is your job to figure out what steps we took. Use the following questions as a guide:
* Which grassroots leaders led the transformative dialogs that brought about change? What prompted citizens to band together as collaborators, rather than combatants? How did the process begin? How did it grow?
* What finally caused Americans to recognize that political divisions and gridlock were a threat to the future? Was it a fiscal crisis? A series of national disasters? Civic unrest in the street? A groundswell of good will that flowed from diverse religious communities? How did we create a political climate to support these momentous breakthroughs?
* What strategies did our leaders put in place to end gridlock in Washington and promote a sense of geographic interdependency? We are a union of states, but each state affects the whole. What compromise did we reach regarding states' rights and the scope of federal government? How did that conversation get started? How did we reduce the budget while maintaining our commitment to quality education, access to higher education and social services?
* How did Americans finally master the language of learning, which promotes collaborative dialogs, self-help strategies, personal responsibility, and letting go? This is the language that ultimately enabled us to heal from wounds of slavery; honestly discuss fears regarding America's changing racial demographics; unite against special interests, and develop a successful public educational system that closing the attainment and achievement gaps. What moment prompted the tone of political debates to soften, and the message of interdependency to take root?
It is possible, four years from now, to hold a more meaningful political conversation that inspires bold ideas and inclusive economic strategies. We have to stop waiting on the President for change, and start talking more respectfully to the political adversaries down the block.
(Linda S. Wallace, a periodic contributing columnist to The New Tri-State Defender, can be reached at theculturalcoach.com.)