This wouldn’t be a true personal website related to the social sector and ideas if I did not write something about the election. Would it? So here are some initial observations…
What did I do during election week? I spent my evenings –
- Watching Wolf and John at the Magic Board
- Hearing Jake, Dana and Abby discuss what the CNN reporters said from the field
- Enjoying the give and take between Axe, Van, Gloria, and Rick (in his outstanding black, old-school high top Chuck Taylors and fancy trousers…love it Senator Santorum!) moderated by none other than a descendant from a robber baron who is a journalist working to expose truth, Anderson Cooper (that paradox always makes me smile).
In some ways, I was a news junkie. But in other ways, I was pondering and thinking about the world we live in today, and what it means for moving forward, especially as it relates to Michigan, my adopted home state.
First thing. Senator Peters squeaked by John James in Michigan’s United States Senate race. I have met Senator Peters several times discussing Grand River Whitewater and Kent County’s legislative goals. I heard him acknowledge and speak about a flawed, but necessary Iran nuclear deal (his view). I have watched him work in a bi-partisan manner with Representative Huizenga (R) to pass legislation (and ride motorcycles with Republican Kent County Commissioners on the way to the Gerald R. Ford Airport.) I am glad he won because he has the ability to work across the aisle and promote policies that support people. He supported and advocated for the Ford Airport to ensure it received funding for a new control tower. He labored intensely to ensure the federal government provided PFAS remediation funding. He worked and continues to work tirelessly on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which protects the world’s largest fresh surface water reserve. His temperament is needed in DC and Michigan as we emerge from this contentious election period.
Second thing. The election of a new President that believes climate change is real, but who is also a pragmatist, will help Michigan make necessary transitions. Because we live on a peninsula, surrounded by the Great Lakes, we are at risk for significant climate change impacts. For a moment, think about ice caps melting north of Canada near the North Pole. This ice has been floating, but acting as a land mass for generations. But in essence it is frozen saltwater currently changing form from a solid to a liquid and spreading out. In the case of melting polar ice caps, the water either enters the Hudson Bay (Canada), spreads out along the coasts of the eastern seaboard of the United States, and/or enters into the St. Lawrence Seaway on its way into the Great Lakes Basin.
As many of us witnessed during 2020, there was significant erosion along the Lake Michigan coast, and homeowners worked feverishly to preserve their homes and keep them from falling into the Lake. We also watched Fishtown in Leland trying to address the flooding of its historic stores. Water levels along Lake Huron are rising too. And one cannot miss the waters pushing into the parks along Alpena’s Lake Huron shoreline.
My point is the water has to go somewhere when it melts, and while the impact of climate change may be ultimately unknown, my view is that we are better off addressing climate issues now and plan resiliency into our development patterns to prevent further damage than taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude. We are more likely to see this policy with a Biden Administration, and that should assist Michigan.
Similarly, the Obama-Biden Administration proved it is not out to get the auto industry as evidenced in the 2008 Financial Crisis and the auto rescue package it supported. At the same time, Obama-Biden forced needed change on the auto industry by increasing mile per gallon fuel standards as well as restructuring pensions and healthcare obligations within the industry. I imagine the same will happen with the transition to electric cars, and the build up of green energy. The Biden-Harris Administration will work to ensure Michigan remains the mobility leader in the world. Biden knows the auto industry players and will hopefully incentivize change so that Michigan is the home of a green automobile and that technology can be leveraged to become the home of the green bus, green plane, green boat, and green power technology.
Third thing. My last thought…how will Thanksgiving go with several aunts, uncles, brothers and sister-in-laws voting for President Trump, some vociferously supporting him on social media. (I also have several siblings, aunts/uncles, and cousins that voted for Biden who are loudly supporting him too.) I will be vulnerable and share that I struggle with the reality that many of my loved ones were so loudly supportive of President Trump for one reason that I would like to convey through a story.
Several years ago I was on an executive search committee filled with community members. We were tasked with hiring a CEO of a $150+ million organization that serves vulnerable children, families and adults. We worked with a search firm that made us go through a laborious process to define the leadership characteristics we wanted in the next CEO. Options included, but were not limited to: visionary, strong financial acumen, creative, collaborative, strong communication skills, strategic thinker, risk-taker, innovative, steady, honest, ethical, moral, truthful, et cetera, et cetera. We had to rank these characteristics from 1 (most important) to 10 (least important).
I placed characteristics such as…. honest, ethical, moral, truthful…toward the bottom, while many community members had them at the top of their list. I argued that those should be a prerequisite for even being considered, and that we cannot consider for a moment people that do not meet that as a minimum standard. Therefore, ‘other characteristics’ are more important for me.
As the process continued, I really struggled because other committee members continued going back to these foundational values whenever we discussed a candidate. I did not understand it at all because in my mind, leadership by its very nature requires those attributes.
Unfortunately, I understand it more now after living through the past four years with the tweets and constant clanging of symbols to debunk, out maneuver, and amplify its ‘truth’ over the other sides ‘truth.’ While leadership may require foundational attributes, making sure those that think they are leaders have these attributes is absolutely necessary. Yet, I am perplexed because so many people (72 million plus Americans at last count) think that some of these basic leadership skills like telling the truth, being honest, moral and ethical are not essential. They value other leadership attributes as more important.
Back to the upcoming Thanksgiving conversation, and how will that go in divided homes. I think the election taught me that somehow we, as Americans, are speaking past each other, and have lost faith in believing that we have each other’s best interests at heart. We need to turn on our listening ears and let each other share our struggles and fears that we may have without incessant commentary that challenges these beliefs, opinions and/or assumptions. Being vulnerable is hard (i.e. see Brene’ Brown), and we need to respect that as we give each other some space to grieve or celebrate. (Challenges can happen at a later date….maybe the next holiday gathering whether that’s Christmas or New Year’s Eve.) But for those of us in divided homes and communities, we need to feel heard and listened to without judgment right now. And then ponder what we heard.
So my Idea to Consider this week is: Let’s help our local, state, and national leaders lower the rhetorical temperature, while we remember that we have things to be thankful for in the midst of this pandemic, and so much uncertainty about what the future will hold.
If my hypothesis is right – that we have lost faith in believing that we have each other’s best interests at heart – how did that happen? I’m hoping to discuss this in my next post using a timeline of the past 20 years: 2000 thru 2020. I’m sure it will not take everything into account, but I have been pondering this for a long time, and am looking forward to sharing it to receive some constructive feedback.
One thought on “Ideas to Consider #5…Post Election Thoughts”
Your third section was very well written and absolutely on point. Great thoughts Mr. Van Zetten!!