Have You Voted?

Have you voted.  I have!  I feel really good about it.  I smiled at all of the other early voters as though we have a special bond.  We do.  Whether we agree on all of the candidates, we all understand the importance of voting as an essential element in our Constitutional rights and freedoms.  Our respect as voters for our nation and our democracy ties us more closely together than any of our differences.

If you haven’t voted yet, take the time to do so now.  You will feel better for having done so.  Then wear your “I Voted” stickers as a reminder to your family and friends to vote.  And don’t forget, at the end of the day we are all in this together.

Vote Today: Democracy Depends On It!

Today there are elections all across the country.  Vote for the party, the candidates and the issues of your choice.  But vote.  Democracy depends on it.

Election politics–Respecting our own values

It is July, Independence Day is just around the corner.  We are in the thick of a Presidential election campaign. Stories concerning President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, fill our newspapers, our television and radio stations and the internet news.

                                                                                                               NYDailyNews.com Samad/Getty

                                                                                                Washington Post  Charles Dharapak-AP

There are weeks you would swear that the insults and barbs are directed at an enemy nation, not at an individuals who are lead and/or seek to lead, this great nation.  Listening to the venom in the political debate, you would swear that neither candidate is fit to be President.  In fact, both of these men are good men.  They are flawed, as are we all.  Their values, and the values of their parties, may be different than yours and mine.  But they are not evil, incompetent or stupid.

Francis John McConnell, a bishop in the Methodist Church and president of DePauw University from 1909-1912, said it well:

“We need a type of patriotism that recognizes the virtues of those who are opposed to us”.

We are so fortunate to live in a country that values its citizens.  Our government is a model for the world.  We are so fortunate to live in a nation with a United States Constitution that speaks to fundamental rights such as freedom, democracy, liberty and the rule of law.  Wouldn’t our founding fathers weep at the level of venom directed at our government leaders; not only our Presidential candidates, but all levels of elected office (and this isn’t the day to talk about the election of judges.)

As fortunate as we are, and have been, our nation has serious problems, and we aren’t going to solve them by demeaning our government leaders through campaigns of hate.  And can’t we stop throwing insulting comments at family and friends who vote for “the other guy”.  Can’t we recognize their virtues?

Isn’t this a time to direct our attention to finding solutions to serious national problems: the economy, immigration policy, strengthening our position as a leader within the community of nations.  Can’t we look for answers together.  Can’t we set aside our anger long enough to find common ground and to focus on solving problems together rather than focusing on new ways to embarrass and harangue those with whom we disagree.  Can’t we make our leaders and each other look good, not bad?

Support the candidate of your choice.  Raise money, go door to door, help the processes of democracy work well.  But at the end of the day, can’t we just find each other’s virtues?

In this opinion we do not intend to speak for our employers, our spouses, our families or our friends.  

The Mighty and the Almighty–Diplomacy and Faith

In my quest for greater understanding of the role of faith in government and diplomacy, I have focused on two books.  Senator John Danforth’s Faith and Politics and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s The Mighty and the Almighty.  Senator Danforth is a lifelong Republican.  Secretary Albright has been a Democrat since college.  Both are Episcopalian.  Each served as Ambassador to the UN.  Both advocate that people of faith should be active in government.  Both believe it is essential that there be respect for diversity both within the Christian community and that this respect must extend to those of other faiths and philosophical beliefs.

I focused on Senator Danforth in an earlier post.  Now I will focus on Secretary Albright.  She was born in Czechoslovakia.  Her father was a diplomat.  She was a child when Adolf Hitler was in power.  She emigrated with her family from Czechoslovakia to the United States after communists seized power in her homeland.  Educated at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, she received her PhD from Columbia University.  Raised Catholic, she converted to the Episcopal faith and, as an adult, came to learn of her Jewish heritage.  Appointed United States Secretary of State during President Clinton’s administration, she served with great distinction from January 1997 to January 2001.

Her unique family history and academic and professional experiences give her a unique perspective on the subject of her book, the role of faith in international diplomacy.  Because of her childhood experiences, she also has special insight into what a privilege it s to live in a free and democratic society.

Secretary Albright’s book is dedicated to “those of every nation and faith who defend liberty, build peace, dispel ignorance, fight poverty, and seek justice.”  Secretary Albright weaves this dedication, and her personal family history, into a scholarly but easily readable narrative of the role of faith in the earliest years of colonial America, through the founding of the Republic and through to the challenges of international diplomacy in a nuclear age.

She discusses separately and together the roles of religious belief and morality.  Her definition of what is moral as essentially that which “we associate with good:  life, liberty, justice, prosperity, health, and peace of mind.”  She describes these characteristics as the opposite of “death, repression, lawlessness, poverty, illness, and fear.”

She worries about the dangers and challenges resulting from the increase in religious passions throughout the world.  She shares the wisdom of religious scholars that effective diplomacy requires that government leaders become more knowledgeable about the faiths and cultures of the countries with whom we interact.  She believes such knowledge is essential in our endeavors to work toward reconciliation rather than toward armed conflict.  Even as she identifies herself as an optimist, she worries “the prospect of a nuclear bomb detonated by terrorists in purported service to the Almighty is a nightmare that may one day come true.”

The Mighty and the Almighty is a goldmine for those who want a brief history of the role of religious conflict on the founding of some of the earliest American colonies, about the religious perspectives of our first four Presidents, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  Because there is no way to do more than touch the surface of the issues raised by Secretary Albright.  It is wonderful material for further posts.