It’s Presidents’ Day, and this year we’re going to elect a President. As I’ve gotten older, our choice of leadership has seemed more and more important – not just because I think we chose so poorly last time, but also because 20 years ago I would have told you that I wasn’t sure all our votes were counted. I guess five key things have changed since those days:

  1. I became a mother, and now I feel the responsibility to do something about the world my girls live in.
  2. I have encountered children, including one of my own, who will be categorized as pre-existing condition when they reach adulthood and will desperately need health care after their parents can no longer cover them.
  3. I have seen first-hand how the privileged have access to better everything. Better legal services. Better education. Better health care. Better chances of getting a second chance. Better chances at being given the benefit of the doubt. Money and education make a huge difference in the kind of treatment and care people have access to, and ultimately their odds of survival and their quality of life.
  4. The world has changed. People with guns enter places that used to be safe and they take the lives of others, including our nation’s children.
  5. Al Gore lost the presidency, and I truly started to believe that votes are counted and they matter.

The more I think about this coming election and all the craziness in our country right now, and the more I encounter people of all backgrounds and who vote in a variety of ways, the more I’m convinced that the majority of America is not represented by what we see in Washington and what we see on the news. The majority of us are not just right or left, or Republican or Democrat, or liberal or conservative. The majority of us are somewhere in the middle, in an area defined by shades instead of absolutes. Our life experiences move our political needle, and hopefully also our empathy needle, as we make mistakes or get to know people not like us or get a diagnosis or someone we love is hurt.

But the candidates we’re presented with right now seem to either fall at the far sides, where the absolutes reside, or act like they do simply to secure votes.

It’s absolutely crazy to me that someone would say that any political party has no room for someone who believes differently. You can’t be a Democrat if you believe abortion is wrong? Or you can’t be a Republican if you think access to guns should have limits?

That. Is. Stupid.

And incredibly short-sighted.

You know what else is crazy and short-sighted? Our thoughts on instances or events have suddenly started getting us lumped into an absolute value type of category.

I can see a video of police brutality and think the officer in it is an asshole while also believing in the goodness of other law enforcement officers. I can kneel during the national anthem and still love America and care about our military and be thankful for their sacrifice. I can think that abortion is wrong and still respect the right of others to make different choices or even just believe that government should not have control over those sorts of things.

You can vote Republican and believe in restrictions for assault rifles or funding for climate solutions. You can vote Democrat and believe in prayer in schools or not want federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

What most of us can agree on, I think, is what makes a good person. Someone who is kind, who tries their best, looks for the truth, helps others, has empathy, and does the right thing when no one is looking. We are not all ever going to agree on the issues of the day, but it seems like we could at least agree on the need for our country’s leaders to be good humans – and to vote accordingly. In all the years I’ve voted I have never seen so many good people get caught up on opposite sides instead of focusing on the simplicity of who’s qualified and who’s a good human?

This is not the time to not vote. It’s not the time to stick our heads in the sand and worry about our hair while we let the rest of America figure this out. As the old saying goes if we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for absolutely anything – and that’s true in our personal lives, in our professional lives, and in our politics.

It shocks me how many people can listen to our current President and think there’s a good human. Set the political issues aside – really look at a person who laughed about grabbing and mistreating women, who belittled the family members of a fallen soldier, who made fun of a former POW, and who made fun of someone with a disability. I challenge you to then look at yourself in the mirror and say I want my children to be like him or I aspire to be like him.

A number of people, including our current president, are interviewing for the job of leader of our country. It’s our job to decide who gets that job and that decision is not just about key metrics, but also, and most importantly, about each candidate’s goodness or lack of it.

The supreme quality for leadership is integrity.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

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