Last night was a historic night for the country, but one could easily say that every election is historic. Today we wake up to an America that seems refreshed and perhaps relieved that this arduous journey toward a new Presidential administration is over. There are many things to be fearful of this morning, including the uncertainty of a new direction in government, an economy whose strength seems compromised irrevocably, men and women in harm’s way half across the world and perhaps more frightening, a feeling of cynicism over the ideals that divide Americans never being bridged.
Perhaps five years in state government and twenty-five more being raised in a household full of bureaucrats has left me skeptical, but I reject cynicism at this important time. In my experience, and probably yours, I find that politicians and self-proclaimed leaders come and go. Political parties even rise and fall and the ideals that they supposedly represent will shift with the winds of popular opinion. Campaigns can rile emotions and raise hopes…promises are made and most left unfulfilled. Change is hoped for and springs forth from the lips of candidates and pundits alike. But no President, no leader, no Congress nor any political body can make change. Change happens with us. Only the citizen, the sometimes forgotten, ever-downtrodden remnant of what is good and hopeful in a Republic is the instrument of change.
Change doesn’t occur when inspirational speeches are given or candidates smile toward lifeless cameras. Change occurs when we wake up and choose that today we are going to do better than we did previously. Whatever our role on this earth, change occurs when we decide that we have the ability to improve our own actions before we improve anyone else’s. Casting a ballot is an important and sacred right, but casting a ballot will not feed anyone. Nor will casting a ballot help men and women of all backgrounds and all economic statuses find better opportunities for their families. Casting a ballot only is an expression of support. It must be followed by real meaningful action that supports. When we support one another, when we trust in our heads and hearts to overcome problems, we find that our vote is not the most powerful part of our being as citizens. In fact, our vote pales in comparison to our compassion, our willingness to sacrifice and do what is right. When we put ahead what is right for our community before we focus on what is right for us, we can accomplish good that shines on all.
Today some will celebrate and others might find themselves frustrated and disappointed. Whomever you chose to vote for in whatever political contest, remember this…There are people suffering today. There are people hurting. There are people who do not share our hope, only our fear. There are people whose governments have abandoned them, and whose loved ones find themselves helpless to protect and nurture them. If we fail to help those individuals both within and outside our own borders, what good can we say we’ve done? When we place again our ambitions on a pedestal and our hopes in a locked closet, there will come a day when there is no sunrise for this world, only darkness.
Today take that step, and make that choice. Only those that decide to do better, to do good, to make the extra effort will provide change enough to lead us from our despair. There will always be challenges, and there will always be fear, but it is not words that cast out darkness. Only the firmness of an outstretched hand and the purity of work—those tiny measures of hope in action that renew our spirits and send us forward into the future with heads held high.