Last night, my wife and I watched the election results as our newborn daughter slept in the crib next to us. Donald Trump is our next president. This much is now certain. What this means for our daughter’s future however, is less certain — like all futures.
Whether you voted for Hilary or whether you voted for Trump, all-in-all, it’s important not to overstate the importance of a single four-year presidential term of one person on your life. Yes, the President of the United States is like a Keystone species: with a disproportional large effect relative to size. Yet, still no one person is all-powerful. In fact, I think about some of the most notable individuals throughout history that have changed society for the better: those who have brought about social change, or have opened our eyes to new perspectives. Heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela or Albert Einstein. None of those heroes were US Presidents. Additionally, all of these individuals suffered severe discrimination in their lifetimes: Einstein fled Germany from Adolf Hitler’s regime, Mandela was jailed for 27 years, Ghandi and King were assassinated. My point is that it’s not from a position of comfort that brings out the best in us — provoking society to change for the better — but significant change often comes from a position of discomfort and suffering: extraordinary achievements from seemingly ordinary individuals.
If you didn’t vote for Trump, and you don’t like the political trajectory of the nation in the upcoming years, four years is not a long time to wait for another election. I have many close friends who are both republicans and democrats. Even my family, although we share DNA, we don’t always share similar feelings on politics. Yet we still talk to one another, love and care for one another, all despite our politics. I think the same goodwill applies to the nation as a whole. Sure, there are gray dark spots on the fringes: those groups mired in exceptional hate. They will always exist in some form, but they are diminishing.
We all know John F. Kennedy famously remarked that the country is more about the individual’s endeavors rather than what an amorphous “country” might do for (or against) us. But another lesser known quote by JFK that I like even more, is that it is better to light a candle than to curse in the darkness. We can watch what happens in the next four years passively, or we can be an active participant of the future of our nation, and the future of our children. What candle will we light? What specific cause close to our hearts will we take up in the next four years and what passions will we inspire to that cause? That, my friends, is ultimately the thing that will matter most to our onlooking sons and daughters — that is, when they wake up in the morning.