What America Needs Now

Two years ago, in the midst of the Democratic Primary, I wrote about The Leadership We Need, and I still believe in our desperate need for a new path in American civic life.

Here is what I want to hear from President-elect Biden right now:

Thank you for trusting me, at this moment in our history, at this moment of challenge and of opportunity to lead us toward what we can be.

I will work every moment starting right now to keep this country safe and that starts with our collective public health, with elevating and empowering our doctors to take care of us, with empowering and investing in our scientists to help cure and protect us, and turning the tide against this pandemic.

I think we should all just take a moment. A moment of silence for the people we’ve lost. And a prayer for the more than 100,000 of our friends and neighbors who got sick, today.

Look we’re in a tough spot. There’s no two ways about it. A sunny attitude is not enough to get us out of this one. I know that. My son knew that. Where I’m from you roll up your sleeves, you put your differences aside, and you find a way through.

We may be in a tough, dysfunctional, divided place as a nation — but we are not a divided nation. We are the United States of America and can be the nation of justice, equality, opportunity we have always strived to be.

We believe in justice. What are you willing to do to make our communities safe, fair, and vibrant?

We believe in equality. If you’re at the top, what are you willing to do to elevate your neighbors who are at the bottom?

We all need a fair, competitive economy. What are you willing to do to create opportunity in every community in America? What are we willing to do to unlock creativity, innovation, and the unbounded ambition of America?

Democracy is something we do together. What we believe is that foundation of how we act, but we must act, work, serve. Each of us must take our seat around the circle that is America — our circle is incomplete without every single one of us at work for each other.

The pendulum swing of American politics is a wrecking ball destroying our nation.

We must set down our hunger for political retribution, set down our desire for punishment, lay down the language of war in civic life. If we want a country that works, if we want a country that elevates everyone — that means everyone, that means not turning our back with contempt on anyone. It means not weaponizing difference. It means not punishing our opponents as a measure of success.

The people with whom we disagree are not our enemies: sometimes they are our opponents, mostly they are our neighbors. I know there are existential threats in politics especially to the most vulnerable in America, and oppression can have no place here. As James Baldwin reminded us, beliefs rooted in denying each others humanity or right to exist are not to be accommodated. And it is each of our responsibility, but especially the least vulnerable, to stand up for each other. But mostly we want the same things: to be seen and heard, respected, empowered; to lead lives of dignity and opportunity where we aren’t just working to generate more wealth for those at the top; to raise our families in a country where our future is brighter than our present.

That’s the American Dream, man. The American Dream was never about money. It wasn’t. It was about our kids. That they could have things a little bit better than we did. That’s what’s in doubt right now. That’s what’s up for grabs. That’s our challenge.

Our future is not the inevitable product of our divided present. If we are willing to take our seat, to accept our responsibility, to do our work for each other we can act now, starting today as we want our future to be — we can move in that brighter direction together.

Let us begin.

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