DEAR READERS: On this day that we celebrate the independence of our country, I want to appeal to the best within us. The promise of our great nation is at risk. Too many frightening occurrences are happening on our watch. We need to do something. It seems that we have been at war with one another and most of the world for too long. These days, the tensions have escalated. I often wake up in fear of what the headlines will reveal about our country’s behavior during the hours that I was sleeping. I hold my breath before I glance at my smartphone or turn on the news.
This is not the way to live. Yes, we have fought many battles to make ourselves a more perfect union. Yes, there are many blemishes that we cannot overlook. But as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. suggested, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
What does justice look like? How can we claim justice in our daily lives? I just listened to 40 middle school students speak at my daughter’s eighth-grade graduation. In her school, there is a strong social justice civics program from preschool all the way through middle school. The teachers encourage the children to learn about both major political parties and to learn their philosophies. They had a mock presidential election in 2016, and a mock Congress this year, where the students immerse themselves in the roles and processes involved in each so that they can understand how government works. They visited our nation’s capital and met with leaders on both sides of the aisle, including Reps. John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Will Hurd (R-Texas) to gain firsthand knowledge of the legislative process.
These students from our New York City liberal-minded school then participated in multiple conversations with students from a conservative-minded rural school in Virginia. Both sides started out wearing the veil of stereotypical thinking. By the end, both sets of students gained a better understanding and compassion for the other side. They spoke to the humanity in each other and, in turn, considered how they could possess certain ideologies and beliefs.
I know all of this because many of the students at graduation spoke about how their eyes were opened to differences and how they became able to respectfully disagree or become more flexible in their approach to some delicate hot-button issues after talking openly with these kids.
I walked away from that graduation feeling hopeful that our children will lead the way. They were strong, clear, articulate and focused. But we cannot rely on them. We must carry the torch of goodness right now. We must shine a light on injustice and point our steps toward creating a better world for ourselves and future generations. We need to make it possible to turn on the news with ease, without holding our breath, because uplifting messages are beginning to flow again. It is our responsibility. This is how we maintain our independence and respect around the world. Now is the time for action, for healing. It is our duty to maintain our nation as a beacon of hope, grace and possibility for each other and for the world.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)