Guest piece by President Mauri Ditzler
To the editor:
Election Day is upon us. I have always found this day and the opportunity to vote to be a cause for great joy. I trust that all who are registered will vote and will find pleasure in doing so.
I think it’s safe to say this has been an unusual campaign season. And as events have and continue to unfold, I appreciate the reminder by one of our Political Science faculty members that a democracy must be tended to if it is to flourish. I trust that individually and collectively we will look for ways to nurture our democracy as we wrap up one campaign and begin to look ahead to the next.
For the first time in my memory I hear friends expressing concern that the transition in leadership may not be orderly and peaceful. This is troubling. An important step in nurturing our democracy will be to assure our friends and rivals that we respect their right to have voted differently even as we acknowledge the importance of accepting the collective outcome whether or not our side prevailed.
A friend of mine argues that one of the most important outcomes of a liberal arts education is a sympathetic imagination. That phrase calls on us to be both creative and generous in understanding that a friend might embrace a position that we find repugnant. The days just before an election are an important time to exhibit a sympathetic imagination. And, it is ever so important to do the same in the days immediately after an election.
This will be the 16th presidential election in my lifetime. While I have only vague memories of the Eisenhower – Stevenson contest in 1956, I had strong opinions in all others. I was delighted by about half of the outcomes and crushed by the others. As I look back, it occurs to me that the positive outcomes didn’t turn out as well as I hoped and the negative outcomes weren’t quite as bad as I expected.
Our democracy is strong. I think we can attribute it to the inner strength of those who make up our country. I listen to campaign rhetoric and I worry that our worst characteristics are emerging. But, when things look bleak, good people step forward and charter a constructive path. I am confident that will happen again as it has so many times before. And, I am confident that our community will be a shining example of the best elements of a democracy.
We will rally together to encourage those who are disappointed, and embrace those who might feel threatened. Some will move forward with excitement and others with trepidation. The extent to which we put aside rancor for that journey will be a measure of the quality of the good people who make up our community.
Photo via Albion College