Many of us have been watching the intense circus-like atmosphere of our political world in America in the past few weeks. The controversy is intense. Some of the subject matter is abhorrent. The polarization is growing to significant extremes and it seems like an endless stream of issues that will just continue to escalate. There seems to be little resolve, but only more conflict, discord and division. It also seems that many of the issues in our country that need to be addressed with strong and unified leadership will be a struggle to be resolved.
I recognize that there are differing ideological viewpoints that are legitimate and need to be expressed. Our democracy is based on a system of checks and balances where controversy is expected. Those realities presuppose a level of conflict that will be consistently present. However, there should be an expectation that the needs of citizens will be foremost in our leadership’s focus and purpose.
As I reflect on all that is happening my concern goes to the messaging we are sending to those who are looking to our leaders for guidance, support, decision-making and a hope for the future of our country. I think of our teenagers and young adults who are still formulating their viewpoints and values for their lives and the character of our leaders. I have concerns about young Americans and how they are being impacted by the current state of affairs.
Who do they trust? Do they believe they can vote in our democracy with any confidence in their leaders? Are they seeing any possibility that we could ever have leaders who can agree to disagree and yet do what is best for citizens, particularly those who have specific needs that must be addressed? Our country has been a global leader in so many vital areas and yet in today’s environment we struggle dealing with national issues without intense discord and sometimes antagonism.
I wonder whether there is an understanding in our leaders that they are always in the position of leading our youth by example, character, words and actual behavior? By some of the ways issues are expressed it appears that level of awareness seems to not be on their radar. If so it is not spoken of in public forums. Leaders should understand their responsibilities as mentors to those who look up to them. What legacies are we leaving to those we will entrust with the future of our country.
We often complain about how our youth are less motivated, less involved or even angry at what is going on around them. To the extent that this does exist is not only understandable but predictable in light of the public persona of our leaders. It is my hope that there will be an awakening that our leaders need to reassert a level of integrity, consistency, productivity and trustworthiness in how they speak and handle matters that are important to our younger Americans. They are our future. We need their active participation in our democracy and country. We need a vision that is empowering, hopeful and full of promise. If we are going to pass the baton of leadership to our youth we must be intentional about the character, context and quality of how we exemplify that leadership to them. It is how we will shape the future of their lives and our democracy!