Last night we held a truly historic election with many firsts, some of which we should celebrate, some which we should lament, and some that just are. The first female candidate of a major party is a first we should celebrate, regardless of who that woman may be or what she may represent. The first president to be elected without prior service in either government or the military is something which may be cause for celebration, lamentation, or neither. Only time can tell. And while far from being the most divisive election in history it has been a rough road these past many months. (For more on the history of divisiveness in politics, read up on the elections of 1800, 1828, 1860, 1884, and 1928; the feud between Vice President Aaron Burr and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton which ended in the death of one; or the tumult of the 1960s, when political assassinations were all too commonplace.)
For many, this election did not go the way they had hoped, but for all of us, whether enjoying victory, grieving loss, or just wondering what happened, we should all remember that politics is still local. The president is still just one man and while that man may be, in many ways, the most powerful on Earth, his power still pales in comparison to the power you have over your own life and even the power you have over your community. If you seek change, let it begin with you.
And I plead most dearly to what I hope is a tiny minority so filled with anger that you are willing to lash out with violence, be it physical or even just verbal; resist that urge. Many, whether rightly or wrongly I will not judge, opposed our next president on the grounds that he would promote hate and violence. This may or may not be the case, but know that, whether he will or will not, you alone have the ultimate power over your own actions. You do not have to give in to your own desires to be hateful or divisive. Meet hate with love. Meet violence with peace.
In the history of the world, the men and women we admire most are the ones who have risen above the fray; Jesus Christ, Susan B Anthony, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela. Be like these men and women. Continue to fight for what you believe in and fight hard, for it is spirited debate that makes us all better. But fight civilly. Fight graciously. Fight respectfully. Fight peacefully.
Perhaps my greatest joy is that President-Elect Trump, Secretary Clinton, and President Obama all delivered some of the best speeches of this campaign season the day after the election. They were messages filled with magnanimity, unity, and support made all the more powerful because of the rancor that existed over the past many months between them. We should all take heed of their call.
And know that, whether you “won” or “lost” last night, things are not going to be as great or as dire as you hoped or feared. The sun will come up tomorrow and the day after that. Our nation will get through the next four years, and in the decades to come, this day will be largely forgotten. I promise you there are more important things happening today than what the news is reporting on; things so wonderful they give me great hope for our nation and our world. Children are being born. Young love is blossoming. Mothers and fathers are celebrating a child’s first steps of the final moments together before their child goes off to start a life of their own. And people are rejecting violence. Blacks and Whites, men and women, immigrant and native born are setting aside what are truly paltry differences and working together to better their communities with deeds as large as million dollar fundraising campaigns and as small, but equally important, as a smile or a door held open. These are the things that truly impact our lives. Let these be the things you build your memories upon. Let these be the things you celebrate today and in the weeks and months to come.
And for those of you who are in despair, know that I grieve with you, not because I despair over the outcome of last night or even the future, but that, simply, you despair and the fact that you suffer, regardless of wthe reason, grieves my heart. To be sure, we are in trying times and the divisiveness which we have thus far experienced and the uncertainty many have about the future serves as a catalyst for fear. And while that fear is not for all the same reasons – some may fear what measures President-Elect Trump and our new congress will pass and how those measures will directly impact their lives while others may fear whether those who have already called for violence against our next president are truly serious or simply venting as they process what was a shock to their expectations – I urge you all to join with me in choosing not to give in to that fear and its resultant divisiveness.
Tangibly, seek out a friend who differs with you and let him know that, despite your differences, you know that there is far more that unites you in friendship than could ever divide you in opposition. Tell her that, regardless of how she views our collective path forward, you understand that, like you, she only has the best of intentions and that, regardless of who may be in power, his power will never have the power to overcome your bond of friendship or the power of love.
Finally, take heart for the future, for I know that our best days are ahead. I know this because, while presidents, kings, and even capitals may come and go, Jesus was, is, and always will be Lord and as long as that is the case, we never have reason to despair.
May God bless you all and may He bless this nation and this world, for it is His blessing that has charted us through the past 400 years of our history and His blessing which will chart us through the coming four.