Hello Everyone,

Some of you have asked that I keep writing these commentaries, even after the President leaves office.  I’ve decided to do that and to keep calling them “Obamagrams” with the aspiration that they will be as thoughtful and civil as their namesake.

The day after the election, I was as shocked as anyone.  The ecstasy of the Cubs’ victory vanished in a flash.  I knew it would take some time, if ever, to understand what happened and what to do going forward.

While I avoided most of the news coverage that day, I did notice one column that reflected my emotions.  I’m sure some of you saw it, too.

Homelessness.
In a piece entitled, “Homeless in America,” Tom Friedman wrote (see Attachment 1):

…I have more fear than I’ve ever had in my 63 years that we could…break our country, that we could become so irreparably divided that our national government will not function…

How do I explain [the president-elect’s] victory?…my gut tells me that it has much less to do with trade or income gaps and much more to do with culture and many Americans’ feeling of “homelessness”…

… For some it is because America is becoming a minority-majority country and this has threatened the sense of community of many…

For others it is the dizzying whirlwind of technological change we’re now caught up in. It has either wiped out their job or transformed their workplace in ways they find disorienting…When the two most important things in your life are upended — the workplace and community that anchor you and give you identity — it’s not surprising that people are disoriented and reach for the simplistic solutions touted by a would-be strongman…

Personally, I will not wish them [the Republicans and the president-elect] ill…Unlike the Republican Party for the last eight years, I am not going to try to make my president fail. If he fails, we all fail…

But at the moment I am in anguish, frightened for my country and for our unity. And for the first time, I feel homeless in America. [emphasis added]

The morning after, for the first time, I also felt homeless in my own country.

Coping.
The day after the election, as I was doing my regular drive from Evanston to Hyde Park, I happened to listen to a Fresh Air podcast during which Terry Gross interviewed a hospice chaplain.  She said that in her work with the dying, she tries to:

be calm,

be present, and

be together.

That’s good advice for all of us now.

On that Wednesday morning, Dr. Eric Witherspoon, the superintendent of Evanston Township High School, addressed his students, faculty, and staff, saying:

This morning I want to remind all of you that ETHS is a safe and welcoming place for you. You attend a school where we not only respect differences, we embrace our diversity…Today, I urge you to be kind and caring to one another. Redouble your support for one another. And even though we cannot always control what is going on in the larger world around us, we can define our own school, our own community.

Our high school is highly unusual: a diverse student body (44% white; 30% black; 18% Latino; 40% low income), but well-resourced ($22,000 per student). (I am now aware that we don’t break “low income” down by race and ethnicity.  More on that in future commentaries.)

You can read Dr. Witherspoon’s inspiring message in Attachment 2.

Working.
I have reached one preliminary conclusion to the question about what to do going forward.  Pay attention to work.  Just like Valerie Jarrett advised.  Double down on it.  It is something that we can control.  It’s also a way to “be together.” To build community.

A dozen years ago, I stopped “working for pay” and starting “paying to work.”  I don’t have a job, but I work full time.  I find community in my work, and I’m especially blessed to have meaningful work to do now.

So, the day after the election, I carried on with my work, including:

— talking with our son, a professional investor, to understand why the stock
markets went up and the bond markets went down on this news;
— helping advise a foundation program officer about getting an MBA;
— introducing a new fundraiser with whom I’m working to one of our best funders;
— continuing to work on a small campaign for an educational research organization; and
— attending a 10th anniversary celebration for a group that does professional development
for principals and college counselors in Chicago.

You get the picture.  I’m just focusing on my work.  Trying to be calm, present, and together.  And, in the process, being communitarian.

The Importance of Work.
This election has been a wake-up call for me.  We have a huge problem in our country of which we have long been aware, but haven’t done nearly enough to address.  As Tom Friedman said, many of our citizens have not only lost their jobs, but also their “work”, or the essence of it, and therefore their identities, due largely to automation and to globalization as well.

The president-elect has promised to address that problem which will undermine our democracy if it goes unaddressed much longer.  It won’t be as simple or quick as he’s promised, but I hope he succeeds in making progress on it.  Ironically, there won’t be the “small government” answers to this issue that Republicans have traditionally favored.  I’ll write about that in the future.

Be calm, be present, be together.

Please, as always, pass it on.  And, remember that previous Obamagrams are stored on www.obamagrams.com

Chuck

adobe pdf file      attachment-1-nyt-friedman-homeless-in-america-11-8-16

 

adobe pdf file   attachment-2-eths-dr-witherspoon-11-9-16

 

Comments are closed.