With Open Minds We Can Find Common Ground

As I write this column, I am watching the news reports on Inauguration Day.  It’s almost surreal to think that today is the day when the greatest country in the world has its peaceful transition of power.  President Trump took the Oath of Office and with that begins day one of his term.  In my opinion, his record begins right now.  His life up until now was just that – his life, but now – he is our President.  Now he begins the Presidency, and with that we also must begin to hold him accountable just the same as we held President Obama accountable.

And while we may not take any issue acknowledging the fact that he is our President, some of us may vehemently oppose him.  Some of us are strong supporters.  Some of us are lukewarm to the new President.  But we all have an opinion one way or the other.

My question to you is this: is your pre-conceived opinion going to dictate how you react to every word that comes out of the President’s mouth?  If you are a supporter are you going to support his every statement no matter the content?  If you strongly oppose him will you refuse to give him any chance whatsoever to gain your confidence?

I think I can imagine some of your reactions right now.  Some of you are probably saying “Well we know who he is.  We saw the real Donald Trump on the campaign trail.” I’ll concede, candidate Trump ran hot and cold.  You either liked him or you hated him.

To those of you who have already decided that you will oppose him because of what he said in the heat of the campaign, I would ask you to listen to the words of former President Obama: “Regardless of what experience or assumptions he brought to the office, this office has a way of waking you up.”  President Obama learned from his own experiences.  On the campaign trail in 2008, President Obama made statements and promises that he was never able to keep.  Once he took office, some of his viewpoints also shifted.  As he said, “Campaigning is a whole lot different than governing.”

We know that President Trump awoke on Inauguration Day with his speech already prepared. But what many of us are afraid to admit is that we went into Inauguration Day with our reactions to his speech already choreographed.  Political bias is an all too real phenomenon, and oftentimes our reactions to positions or statements depend more upon our political association than it does our critical thought.

One thing is certain – partisanship reigns supreme in Washington, D.C.  If President Trump has a failure within the first few years of his administration, then Republicans in Congress will more than likely blame President Obama. But on the other hand, if President Trump has an enormous success then Democrats will give full credit to former President Obama.  Why? Because out of sheer habit or perhaps intellectual laziness, we decide that our preconceptions are more important than our capability to approach an issue with an open mind.  We are all guilty of this.

When President Obama took Office many Republicans decided that the best thing they could do was stand squarely opposed to his full agenda.  Now Democrats are largely deciding to do the same.  Battle lines are being drawn before anyone even knows what the fight is about.  It wasn’t good for the country when the Republicans did it then, and it’s not good when the Democrats will be doing it now.

That’s not to say that you can’t oppose the man or woman who holds the highest office.  The point I’m trying to make is that it would be healthier for our political environment if we just waited to hear the proposal before we go off and take sides.

President Trump’s record begins now.  We saw Donald Trump the businessman.  We saw Donald Trump the candidate.  Now we will see the real man President Trump is.  We will see the content of his character, and we will see the capability of his leadership. Would it be the worst thing in the world if we approached his Presidency with an open mind?

My challenge to all of us is this: can we check our pre-conceptions and party labels at the door when we discuss our positions on the issues?  Can we search for common ground before we seek division?  Just because the other side proposes something doesn’t mean that we must oppose it. Solutions aren’t partisan after all – they’re just solutions.

As President John F. Kennedy said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.  Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past.  Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774 or e-mail us at repstewart@gmail.com.  You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or on Facebook.

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