Someone only a mother could love


Newly-elected officials represent a great opportunity to turn the trajectory of your community. How can you make sure it is for the better?

Newly-elected officials represent a great opportunity to turn the trajectory of your community. How can you make sure it is for the better?

“How could that idiot get elected?” “What were they thinking?” At a quiet moment, as members of the city council are entering, have such thoughts ever drifted through your mind? One wonders what they are thinking of you? Why were you elected? What were your voters thinking?


The day after his nemesis passed away, Orin Hatch wrote, “One of the reasons I ran for the senate was to fight Ted Kennedy…We disagreed on nearly every issue, and continued to do so for all the years we served together in the Senate. But to our mutual surprise, during our service on the Senate Labor, Judiciary, and other committees, we soon realized that we could work well together. If the two of us—positioned as we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum—could find common ground, we had little trouble enlisting bipartisan support to pass critical legislation that benefited millions of Americans.”[1]


In closing his first inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln stated, “I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” [2]


One might advise you to trust that, despite differences in personalities and methods, perhaps 90% of us (and them) are trying to do a good job and to help others, wanting to feel good about oneself at the end of the day – feeling that one has done something worthwhile. Indeed, it is perhaps that very passion which energizes debate. If we agree on outcomes, we might profitably argue about the means. If we try to see others as their loved ones see them – surely someone must love them - although we may not change our views nor theirs, we might become softened enough to find enough shareable common ground to negotiate a compromise reasonable to most.


If common ground is hard to find, perhaps we should look for common threats. As Jonathan Haidt said, “If an asteroid were headed for Earth, we'd all band together and figure out how to stop it, just like in the movies, right?”[3] (Also see The moral roots of liberals and conservatives.)


Although he placed it fifth in his list of seven habits, Stephen Covey wrote: “If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”[4]


A long-married couple was asked why they got along so well. “I don’t have to be right,” each replied at the same time.





[4] Stephen R. Covey, Daily Reflections for Highly Effective People ( New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994) 63