The morning after this nation elected its 45th President, I was thrust back into a vault of mixed emotions I had hoped to forever lock away after 9-11.
Shock. Fear. Grief. Anguish. Fury. Disbelief.
An extreme comparison, considering we lost thousands of citizens and part of a great city to a terrorist attack that horrific day – our friends and neighbors among those murdered. Nevertheless, the emotions are real. Emotions I’ve only felt concurrently on 9-11 and 11-9. Our country was forever changed by the terrorist attacks on Manhattan. So, too, will our nation be forever changed by this past election season, and the selection of 45 as President.
Understand how viscerally I felt your outrage and heartbreak when we discussed the election and the unknowns of 45’s presidency. I shared your tears and fears. I wished I could be hugging you as I did on that devastating September day years ago when I hurried to Forest Avenue Elementary School to take you home. I wanted, needed for you to feel safe and protected. And, even as I agonized over how to explain that your friends’ parents had been killed purposefully, violently, I was grateful you couldn’t possibly understand the enormity of that sickening act of violence, and the many repercussions that would follow for our nation and world.
You are old enough to understand the enormity of these election results. You have followed the news for the past two years; heard the insults, the bragging, the bullying, the mocking, the hatred, the talking points and lies. You have learned about Wikileaks, read emails and platforms, watched debates. You have heard the threats, denials, lewd conversations; the chants, tweets, excuses. It seemed a no-brainer that, when it came time for Americans to select one of two candidates for the most critical job in the world, we’d select the capable and experienced, hard working, and thoughtful - though flawed - candidate.
A majority of Americans did exactly that. But an Electoral College majority of voters penciled in the bubble for ‘change’; change dressed up as a billionaire Reality TV star. A man who couldn’t be bothered to ask or answer real questions, learn anything about policy, tell the truth more than 25 percent of the time, or show respect for women, minorities, the disabled, and a family whose child died at war. A man who campaigned on fear and rage, defended Putin, threatened his opponent with jail time, invited and incited violence against his adversaries, threatened the press and the institutions of democracy, and denies the very existence of one of the biggest threats to our nation and planet – climate change. Facts, all.
Pollsters, political operatives and historians will work to explain this seismic event in our country. I hope you’ll take away a few 'mom' lessons from this, as well.
· American democracy is not rigged. It has a whole lot of challenges, and we have a lot of work to do to set a better course for many Americans. Still, we learned about both candidates. We held an election. Many of us exercised our right to vote. Some of us protested the results. A peaceful transfer of power will happen. Democracy at work.
· Compromise matters. It’s what grown-ups do - in relationships and in the workplace. The Stones were right: we can’t always get what we want. Democracy, and progress, are handcuffed by nay-sayers and stone-wallers. Democratic party members refusing to consider Bernie Sanders as a viable candidate. Republicans neglecting their constitutional duty to hold hearings for a democratically elected president’s Supreme Court nominee. Mitch McConnell declaring at the beginning of Obama’s presidency that his only job would be to ensure that Obama served one term. Be grown-ups. Learn to compromise.
· Winners sometimes lose. Pursuing victory at any cost, 45 lost. Bigly. He showed the world, his children and grandchildren that he is a narcissistic, xenophobic, spiteful, demeaning, misogynistic, condescending, entitled, and childish bully. Throughout history he’ll be tainted as a cheat, a liar, and a sexual predator. He’ll be mocked and scorned, rather than respected. No matter what he does in office, 45 will remain the very definition of Who-Not-To-Be.
· Losers sometimes win. Hillary Clinton decidedly won the popular vote. And with a mature, eloquent, gracious, and inspiring concession speech, she finally won the hearts of a lot of people she had hoped to govern.
· Life isn’t fair. You may have the best résumé - be the most prepared, dedicated and experienced candidate - and still lose the job to someone who’s more charming, determined, or better connected. Or, less. No one owes you a job. Keep working hard to get it if that’s your goal. But know there’s always another job where you can use your smarts, talents and skills to make a difference.
· The Double Standard is alive and well. For 45, nothing mattered. Siding with Putin, not paying taxes or workers, agreeing publicly that his daughter could be called a piece of ass, suggesting he wouldn’t accept the results of an election unless he won, stoking fear and hatred – it didn’t matter. For Clinton, everything mattered. Her voice, shoes, hair, manner, tone, demeanor. Our country selected 45’s baggage and inexperience over Madame Secretary’s baggage and experience. It’s mind-boggling proof that, girls, we have a lot of work to do. And boys, we need your help.
· Speak up. Voice your opinion. And when people are lying about you, or impugning your integrity, confront them. Immediately. Graciously and firmly. Ditto for those who have no voice – call on your strength and character to be their voice.
· Turn off your phone and turn on your brain. Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat are social media. They don’t deliver news or opinion that helps you make informed decisions. Read respected and diverse newspapers, magazines, blogs, and op-ed writers from both sides of the political spectrum. Don’t get trapped in a bubble of fake news and like-minded thinking.
· Understand Gravitas. Real life is not Reality TV. Work - serious, hard work - is not entertainment. Likeability is not part of the job description for Leader of the Free World. Millennials interviewed in exit polls said they wished Hillary Clinton was cooler, funnier, more hip. If only she had done some talk shows, and done them well, they would have related to her, liked her, voted for her. Real News Flash! Politicians aren’t supposed to be entertainers.
· Be yourself. Always! Hillary Clinton spent so much time in the public eye and became so guarded, she had to be coached on how to appear warmer and more authentic. Sing, giggle, dance in public if you feel like it. Yes, you may be mocked. Still, You Do You.
· Beware of sound bites. Innuendo. Nicknames. Be wary of (and don’t be) people who spew them. “Lock her Up.” “Crooked Hillary.” “Someone told me, I heard….” Like catchy tunes, they become insidious loops in people’s heads. They become their truths. Demand information and verification. Fact check before accepting anything as truth. Especially in politics.
· Be prepared. Do your homework. Be professional. The bar was set so low for 45 during the debates, people counted how many of his sentences actually made sense (3). Set your bar high, so you’ll never be the guy who avoids a question because he doesn’t know the answer, the girl who has to cheat on a test, the colleague who prods a co-worker for good ideas, then takes credit for them.
· Be honest, forceful, fair and respectful in competition; be gracious in defeat. All competition ends. But the impressions you’ve left behind, and the character you’ve displayed lingers indefinitely.
· Take responsibility. Apologize for mistakes and bad decisions. Answer questions directly. Instead of spinning, speak the truth. And don’t think the rules don't apply to you. They do.
· Be careful what you wish and work for, you just might get it.
· Take ownership of your choices. Be prepared to explain them; thoughtfully, concisely. If you are reluctant to defend a choice, think carefully about whether you should make it.
· Lick your wounds for a specific amount of time, then get on with your purposeful life. You are not the Controller of the World. Time and energy spent on regret, what ifs, and how-could-this-happen will not change reality. Make a difference where and when you can. As often as you can.
· Be kind. Have courage. It’s not just good advice for Cinderella. Generally speaking, people want to help and support those who are kind to them and stand up for them. Oh, and Be grateful! You don’t have an evil stepmother, and you live in a democratic society where your voice, your vote, your hard work, passion, and compassion make a difference.
· Have faith. Society flourishes when citizens have faith in institutions and public servants. If you don’t trust our institutions, educate yourself and discover how best to work to change them. If you don’t trust or agree with your public servants, don’t re-elect them. Better yet, develop a platform and run for office!
· Be faith. Every religion begins with loving God, and loving neighbors as ourselves. Period. We’re all in this together. Our faith needs to be in our heads, heart, feet. Many kind, religious people who love this country selected 45 as president – America’s role model for our children and the world. They chose to ignore, or accept his constant, willful lying, cheating of contractors and workers, his admitted sexual harassment and predatory behavior, his calls for violence, discrimination and revenge, his bullying behavior, and refusal to give money to charities, or pay taxes for government services that have protected his businesses and family while helping make him a billionaire. With hope of securing Supreme Court nominees who may or may not overturn Roe vs. Wade, deeply religious people selected a president who hasn’t an ounce of humility, grace or compassion; a man who has never served but has always expected to be served; a man who was pro-choice and liberal, before he was ever pro-life and conservative. 45 cannot espouse or reflect religious values because he has no interest in them. So long as he is in the White House, we must redouble our efforts to love our neighbors as ourselves, fight all discrimination, and help those in need.
· Judge not, lest ye be judged. This is my struggle, as I firmly believe this election was never about Republican or Democrat; it was about competence and common decency. We have many friends, neighbors, colleagues who voted for 45 - despite dire warnings from hundreds of bi-partisan policy experts, and all parties and branches of government about his lack of knowledge and attention span, his hateful and alarming rhetoric, respect for tyrants, volatility, unpredictability, and deep character flaws. Our fellow Americans are hopeful that 45 will drain the swamp in Washington, bring back jobs, fight terror, and recognize forgotten men, women, families. Let’s not judge them. Let’s hope they are right.
Fab Four, I wish I could hug you, and tell you everything will be OK. As always, I want, need for you to feel safe, protected, valued. I cannot predict the future, but I can promise you a few things:
· Dedication to your education, craft and career is more important than ever. If 45 rolls back funding for science and opts out of treaties to combat global warming, your contributions to helping solve some of our world’s most serious problems will be more critical than ever.
· We’ll get through this as a nation. But only if we get involved, and try like hell to listen, compromise, and work together.
· You are valued – count on it. You are gifted – share it. You have power – use it. You are loved – spread it.
Hugs, a zillion.
Your BFF (biggest fan forever),