Resilience Is More than Coping – It’s Learning from Our Mistakes
The final full week of my August sabbatical-sort of. For many years I have taught that an essential element of resilience is learning from our AFGO’s – another frickin’ growth opportunity. For much of this month I’ve done a deep dive into learning about the massive AFGO’s we face right now:
* the mis-handling of the coronavirus pandemic – America has 4% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s coronavirus cases and deaths.
* the militarization of local police – in a population of 321 million people, 1,000-1,500 are typically killed each year by police. The combined populations of Germany, Holland, Japan, Australia, Norway, and the UK is also about 321 million. The combined number of people killed by the police in these six countries is 19.
* rapidly increasing income inequity – in 2019, the top 10% in the U.S. held 70% of the nation’s wealth; the bottom 50% held 1.6%.
In my “time off”, I’ve been reading books and articles, watching webinars, listening to podcasts, learning from scientists and scholars and journalists who seem to know what the dots even are, let alone can connect them in ways that are insightful, meaningful, comprehensible. (A reference list in next week’s Resources for Recovering Resilience.)
In the midst of that eye-opening, paradigm shifting learning, I watched many of the speeches in the virtual Democratic National Convention. More promises of course-correcting policies than the power yet to implement them, but a seemingly sincere interest in turning the tragic mistakes of the current administration into huge growth opportunities.
Here are the links to three of the four major speeches:
Barack Obama on PBS News Hour
Kamala Harris on PBS News Hour
Joe Biden on PBS News Hour
The remarks I want to highlight, however, are from a woman not running for office, not holding any office. Michelle Obama, who as First Lady for 8 years became an icon of intelligence, integrity, empathy, love of family, love of country. [And here’s the link to Michelle Obama’s speech as well.]
I am one of a handful of people living today who have seen firsthand the immense weight and awesome power of the presidency. And let me once again tell you this: the job is hard. It requires clear-headed judgment, a mastery of complex and competing issues, a devotion to facts and history, a moral compass, and an ability to listen—and an abiding belief that each of the 330,000,000 lives in this country has meaning and worth.
A president’s words have the power to move markets. They can start wars or broker peace. They can summon our better angels or awaken our worst instincts. You simply cannot fake your way through this job.
As I’ve said before, being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are. Well, a presidential election can reveal who we are, too….
Because whenever we look to this White House for some leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division, and a total and utter lack of empathy.
Empathy: that’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. The ability to walk in someone else’s shoes; the recognition that someone else’s experience has value, too. Most of us practice this without a second thought. If we see someone suffering or struggling, we don’t stand in judgment. We reach out because, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” It is not a hard concept to grasp. It’s what we teach our children….
But right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another. They’re looking around wondering if we’ve been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value.
They see people shouting in grocery stores, unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe. They see people calling the police on folks minding their own business just because of the color of their skin. They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn’t matter what happens to everyone else. And they see what happens when that lack of empathy is ginned up into outright disdain.
They see our leaders labeling fellow citizens enemies of the state while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists. They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protestors for a photo-op.
Sadly, this is the America that is on display for the next generation. A nation that’s underperforming not simply on matters of policy but on matters of character. And that’s not just disappointing; it’s downright infuriating, because I know the goodness and the grace that is out there in households and neighborhoods all across this nation….
So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.
Now, I understand that my message won’t be heard by some people. We live in a nation that is deeply divided, and I am a Black woman speaking at the Democratic Convention. But enough of you know me by now. You know that I tell you exactly what I’m feeling. You know I hate politics. But you also know that I care about this nation. You know how much I care about all of our children.
So if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it….
When he was a kid, Joe’s father lost his job. When he was a young senator, Joe lost his wife and his baby daughter. And when he was vice president, he lost his beloved son. So Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair, which is why he gives his time so freely to grieving parents. Joe knows what it’s like to struggle, which is why he gives his personal phone number to kids overcoming a stutter of their own.
His life is a testament to getting back up, and he is going to channel that same grit and passion to pick us all up, to help us heal and guide us forward.
And if we want a chance to pursue any of these goals, any of these most basic requirements for a functioning society, we have to vote for Joe Biden in numbers that cannot be ignored. Because right now, folks who know they cannot win fair and square at the ballot box are doing everything they can to stop us from voting. They’re closing down polling places in minority neighborhoods. They’re purging voter rolls. They’re sending people out to intimidate voters, and they’re lying about the security of our ballots. These tactics are not new….
We have got to vote like we did in 2008 and 2012. We’ve got to show up with the same level of passion and hope for Joe Biden. We’ve got to vote early, in person if we can. We’ve got to request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight, and send them back immediately and follow-up to make sure they’re received. And then, make sure our friends and families do the same.
We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown bag dinner and maybe breakfast too, because we’ve got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to.
Look, we have already sacrificed so much this year. So many of you are already going that extra mile. Even when you’re exhausted, you’re mustering up unimaginable courage to put on those scrubs and give our loved ones a fighting chance. Even when you’re anxious, you’re delivering those packages, stocking those shelves, and doing all that essential work so that all of us can keep moving forward.
Even when it all feels so overwhelming, working parents are somehow piecing it all together without child care. Teachers are getting creative so that our kids can still learn and grow. Our young people are desperately fighting to pursue their dreams.
And when the horrors of systemic racism shook our country and our consciences, millions of Americans of every age, every background rose up to march for each other, crying out for justice and progress.
This is who we still are: compassionate, resilient, decent people whose fortunes are bound up with one another. And it is well past time for our leaders to once again reflect our truth.
So, it is up to us to add our voices and our votes to the course of history, echoing heroes like John Lewis who said, “When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something.” That is the truest form of empathy: not just feeling, but doing; not just for ourselves or our kids, but for everyone, for all our kids.