by Doug Harsany

As I approach this Holiday weekend, my thoughts turn to the many soldiers who have bought at a dear price our freedom in this country. I am also reminded of the fact that this Holiday began in the aftermath of the Civil war. More American blood was shed in this war than at any time since. It was shed at our own hands, because of deep divisions among us.

Our country is becoming once more deeply divided…

…We see it as the Presidential election unfolds. We also see it in our opposing ideologies and in the shrinking of our middle class. We disagree about which “rights” are more important, and about a number of significant social and economic issues. In addition, the world around us is increasingly complex and tumultuous. A contributing reality is the fast pace at which society is changing, partly due to the information overload that we experience in our daily lives. This can create stress, anxiety, and confusion.

Like most of you, I have strong opinions on many of these issues. Yet, it is not my point to take a side. Instead I seek solutions. While there are no easy answers to the challenges currently facing our country, we do have a choice about how we handle them. I would like to offer three suggestions for each of us to consider as we seek to move forward in addressing the situation in which we find ourselves.

  1. First, open up channels to real communication: No, don’t text! Put down the electronics and sit down and have a conversation with someone who has differing opinions from you. Communication doesn’t just mean talking. When did it become a rule that whoever talks the loudest wins? We must learn to really listen, and to seek understanding. Take the opportunity to get to know them, to see the world from their point of view. I am not necessarily of the opinion that you will, or even must, come to an agreement on every social ill. However, you may find that those with differing views are more reasonable than you believe. You may even find that they don’t hate you and that they are not the enemy.
  2. Second, show respect for one another. It sometimes seems to me that our society has lost all sense of basic decency. But, just when I start to become cynical, I see someone performing some unexpected act of compassion. At that moment my faith in humanity is restored. We need to better understand and value the contributions of each generation, race, and class of society. We need to seek to lift each other up, rather than pull each other down.
  3. Finally, we need to learn to see ourselves as a team. We are in this together, and if we are to succeed, we must work together to make the United States of America the kind of place that was envisioned by our founding fathers, and for which the blood of thousands of soldiers was shed. We have plenty of challenges ahead of us, without making each other the enemy. We each have the power to control how we will respond as individuals to these challenges. We can be carried along by the crowd, or we can stand for what made this country great, the willingness of men and women to see beyond their own selfish desires and to seek the greater good for all.

These life principles turn out to be the same principles that work in business. As a management consultant, I find myself addressing many of similar challenges in the workplace. These truly are principles worth thinking about this Memorial Day weekend and throughout the year. I hope that we will not squander the shed blood of these brave soldiers by refusing to see the opportunities that lie before us. Opportunities to choose a better way, a way for which they died.