Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A gratitude reflection from the election

While settling in at home on election night to watch returns, I got a little nostalgic. I thought back on the friends, experiences, long days and life lessons from campaigns I’ve worked on over the many years since I stood at Mays Park as a teenager on election day holding a sign to re-elect Eston Marchant as adjutant general.

I pulled out old photo albums to look at pictures from past campaigns and happily recalled the names and faces of friends I’d worked with on elections early in my career. From a mayor's race to a presidential election and lots in between, I realized how many of the people in those photos are still in my life in one way or another… even if it’s as simple as an annual party invitation, Christmas card or an occasional Facebook post.

Friendships forged from campaign work are unique. These are people you see at their best and their worst, at their most confident and most doubting, with sugar induced highs and sleep deprived lows. Because of the intensity of the work, these are the people who can teach you so much, and they probably never even know it.

In seeking something good out of this ugly campaign season, I realized these photos reminded me of how grateful I am for the life lessons and friendships gained from these campaign experiences. I’m thankful for my early exposure to elected politics before things got so ugly and personal. I learned some of my most important career and life lessons from these experiences, the candidates I worked for and the people who surrounded them.

This gratitude list includes  

·       Getting a chance to prove myself in several campaign jobs when, on paper, I probably didn’t have the experience.

·       Witnessing and participating in the inner workings of campaigns that were based on well-researched policy rather than political opportunism.

·       Observing candidates up close who ran for the public good not personal gain.

·       Learning it’s possible to master the balancing act between running for an office and actually governing.

·       Being part of both winning and losing election night speeches and the subsequent back-room staff meetings where the candidates were equally gracious regardless of whether they won or lost.

·       Witnessing that partisan politics can fall away after an election.

·       Gaining a love for the dance of politics and strange bedfellows, an appreciation for well-executed political strategy, and a respect for honest and accurate reporters.

·       Discovering it’s possible to disagree vehemently over a political or policy decision and still maintain respect for the other person.

·       Participating in the hard decisions made in the back rooms of a campaign office – decisions that were separated by the thin wire of doing what’s right versus doing what might bring down the other guy. In every case I witnessed, doing right won out over political opportunism.
While the memories of the issues and fights from campaigns may have faded some over the years, the value of these friendships, relationships and learning experiences has only grown. I hope I never lose the appreciation for the connections forged by these diverse tribes of people who came together over the belief in one person’s vision to make our country, state or community a better place to live.

I’m grateful to have shared the high of a squeaker win. However, I’m also grateful for sharing the low of a surprise loss or the disappointment in knowing we all gave our very best for this candidate we believed in and lost our jobs anyway because he lost.
But I’ve learned that losses like those can illuminate new possibilities. I hope that lesson will be the case with our country going forward. By loss, I don’t mean which candidate won or lost. I mean the damage caused by the ugliness of the past months – the loss of civility, trust and the diminished focus on the general good of the people. Neither side can claim innocence in this.
Recovery from this will happen one person at a time only if we practice acceptance, seek out strength in our common struggles and just be kind.
Let's do it!
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 Check out a few of the old campaign faces below: