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Lessons from the Election

Lessons from the Election

Note: Next week we will get back to talking about fantasy football. But for now we’re calling an audible and saying it’s halftime, because it’s important we deal in reality. And the reality is the last week has been terrible. (How’s that for an intro?)

The dramatic election Tuesday was followed by turbulence and fall out on social media, in personal conversations, and in the press. I have had a lifetime of preparation for this kind of division. See, I grew up in a split household. My mom is about as liberal as they come: raised in the northeast by parents who both worked at Princeton, she took us to help at a homeless shelter as soon as we were old enough to volunteer. She is pro-choice, advocates for gay rights, and will be in Washington for the Women’s March in January. Conversely, my dad was raised by a widowed hairdresser, served in Vietnam, and ran his own small business until he sold it a few years ago. Fiscally conservative and socially conservative, his motto is “keep the government out of my business.”

When we were kids, they’d come to the breakfast table on Election Day, raise their coffee cups and say, “Okay, let’s go cancel each other out.” Their differences extend well past politics. She’s an extrovert, while he’s an introvert. He loves the beach and the sun, and she would be happy if it never warmed up past 75 degrees. They are the first hit when you search Wikipedia for “opposites attract.”

Their marriage has not always been easy. But I always saw effort, forgiveness, and an acknowledgment of their own faults. And that’s what led to reconciliation.

A House Divided…

This election was filled with some of the most divisive rhetoric of any in modern American history.  And those lines have only been reinforced as the pollsters and press dissect how America voted: urban vs. rural, black vs. white, rich vs. poor, educated vs. uneducated. Regardless of who, if anyone, you supported, emotions are swirling: surprise, excitement, bemusement, vindication, fear, or some combination of these and many others.

In 1858 Abraham Lincoln addressed his Republican colleagues in reference to the pressing issue of slavery and said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” In talking and listening to friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and random people on the train, the concern for our nation is palpable. There seems to be a dearth of empathy and a plethora of anxiety; an abundance of fear of the future;  a lack of faith in the inevitability of unity; not to mention a lot of finger pointing and too little hand shaking.

Certainty in Uncertain Times

In uncertain times, there is solace in remembering some things have NOT changed, and recalling the things you can count on in the future.  As election season gives way to admission decision season, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Things are going to happen in life that you did not “vote for,” and that you cannot control. You may be denied or deferred from the college you really wanted to attend. Or you may get in to your dream school but not get a financial package that you can afford. If (or more likely when) one of these things happen, it’s understandable that you may need a week to cry, scream, mope, curse, or question. But ultimately, you have to shake that off. Keep working and have confidence in yourself. And it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t do that alone. Share your frustrations with friends and family, but also lean on them, listen to them, and learn from them as you move forward.

You will see someone get in who you don’t think is the “right” or “most qualified” person. We see and hear this every year in the admission process. “Well, they only got in because they are <<insert group here>>, or from <<insert school or state here>>.” “She got that scholarship because she’s  X (or had a Y) and I didn’t because I’m Z.” Broad generalizations like these are essentially saying  “Well, that’s the way THEY are.” And that, my friends, is divisiveness. I think it’s important to note that Lincoln’s speech was quoting from the Bible. In the original text, the “house” was not a not a nation but a person’s soul and character. Open your laptop, check a few trending hashtags, or go sit on a park bench and listen. You’ll see why those types of broad categorizing statements are toxic. Saying it’s a slippery slope is not even accurate–this is a cliff you tumble off, taking the character and achievements you’ve worked so hard to build and throwing them into an abyss.

I’m coming out of the fog and muck of last week. I have an advantage by working at a college. Walking across campus yesterday, listening to conversations in the dining hall, and sitting down to talk with students from all over the nation and the world has brought me much needed encouragement.

What Awaits You in College

I can’t tell you which campaign promises will be kept or abandoned or adapted. But what is certain, and what I hope provides you great excitement and optimism, is what awaits you in your college experience.

  1. College will continue to be a place that seeks students who want to learn. Students who ask why and how; who want to make the world around them now and in the future better, safer, and more interesting.
  2. College will continue to be a place that draws students with diverse thoughts, passions, and interests. Students who commit to one another; who seek to understand one another; who know that learning from their differences and tapping into everyone’s strengths and talents will allow them to collectively solve problems.
  3. College will continue to be a place that cheers together in athletic victory, cries together in campus tragedies, studies together in the wee hours of the morning, and ultimately embraces each other on graduation stages and in life well beyond its gates.

Wedged between election season and admission decision season is Thanksgiving. I hope you will use this time as a respite; a time to be reminded of and surrounded by the things and people who bring you rest, joy, and assurance.

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