After the election: moving forward

I write today with the recognition that the 2016 presidential election was a transformational event, and that we stand on the precipice of change. With Friday’s inauguration* – whether we’re happy with the outcome or not – the presidential transition will be complete. Personally, I am deeply grateful to President Obama, Vice-President Biden and their families for their service. These jobs are incredibly difficult, and they take a toll.

Trump supporters now must adapt to the transition from campaigning to governance; the latter is much harder. I say that as someone who worked in the federal government.

Those who were apathetic and alienated at campaign’s end must discover whether the actions of the new president will engage them. I hope they will pay attention, because no president, indeed, no public official, should have a free pass.

For those who may see a Trump presidency as the “fulfillment of all our dread,” writer Rebecca Solnit offers an alternative analysis. (Listen to her interview on NPR.)

Solnit reminds us that the future is unknowable; how we feel is different from what we do. For those who are deeply unhappy with the election outcome, Solnit tells us that despair paralyzes and may inhibit action. We may be surprised by the possibilities that exist if we seize them.

The future depends upon all of us in the United States – those who are satisfied with the direction in which the country may be headed and those who are not. All our voices are needed. We must harness the optimism to believe in the future. I do.

All of us should be prepared to:

Be respectful of the President, his team and people who supported him. As of noon on Jan. 20, President Trump is our president.

Talk with people who don’t think like us. At the very least, those conversations will open doors, and they might lead to compromises or solutions.

Be vigilant against those who alter the facts and truth. Fake news does not serve democracies well, and we should call it when we see it.

Be informed by educating ourselves about issues, especially those that are vital to public health, such as the environment and health care access, equity and affordability.

Understand how government works locally and nationally and be prepared to engage. This could include anything from registering voters, serving on committees and testifying to running for office.

Provide academic expertise, including data and evidence. Speak with legislators, regardless of party; serve on key committees for governments, NGOs and health-related agencies locally and nationally.

Vote in mid-term elections. Register voters, and show up to vote. It’s the only way to be counted.

For those who feel deeply about issues and are prepared to take risks for their values and beliefs, write letters (always noting that we don’t speak for the University), sign petitions, attend rallies and march in peaceful protests.

Pay attention to the global implications of government policies and act accordingly.

* As was the case with the 2009 and 2013 inaugurations, we will make the inauguration ceremony available to those who want to watch beyond their individual connectivity. Viewing will be available in 3100 Michael Hooker Research Center, from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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