Reflecting on 2017

We have now turned the page on 2017 and what a year it has been!

The New Year is an ideal time to reflect and to look ahead. What will we remember from last year? Trump’s Inauguration? The women’s march on Washington? Travel bans debated in the courts? Debates over the Dreamers? Political uprisings in Europe? The aggression of North Korea? The suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester? The removal of confederate monuments? The Charlottesville incident? The firing of James Comey? The ongoing FBI investigation? The surging stock market? The Las Vegas massacre? The Harvey Weinstein scandal and the “Me Too” movement? Matt Lauer’s fall from glory? NFL players kneeling? A church shooting in a small Texas town? Political incivility? Roy Moore’s rise and defeat? Tax legislation?

It was quite a year. Perhaps the most important lessons are tied to morality and ethics and should be posed in the form of questions. Is it right or wrong to ban travel to the United States from predominately Muslim countries for the sake of national security? Does the war on terror ever actually end? Why has sexual harassment been accepted and overlooked for so many years? Is our justice department truly “nonpartisan”? Why is there such racial tension fifty years after the civil rights movement? Will we ever address the assault weapon issue? Can civil dialogue be restored to the public square? What is the proper role of government? Does character matter in politics?

These are challenging questions but the way we dialogue matters. It’s been said before that “those who forget history are bound to repeat it.” Human beings seem to have a short memory. The most important lessons we can learn are often the most obvious. We should work to avoid certain things in our personal lives and interactions: selfishness, arrogance, condescension, hatred, anger, envy, bitterness, indifference, and resentment. We should work for the well-being of all. The message of Christmas must continue into the New Year: hope, peace, joy, and love. These virtues are timeless and should guide how we live our lives.

Character and integrity matter. Words and tone matter. Confronting our fears matters. Managing our anger matters. Most importantly, we must not be afraid to change, grow, live, and act differently, becoming better than our former self. We must continue to wrestle with the difficult questions that still remain. Life is what we make of it and every day we get to decide how we choose to live. Values must be taught, modeled, and then sustained. The right attitude is essential.

When asked about his definition of success in this world, Ralph Waldo Emerson had an intriguing response: “To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.”


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