Since voting this morning, all I have been able to think about is the next four years. Without even knowing yet who is going to win, my mind has already jumped ahead. What do we want the next four years to be like? What can we do to make them be the way we want them to be? The negativity of the last 18 months has been excruciating, and I know it doesn’t represent the best of who we are. I want better for all of us!
Indeed, as executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, whose mission is to advance gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing, these concerns have been at the forefront of my thinking. How can we ensure that the times that lie ahead lead us closer to these ideals?
Today we plant the seeds of the next four years with our thoughts, emotions, and actions. It is more important today than ever that we consciously start thinking about what we’d like our nation and our culture to be like, that we work as hard as we can to generate the good feelings we know are best for ourselves, our families, our communities, and the country, and that we take actions immediately that move us in the right direction. We can start doing this even before the polls close, just as soon as we have cast our ballot – because these actions will be relevant no matter who wins.
What will you do to move our country in a positive direction, to heal the divide?
I’m starting with a post-election community unity block party in my neighborhood. I’m inviting the people I see every day – and a few I’ve yet to see, since I’m new to my neighborhood – to my home for an evening of fellowship and food with my family. I’ve let everyone know that it doesn’t matter how you voted, where you worship, whom you love, or where you come from – I just want us to come together in the spirit of friendship and community. My hope is that we will affirm each other as neighbors, discover through conversation the wonders of our diversity, and deepen our sense of connection, concern, and shared destiny. Maybe you can do something like this on the block where you live, too.
Over time, I am going to make a point to reach out to people whose political views differ from my own (even though I am non-partisan by choice, due to my Bahá’í faith, I do hold political views!) and find ways to connect, talk, and share – over lunch, in a joint endeavor, through our kids, in our places of worship or community service – in any way I can find.
To heal our nation in these times, I feel certain that enlarging the circle of people that we can call friends and enlarging the circle of people who know that we care about their wellbeing and happiness will help shift the tides. I believe that, if all of us did this – even with one or two people – we would heal this great divide in no time. Are you up to the challenge??
Let me know what you decide to do. Let’s not retreat into our enclaves of comfortable sameness. Let’s instead enlarge our sense of community and welcome new people in until our nation is one big circle – or many small overlapping circles – of inclusion. The leadership we need doesn’t just come from the White House – it comes from within our hearts.
Layli Maparyan, Ph.D. is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann '67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College.