Over my career in the sugar industry, I have experienced the transition of seven different presidents, 21 different congresses, and 13 Supreme Court Justices. So, I’ve seen a few things.
I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with literally thousands of elected representatives from the far left, far right, and everyone in between. They reflect the diversity of our national, ethnic, religious, economic, philosophical, and political melting pot. The political pendulum swings back and forth with new priorities and agendas depending on the challenges of the day and the vision for the future. In the evolution of our democracy, those elected and appointed federal officials have faced many challenges both individually and collectively. Politics can be, and often is, a tough and messy business. But most members come with the passion to make our nation better and stronger for the people they represent. To look out for and care for the masses who struggle day in and day out. Neither party has a patent on perfection, but both having a list of worthy achievements and misguided failures.
The January 6th attack on the Capitol to stop the congressional certification of the presidential election has rightly shaken our nation to its core. This was a violent attempt stop the peaceful transfer of power of the highest office in our government. This event was different from the unorganized looting of small businesses and attack on state governmental buildings that stemmed from the racial injustices this past summer. Those actions were wrong. The Capitol is the sacred ground of our democracy, not a retail outlet. The goods being sought were not clothes, shoes, or appliances, or actions against local law enforcement, but to our horror, they were people that included the Vice President of the United States and Members of Congress. Courageous police fought, died, and were severely injured to protect our nation’s leaders and a building that is recognized world-wide as the epicenter and symbol of democracy. The House has impeached the President for his role in this fiasco and the Senate must sort out its response. Members of Congress are forced to weigh the safety of themselves, their families, their staff and their political future in deciding how to cast their vote. It should have never come to this.
In Moscow, Havana, Hong Kong, Central America, Geneva, Brussels, London, I’ve seen first-hand our nation through the eyes of foreign citizens. The respect and influence our country enjoys is a profound privilege. This position was borne out though hundreds of years of collective sacrifice to higher ideals of sacrifice, benevolence, freedom, and democracy. The damage done on January 6th to our global reputation is beyond calculation. A defeated sitting President failed to live up to the ideals of democratic governance while the world was watching. It’s heartbreaking that we need 20,000 troops in our mostly vacant nation’s capital to make sure we have a peaceful transfer of power. Every state had to prepare and brace for potential attacks on their capitols. This should not and cannot be acceptable to any American.
The challenges that await us are daunting. We must defeat a raging pandemic, rebuild a fragile economy, prevent cyber invasions, restore trade surpluses, and tackle our exploding deficit, just to name a few. We need national leaders of both parties to bring us together and not push us apart. We can make excuses about the media or the opposition party, but the work of rebuilding starts with each one of us, pausing, taking a deep breath, and extending a hand. As the former Vice President Pence said when reconvening the Senate after the attack, “Now let’s get back to work.” Perhaps the strife we have just experienced will forge a new path of cooperation or drive the wedges of difference even further. We each must recommit to a better day populated by our better angels. Our great nation depends on our choices to repair the breach and divisions among us.
I leave you with this quote that is most appropriate for our time. “If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason and Dixon’s but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition and ignorance on the other.”--Ulysses S. Grant, 1875