Category Archives: Voting

Respecting Differing Opinions

SEABROOKS SAYS: Attention please.  This is a minor power move as I seize the liberty that comes to the publisher. The article (actually a letter) that follows was just recently written by my 90 year old friend, Presbyterian minister and business consultant who has mentored me for decades.  I believe lots of very interested Americans are currently dealing with this issue right now – maybe you  too.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW – WHAT WILL YOU DO?

 23 February 

Howdy,

As indicated earlier, my village was struck with a malevolent virus from which I am slowly recovering. I have set tomorrow as the day to celebrate my back to normal. 

Sadly, during these weeks, things have occurred that might define a wider gap between you and me. Things that I will say below might find a strong difference of opinion.  

I read the Brooks article about resistance. His reference to Bonhoeffer sounds like what the “opposition forces” are about. St. Benedict’s model has appeal for the likes of me. The more strident forms of resistance to which he refers sound like guidance from the mainline media. Brooks was interviewed in a February 1 article in Christian Century – “Chasing beauty, finding grace.” I liked that article better. I have followed Brooks for years and read, Character. I disagree with his politics, but respect his thoughtfulness and the influence that theology has had on him including that of Reinhold Niebuhr.

However, he and other good people have chosen sides in the current political and cultural conflicts with which I disagree. In my unique career and associations, I have come to respect those who build things more than those who critique the builders. The harshest thought that is with me now is that we are witnessing a well-funded and well-led revolution to convert America from the democracy that has been our history to state managed socialism.

When you have the money of George Soros, the legal pool of the ACLU (now full of funds), the still-in-tact Illinois syndicate, a brilliant and “enchanting” leader like Obama who is leading the charge to revive his legacy, political “tools” like Nancy Pelosi, and the vast media that has chosen to use its power for a crusade more than for information – you have a substantial opposition to an administration that won the electoral votes and is bringing to the government people who have track records of achievement and who, instead of seeking political power, simply want to contribute to a sustainable future for our nation.  

I have confidence that those now aligned with the administration that includes political support in both houses of Congress, most state legislatures and state governors will prevail because they have the Constitution, commitment to obey laws, leaders who have made things happen instead of those who have spent their lives climbing political ladders, and millions of citizens willing to sustain their support in spite of ugly intimidation from the organized and often compensated protesters in their faces.

Sadly, your Academy has mostly aligned with the opposition. I heard a Duke economics professor report that he and many colleagues propose a federally-funded, national employment for all with a minimum guaranteed compensation. Duke has a program to equip students on how best to protest Trump. Many conservative students must closet themselves from intimidation from their professors and many professors encourage protests that often include criminal assaults against private properties.

I check on the news at night and check on my on-line media reports the next day. The gap between what happened and the twist that the New York Times (NYT) gives has led me to unsubscribe to the NYT. I still follow the Christian Science Monitor and Wall Street Journal and a few periodicals.

I read the article by Paul Prather. Although there seemed to be a tilt toward assigning many Christians who support the President as being “hung up” on authority and fear, I did agree with his statement that, “Grace people need a little authoritarianism to keep us from levitating away on shimmering clouds, and Law people need a big dose of Grace to keep them from getting swallowed whole into their profoundly constricted sphincters.” I don’t agree with his final demeaning characterization.  

Sadly, I see little ground for dialog in our society today. Nevertheless, I am more optimistic than many because I believe that many of the policies and projects of the administration will prove to be beneficial to more Americans than was the case with the previous administration. When we see evidence of promise-keeping and leadership and achievement, more views will change.

I read your article, “Against Contempt.” I understand the concerns you express. I do not defend Trump’s rhetoric and wish that he could stop tweeting. He is the rough to Obama’s smooth. I look at what he achieved. I look at his family. I look at the loyalty of his long time friends. I watch the ways he seeks to walk his talk and the support that he is gathering to make that happen. I compare that with the “flame throwers” and “bridge dynamiters” and politicians that have made their careers and wealth based on the style of people like Pelosi who openly advised a vote for the health care legislation without it being read or debated. We can find out what it says after we pass it, was what she affirmed. 

You are successful. You win generous prizes for writing about your views. I hope that as your career, like mine, slows down to a crawl, you are happy with what you have achieved. I have not received $25,000 prizes and have not been successful getting a book commercially published, but I am happy with what I have achieved. The experiences and relationships of my career have afforded me a remarkable life in which I have learned much about the world and its people. God has been good to me and I have tried to be a responsible steward of the Grace with which my life has been blessed.

So, here we are – very separated in our views about the world in which we live – but, hopefully, continuing to respect each other and maybe finding ways to join the “little platoons” of citizens who strive to rectify the excesses of “numerous democracy” so feared by the authors of the U.S. Constitution.

Cheers and best wishes,

Irving

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Reducing Rancor in Our Polarized Society: The Power of One

SEABROOKS SAYS: You, like I, spend very little time pondering the subject of polarization.  Jesse Caldwell does and you should know what he thinks.  Try adjusting your life by applying his three power=packed points.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

The increasing level of open hostility and venomous attacks among people concerning political and social issues should have us all alarmed. The long respected American tradition of “ agreeing to disagree” seems to have been eclipsed with a “Reality TV” “Jerry Springer Show” aggressive display of name calling, personal attacks, and “one upped” insults. Fanatics on both the left and the right demonize people with whom they disagree. If not curtailed, this may be the greatest threat to our American way of life that we face. Truly, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Certainly we should all exercise our First Amendment Rights to Free Speech, and should never hesitate to hold our public officials accountable for their actions. But we should do this in a respectful way that does not intensify the decibel level of public discourse. Moreover, I believe that there are things we can all do as individuals to reduce the level of rancor in our polarized society.

  1. FIRST, LET US ALL MONITOR OUR TONE AND ATTITUDE

Courtesy, civility and a respect for everyone’s worth and therefore opinion can do wonders. As a young man, George Washington compiled a list of 110 “Rules of Civility”, which were the attitudes and values that helped shape his leadership. By setting the right tone, attitude and atmosphere in his Cabinet, this allowed our country to reap the best that men of opposite political beliefs, like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, had to offer.

I love what my childhood friend from Victory School, Kandy Bradley Puckett, recently posted on Facebook:

While much of America seems to be getting more and more divisive, I’m going to
Be holding doors for strangers, letting people cut in front of me in traffic, greeting all that
I meet, calling people, “Sir” and “Ma’am, exercising patience with others, and smiling
at strangers. I’ll do this as often as I have the opportunity. I will not stand idly by and
let children live a world where unconditional love is invisible and being rude is acceptable.

2. SECONDLY, LET US TRY TO KEEP AN OPEN MIND ON ALL ISSUES

We all have our own beliefs and opinions. But none of us is perfect, and none of us can be right all the time. On most issues, those on opposing sides are people of good will, seeking to find an honest solution to a problem. May we listen to the views of others and seek to find “common ground” if it can be done without comprising our principles. “Tip and the Gipper” is a wonderful book that explores how Republican President Ronald Regan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill were able to work together on certain issues, despite being on polar opposite ends of the political spectrum, because they were willing to keep an open mind. Similarly, conservative Senator Orrin Hatch and liberal Senator Edward Kennedy, often at political odds with each other, were able to collaborate and co-sponsor many bi-partisan bills that became law, because they viewed what each proposed with an open mind.

3. THIRD, LET US SEEK CREATIVE WAYS TO REACH OUT TO OTHERS WITH WHOM WE HAVE POLITICAL OR PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCES

Much of the animosity between different factions on issues stems from the fact that most of us do not understand the backdrop of those who disagree with us. If we were all to see creative ways to reach out to others with whom we have political or philosophical differences, and try to get to know them as people, I submit we would lessen the virulence in our society. It is hard to dislike someone who disagrees with you when they know and ask you about your children.

We can begin by sending a greeting card to someone of a different political party, persuasion, or race. We can move beyond that by asking them to lunch. We can turn unlikely and potentially negative situations into positive opportunities for good.

In 1983, Senator Edward Kennedy opened a mass mailed letter from Moral Majority Leader Rev. Jerry Falwell, which urged the recipients to “unite and defeat ultraliberals like Ted Kennedy”. Instead of becoming angry, Kennedy was amused and reached out to Falwell. This led to an invitation for Kennedy to speak at Liberty University, family dinners in each other’s homes, and a surprising but enjoyable friendship. Rev. Falwell prayed with Sen. Kennedy’s ill mother, and Kennedy wrote a glowing letter of recommendation for Falwell’s son for law school. If they can do this, why can’t we?

In conclusion, we can all help reduce the level of rancor in our land my monitoring our tone and attitude, keeping an open mind about current issues, and seeking creative ways to get to know someone who believes differently from us.

Let us not underestimate the “Power of One”. In the words of Edward Everett Hale:

I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
What I can do I ought to do, and what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.

Jesse B. Caldwell, III
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge
Judicial District 27A

The Election Nightmare

SEABROOK SAYS: Charlie Gray is right on target. Our political and election system is a huge mess and extremely expensive. Unfortunately, what we have and use is totally outdated. Failure to improve shows the poor quality of representation by our reps in DC. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Every day at 10:15 am and 4:15 pm, I get a robo call on my cell phone from “unavailable”. Other times during the day, I get calls from California, New York and Nebraska. I, of course, do not answer them but it is maddening.

I understand that some people get dozens of robo calls each day. They are generally for political contributions. I have subscribed to “Do Not Call” but to no avail. It seems once you have contributed to a political candidate, which most good citizens desire to do, you are placed on a list. This list apparently becomes available to candidates and political causes from everywhere.

After November, there will be a slight break before the next election cycle begins. There seems to be a constant election, considering states offices and the House of Representatives. There is only one conclusion – our political system is broken. The elections last too long and are way too expensive. Instead of having one national primary on the same day, they are spread out from February to June. It is estimated that the democratic and republican candidates will spend over one billion dollars on each election. And in the end, who do we get – a dead-locked Federal government that cannot function.
Our constitution was drafted almost 250 years ago for 13 mostly agrarian states. It does not work for 50 diverse states in the 21st Century. Each state gets two senators, regardless of population. The president is elected by the Electoral College. This system has resulted generally in the Congress being controlled by one party and the Executive Branch by another. The Supreme Court is determined by which party gets to appoint the majority of justices, who serve for life.

Now, with constant and biased media bombardment, the population has been herded into opposing camps, resulting in bitter confrontation and more gridlock. Families and good friends are often estranged or scare to mention politics for fear of alienating someone. The whole thing is a mess and is tearing our country apart. The winner of this year’s presidency will be the candidate who gets less hate votes than the other.

Are we stuck with this terrible situation forever? What can we do? I’m afraid we will have to change our parties, our primaries and maybe our constitution. Abolishing all parties would be best and candidates could be judged on their qualification and positions. Primaries should be on the same day. Campaigns should be limited to six months, three for primary and three for general election. Campaigns should be financed by public funds, allocated by a candidate’s acceptability by the public as determined by polling data. States should be represented in Congress by population and everyone should be elected by popular vote. Gerrymandering should be prohibited and voting districts established by independent panels in each state, subject to court review to determine impartibility, political and robo calls should be prohibited.

There are many other changes that could be made to ensure our political process is fair and enjoyable for the candidates and the public. But to ignore the problem will only make it worse, leading to frustration, hate and division.

I don’t want to spend my remaining years dodging phone calls, talking about the weather and watching the hate and division grow in our country. Do you?
Let’s demand that something be done.

Charles Gray
Former attorney

The Choice is Yours

SEABROOK SAYS:  It’s time to vote.  Do whatever it takes to VOTE. Now that you know, what will you do?

We all know that 2016 is an important Presidential election year.  It is a time when all citizens should be energized, full of excitement and poised to get out the vote for the candidates of their choice. In my humble opinion, this election cycle could prove to be one of the most important in the history of voting in America.  We will elect leaders at all levels of federal, state and local government, council of state, judges, and a bond referendum.  This writer cannot tell you how to vote or for whom you should cast your ballot. However, with such high stakes in this election, it is imperative that every eligible voter cast their vote early or in the March 15th primary election. The voice of the voter will be heard but only if you choose to exercise your constitutional responsibility.

Why should we vote? As a United States citizen, it is our right and responsibility. We stand on the shoulders of many, some of whom gave their very lives so that all citizens can vote. History cannot list all of the sacrifices made by countless Americans who would not stop until victory was won. As a 12 year old child, I remember going with my mother to the polls in 1968. I will never forget what my mother told me on that day and her words have stayed with me all of these years. She said, “I must vote because people died for me to have this right.” On that day I gave my beloved mother a new title: “role model”

The choice is yours! Will you sit at home and refuse to participate and allow this crucial election to be decided by 6 to 13 percent of the population? Will you remain silent and give up your right to vote by failing to go to the polls? Will the conversation on March 16, 2016 contain empty complaints and regrets because the outcome was decided without you?

As for me, I will cast my vote in this election!  I urge you to cast your vote for the candidates and issues on the ballot during early voting from today through March 12, 2016, or on Primary Election Day March 15, 2016. I believe that now is the time to stand tall for our country, state and county. We must raise the standard of participation for ourselves as well as for our children, grandchildren and future generations. We must show them that the only vote that doesn’t count is the one that is never cast. Join me at the polls and cast your vote!  The choice is yours.

Pearl Burris Floyd
Chief Operating Officer
Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce
 

Is It Time For a Leadership Tune-up?

SEABROOK SAYS: Many in Gaston County will not like this. It speaks frankly, boldly and directly to all of us. Read and study it anyhow!

Why are we stalling when it comes to progress? Is it time for a leadership tune-up?

At a Gastonia Rotary Club meeting recently, a UNC professor talked about “Big Data” – the relentless electronic collection of information about consumers and their habits (if you shop at Target or Wal-Mart, they already know what you’re going to buy next). Success will follow the companies that use this Big Data to understand shopper habits today so that they can predict them in the future. The other businesses that ignore trends (more than 80% of them) will fail because — as the professor put it — “they spend too much time focused on today at the cost of preparing for tomorrow.”

Is that the problem here in our little slice of North Carolina? Do we have the kind of leadership at the city and county levels that can focus on today and tomorrow, and tie the two together with intelligent decisions that keep us moving forward? This is what we need to ask them: Are they solving real problems in ways that will stand the test of time?

In my 20 years as a Gastonia resident, I’ve seen some wonderful examples of visionary growth including the Gem of Ashley; Holy Angels; the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden; the US National Whitewater Center; our hospital; the Carolina Thread Trail; the Crowder’s Mountain Ridgeline Trail; and, most recently Artspace and the Loray Mill. But none of these fabulous achievements happened easily or quickly, and sometimes they had to fight their way to fruition. Why? We have the people who possess the creativity, passion and energy for impressive achievements, so why aren’t we doing more and at a faster clip? Why are we so far behind our neighbors in adjoining counties when it comes to creating a hip, lively place to live and work? Why won’t we embrace change?

In a Gaston Gazette article titled “’Religious Freedom act prompts questioning of our image” (April 3, 2015), executive director of the Gaston County Economic Development Commission Donny Hicks had this to say: “Regardless of how you feel (about a social issue),” he said, “when you look at it from a state perspective and think about job creation, you’re going to have to take a progressive approach or eventually there are going to be some repercussions to it.” He’s right: when we are viewed as being so desperately out of synch with modern thinking, it invites mockery and encourages new businesses to look elsewhere. We need to pull ourselves out of the rut in which we’re entrenched. Do our elected officials have the courage to envision a vibrant future and make the hard – possibly unpopular — decisions to get us there?

When I was studying for a master’s degree in leadership, one truth I discovered is that great leaders are rare. Even the very definition of the word “leadership” is a hotly debated topic among academics. But despite its elusive meaning, we all know great leadership when we see it: Winston Churchill; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Eleanor Roosevelt; Rudy Giuliani in the wake of September 11; and now Pope Francis and his courageous stand on climate change. Despite their obvious differences, all these individuals share two core qualities that partly define them as leaders: 1) they put their own interests aside in service of the greater good; and 2) they hold a vision for the future that guides each of their decisions and all of their actions. A third quality is that they inspire followship, even when the ideas they promote are new and potentially fraught.

That’s a little bit of what leadership is. Leadership has nothing to do with position. People often mistakenly identify themselves as leaders because of their title. Just because you are a CEO or a president or an elected official doesn’t mean you know how to lead. Genuine leadership is a skill that comes from a lifetime of working at it, humbly and with purpose, not overnight due to election results or a job promotion.

True leaders know that stasis leads to decay and eventually death. As we struggle to become something other than the butt of others’ jokes, we have to ask 1) do we have the right people leading us forward? 2) do they follow through on important projects? 3) are we willing to summon our own personal leadership and demand that they focus only on the issues relevant to forward-thinking growth and development?

Do we want to be a living city or a museum caught up in the past? We don’t have the advantage of “Big Data” to drive our decisions, but all we need to do is look around at what other towns and counties have done with their limited resources and ask whether we can do a better job with ours. I believe we have the people and the passion to become someplace great, but whether we do or not will come down to leadership, or the lack of it. Before you vote, ask your candidates what they’re willing to do to drive meaningful change and innovation. It’s time to put our elected officials’ feet to the fire and demand creative, collaborative, visionary action focused on what will help us grow. And if they can’t stand the heat, they need to get out of the kitchen to make room for others who can.

Janice Holly Booth is the former CEO of three nationally-based non-profits, including Gastonia’s Girl Scouts of the Pioneer Council, from 1997 to 2009. She holds a master’s degree in Leadership and has written extensively on the topics of developing personal leadership, and how leaders make decisions in the face of fear.