Sunday Inspiration: Does Anybody Know the Right Answer?

the right answer

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” -John F. Kennedy

I know. Easier said than done, isn’t it? Here we are a couple of days from another Fourth of July, a day of picnics and family and parades. But what about democracy? I don’t want to get too political, but if you can’t be political on the Fourth, I don’t know when you can.

My sense is that our democracy is in danger. This week at Chautauqua the theme has been Invention and Innovation with speakers focusing mostly on technology. But I wonder how we can reinvent our democracy. I suggest the following:

  • Let’s genuinely communicate with each other. It seems that most people are divided between two very different worlds — Venus and Mars — who have no idea how to think carefully about issues, taking in all views, or to give their well considered opinions politely. It’s almost as if we don’t speak the same language. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see people — especially our politicians — listen closely, not  haranguing and attacking, but absorbing the pain beneath words. How about speaking civilly, not from a place of superiority but of humility?
  • As President Kennedy said, let’s work together to find the right answer instead of the Republican or Democratic answer. Cooperation should be the heart of our democracy, combining our ideas and our strengths to create a better country for all of us.
  • Finally, let’s invite everyone to the party. Let’s throw out labels and have everyone, every ethnicity and race, women and men, rich and poor, gay and straight, all faiths, be accepted and celebrated as equal members of our democracy who participate enthusiastically in creating our future.

Does that work for you? Whether it does or not, I hope you have a joyful, thoughtful Fourth of July.


  1. Penny A Prichard on July 2, 2017 at 3:39 am

    Thank you for these wise words. Thank you for planting a seed. Thank you for reminding us that we have one mouth and two ears and that we should use them proportionately.

    Your first bullet point, I believe, is very true and very troubling. With so much information available, how do we discern fact from fiction and fact from opinion?

    Democracy is a gift. But like many gifts, it takes work. If we are not willing to put in the work we risk losing it. We have a responsibility to ourselves, to our children and grandchildren, to our elders and to the world to keep this greatest of experiments going and going strong.

    Later this summer I have a trip planned to Williamsburg with my son and his family. It occurs to me that this trip is something of a metaphor for the situation we find ourselves in as a country. I love Colonial Williamsburg and look forward to walking the streets and sitting in the rooms where our forefathers walked and sat. Where they discussed and created the scaffold for our country. It will be fun and it will be interesting. Nearby is an amusement park that is loads of fun. Lots of bright lights, noise and excitement. We can enjoy either experience or both. One takes some work, some commitment and involvement. The other is easy. The fun comes to us. We sit on various rides and let it happen.

    We need to examine what is going on today. Become involved. Learn. Look at motivation. Determine where we want to be in a few years, what kind of country we want our grandchildren to inherit. There are dire predictions out there that I probably won’t live long enough to see but my children and grandchildren will. What I do today will impact the world they live in. It is much easier to keep something going than to establish it. I think of the acrobat spinning plates. Much of the time of the performance is gathering the sticks and the plates and getting them spinning. Much care must be given in order for it to happen. The real performance is not the spinning of the plates, but the work that is involved in getting them to spin.

    Happy 4th of July everyone

  2. Joan Leopold on July 2, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Works for me.

  3. Iris on July 2, 2017 at 8:59 am

    A week ago in Cleveland I participated in a dinner that grew out if the Women’s March last January. 6 if us were invited and we each had to invite a guest that we wanted to have a conversation with. We had 3 men there and a more diverse group I could not have imagined. Then we all discovered we were 6 degrees of separation as we got to know each other. A moving experience. Our next meeting will include an extra person from each of us and it will be a growing group!! Can’t wait!!

    • Emilie Richards on July 5, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      Wonderful idea, Iris.

  4. Nancy Lepri on July 2, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Kudos to you, Emilie for writing this!

  5. Kate Vale on July 2, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Easier said than done, but commendable suggestion. I fear persons not in Congress would be more amenable to these sentiments than those currently in office, but I harbor hope.

  6. Donalene on July 2, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks for your words. Being 80, I have seen a lot occur in how things have been done and are being done. Today our country isn’t being a leader for the world or our own people. When people in Congress knew each other and had conversations with each other regardless of any labels, things seemed to work better. Don’t play the “blame game,” but accept again the days of civility and respect for each other.

  7. Janet Morrison on July 5, 2017 at 2:31 am

    Beautifully expressed. The divisions in our country are so deep and ugly, I fear it will take a national tragedy to bring us back together. I pray I’m wrong.

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