Many years ago, I overheard this conversation between two first-graders: “I was here first.” “No, I was here first.” “That is my book.” “No, that is my book.” “I am not going to play with you anymore.” “I am not going to play with you, either.” Five minutes later: “You are my best friend.” “You are my bestest friend, too.” After all these passing years, these two folks remain the best of friends.
During a 1961 address to the Canadian Parliament, President John F. Kennedy said, “What unites us is far greater than what divides us.” In all of life, how true that is.
As one grows older – during the teen years, middle age and beyond – there are hard feelings, discord and disagreements. This may be true in families at times of despair, in the workplace, in the neighborhood or in the political arena.
In November, we ended a long and contentious presidential election campaign. There was a winner and a loser. Some say that we are a divided country and a divided people. But is that really true?
I remember well the presidential race of 1940 between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Wendell L. Wilkie. Roosevelt won that race, and there were those who said our nation was seriously divided. In 1944, Gov. Thomas E. Dewey challenged Roosevelt, and FDR won again. There was doom and gloom on the part of some, and joy on the part of others – even in the same family.
In 1948, Harry S. Truman ran against Dewey, who was declared the winner by the Chicago Tribune. When Truman was famously declared the winner, the roar went up, “The country is divided, never again to be united.” But, to the contrary, the country pulled together and the post-World War II period saw a great reawakening of common endeavors and a cooperative spirit.
Today, as Congress is mired in gridlock, we hear much about a divided nation and a division of the people. Some have even called for a move to break from the others and to secede from the union. But, you know, there is more that unites us than divides us. We are all one people, in spite of what we hear. Americans will differ over who should be in the White House, but this does not necessarily mean we are perilously divided.
In the days of my youth, this shy farm boy went from a small, rural school to the central high school nearly 20 miles from my home. When I entered ninth grade, I saw myself as a farm kid who just did not quite belong with the youths from the village.
The days turned into weeks. By and by, I discovered that nearly all of the students were searching for acceptance, too. In fact, nearly all of us were searching for some identity, and we were far more united than divided.
Most all of us have many of the same common needs and desires in life. We all have needs vital for survival – water, air, food and sleep. All of us strive to feel secure in our shelter and environment. We long to belong, to be a part of something and to be accepted by others. We all need to have a feeling of self-worth and accomplishment. We are very much united in our common needs.
When all is said and done, what will history record about this generation? Twenty-five years from now, what will be the headline of some columnist when referring to 2013? Let us hope that it reads: “United they stood.”