What we are fighting for

Whatever your political leanings, almost everyone can agree this past week felt like a watershed moment in our nation’s modern history. A long, acrimonious presidential campaign with a surprise finish left friends, family and neighbors alike all estranged.

Some are hopeful, others despondent. All around emotions remain high, and it’s hard to even think about how we will ever reconcile our differences.

This is not an attempt to force that conversation. I wouldn’t even know where to begin anyway, but I do know that it will never happen if we only continue to focus on what separates us and allow ourselves to forget why reconciliation is still worth pursuing.

In that sense, this is an open invitation for you to join me in remembering and to remind the world that our commitment to our democratic ideals — especially that of an open, tolerant and inclusive society — remains as strong as ever. We don’t really have to agree on anything else to come together on this one point.

However you may be feeling in this moment about the election’s outcome, no matter how you voted and especially if you chose to abstain, before turning once more to social media, try writing it down on paper in a letter to the President-elect instead. Then together on inauguration day, let’s all send our letters in at once so that even if he never reads a single one, our message of unity and rejection of hate will still be clear.

People are very worried about what Trump’s election says about racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia in America today. This is an opportunity for us all to respond with one voice and condemn the divisive rhetoric of the presidential campaign. We the people will not condone bigotry in our society.

Imagine millions of letters addressed to the White House all flooding the postal system on the same day. For the so-called silent majority it’s a chance to show your vote was not intended as an endorsement of bigotry, while for Clinton supporters it’s an opportunity to show your resolve. I’m not asking anyone to change anything about how they feel about a Trump presidency; I’m only asking you to speak out through a collective gesture in defense of human rights. Beyond that, what you put in your letter is up to you.

And for those who didn’t vote, especially anyone under the age of 18 who could not vote but who will still have to live with the choices made on your behalf for years to come, we need your help too. The society we become will not be decided on this past or any other election day but rather on every day in between, in how we choose to conduct ourselves and engage with one another.

We cannot afford to continue sitting on the sidelines of our democracy, complaining about elected officials without putting in the hard work to effect change. We are not entitled. The world owes us none of it, and any amount of progress can always be undone. I realize that many people have been laboring on behalf of the marginalized all along, and I do not mean to discount your efforts in any way. I mean to join you and to encourage others to join as well.

Realizing a more hopeful, tolerant and inclusive vision for America requires a commitment to those values that does not fade when the headlines do. Let it begin with the simple act of writing a letter and continue every day for the next four years and beyond until we can live up to the aspiration of a more perfect union expressed in our constitution.

Inauguration Day — Friday, January 20, 2017

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500