Schedule a conversation – Eric Isselhardt


A Small Sense of Community


These events will be forever linked in my memory, occurring as they did so closely together, with many voting modifications having to be made in my state as result of the hurricane.  For the first time ever, those of us in counties impacted by the hurricane in NJ were allowed to vote early.  Going to our county courthouse on Sunday to cast our votes by paper ballots, waiting for over an hour to do so, was an experience I won’t soon forget.

Again, I am in DC as I start to write this, and it was an experience to watch the election returns in the nation’s capital city.  I went down to the lobby to grab a sandwich and watch, I thought for a half hour before returning to my room, but ended up staying until the results were called, sitting with people from Texas, Michigan, DC, and California.  Some were supporters of Obama and some of Romney.

As the end result became obvious, one of the Romney supporters became very bitter about the presumed outcome.  He spoke about Obamacare bankrupting the US and other dire predictions, and basically berated those in the area who voted for the President.  As I watched and listened, the two young men from California dealt gently with this gentleman, letting him vent and know that they valued his opinions without agreeing with them.  One of them began to speak quietly about the importance of all views being expressed, pointing out that during that day, this is exactly what had happened.  All views were heard and, in the end, the views of the majority of people disagreed with the Romney supporter.  He went on to share that in the country he originally came to the US from, people had no right to vote and that the act of voting was an honor.  He commented on the huge lines of people that day in DC, waiting up to three hours to have their voices heard.  The fact that so many people came out to vote had made an impression on him, as had their patience as they waited.  He closed by saying that, whether your candidate won or lost, having your voice counted was the important thing.  And now that it was decided, the even more important issue was to get behind the President and help to move the country forward.

All of this was said in a voice so quiet that you had to listen hard to hear it, which caused the angry Romney supporter to stop talking and listen.  As the California gentleman concluded, the Romney supporter began to quietly nod his head and agreed that, ‘we are all Americans.’

This was a great lesson in defusing what could have become an ugly situation, and I thought about the skills that this young man had employed – patience, reasonableness, non-judgmental thinking, and a focus on building consensus.  He would have made an excellent teacher.

In addition to voting in a Congress and President, there were a number of education issues on ballots in states.  In Idaho and South Dakota rejected education reform efforts that would have put in place educator evaluation models requiring half the evaluation to be based on student test scores.  In Idaho, voters actually repealed laws on the books, which also limited negotiating rights of educators and paid bonuses based on student test scores.  In California, voters agreed to increased sales and income taxes in order to fund education efforts.  It has been interesting to watch as education efforts are determined by voters.

Just as I have been struck by a sense of community being re-forged as a result of the hurricane, sitting in the lobby last night, those of us gathered around a tv screen from such diverse parts of the country, walks of life, and areas of interest forged a common bond, united in believing that, whether we agreed with the outcome or not, we had been part of something historic.  And found a small sense of community as a result.

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