Following your inner voice
The US general election has arguably offered us the good, the bad and the ugly; a process that while flawed, remains essential. While any election has the potential to divide, it does include the genius of the secret ballot which allows citizens to follow their conscience in the choices they make. This formal process is a reminder that life calls us to declare personal independence and to follow our inner voice, as we make choices from day to day.
An example of this call came for Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and President Obama after the historic nature of Hurricane Sandy became evident. Only a few weeks prior to that storm, Christie had delivered the keynote address at the Republican Convention during which he made a scathing attack on Obamas record of administration. That said, when laying the groundwork to respond to Sandy, President Obama chose to personally telephone the Governor as one of his first steps. Christie was later generous with his praise for the Presidents leadership in coordinating the Federal support offered for the unprecedented super-storm that caused devastation to the East Coast. The reconciliation of these one-time foes became an iconic image.
As a result of this turnaround, Christie received extensive criticism from key supporters. However, the Governor continued to follow his inner voice and collaborate with the President in meeting the challenges facing so many. This situation spoke to the axiom that crisis can shift paradigms how we look at the world. Bermuda is going through a crisis currently and our challenges are calling us to dig deeply as we make our choices.
Our history offers examples. At a time when segregation meant that there was limited access for children of colour at secondary level, Edwin Skinner — who happened to be white — retired as a school principal in 1944 and started a school for all at his home. Following his conscience, his tireless work was key in the development of scores of young people at that time; including Ottie Simmons, John Swan and Roosevelt Brown who have made invaluable contributions to our Island.
Various residents had been campaigning to remove segregation from the early 1940s without success, for almost two decades. In June of 1959 a small group of residents with the courage to move outside the box, followed their conscience and secretly organised the Theatre Boycott. Hundreds of locals chose to respond and within two weeks, the formal barriers were removed.
Those stories represent examples of choices being made to follow ones inner voice by those on whose shoulders we stand. However, each of us have opportunities in our personal lives to choose to follow our conscience. We know stories of parents who at personal sacrifice, choose to work extra jobs to meet the challenges of family budgets.
There are those students who overcome their circumstances and choose to work their way through university. There are stories of people who make the choice to offer tough love to assist others to free themselves from substance abuse.
One of our current community challenges is the crisis involving so many young people being caught up in the cycle of violence. What if those involved claimed their freedom, declared their personal independence and followed their inner voices? You can imagine a return to a Bermuda with young people being able to travel freely throughout their small island.
We are now entering an election campaign in Bermuda, with the potential for added division. While we are facing some of our most challenging times, this offers all of us an opportunity to dig down to follow our inner voices. This may result in a Christie-Obama moment or something expressed differently. However, accessing conscience and thoughtful reflection by us all at this time, can only have a positive effect on our community.
In conclusion, lets reflect on a consistent refrain that President Obama used during his campaign; which was:Its not about me, its about you. This speaks to the reality that each person is offered the opportunity to follow that inner voice in a secret ballot at the polls. However, I believe that this transformational leader is pointing out that even more importantly, no matter what the outcome of any election, true democracy means following our conscience — our inner voice — as we make choices from day to day in all aspects of our lives.
As we exercise those choices, we will encourage each other to live thoughtfully; thus restoring and sustaining community.
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