These days, it is kind of hard not to believe the great American divide is all around us. As proof we are bombarded daily with endless examples of a society divided by class, race, gender, politics, finances… And not to dispute the many deep divisions that do exist, but — could it not also be true that we tend to see what we focus on?
Recently, Pew Research presented a poll as How Americans describe what society values in men and women, then focused their entire discussion on dissecting how and to what degree Americans value (and don’t value) different traits for men and women.
But hidden within that discussion, and what intrigued me the most, were the words Americans used to describe the perceived traits that society values in both men and women — “honest”, “kind”, “strong”, “responsible”. After all, what speaks more to our core values than the ideals we perceive to be most valuable in all of our citizens.
If you were asked what traits our “divided society” should value in our ideal Americans — the people we want around us as family, friends, neighbors, and community leaders as well as those conducting our business and overseeing our government — would you agree that we need more:
Men and women who are — Honest
“Great learning and superior abilities…will be of little value and small estimation unless virtue, honor, truth, and integrity are added to them.”
— Abigail Adams
Men and women who are — Kind
“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt
Men and women who are — Strong
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
Men and women who are — Responsible
“Out of our first century of national life we evolved the ethical principle that it was not right or just that an honest and industrious man should live and die in misery. He was entitled to some degree of sympathy and security. Our conscience declared against the honest workman’s becoming a pauper, but our eyes told us that he very often did.”
— Frances Perkins
Honest, kind, strong, and responsible — I’d say we already kno the unifying traits and enduring values we will need to bridge the “great divide” and help us build a better future.