Four years ago, after the inauguration of “he who shall not be named,” I was on my way to Los Angeles for a conference. I was working on a speech I was going to deliver when I was distracted by the view out the window.
I was somewhere around 35,000 feet over New Mexico. Looking down, I saw an occasional patch of lights — a town or city, filled with human beings all struggling to make their lives a little better, people with husbands, wives, lovers, children and pets, all pretty much living day to day and facing many of the same challenges I face.
They were down there, living their lives, going to work, to school, to church, to the movies and theaters and restaurants and stores. They were reading the newspaper or cruising the internet or listening to radio or watching TV. They were getting information to shape their world view — some from reputable news sources, others from ideological propaganda outlets.
Some of those people had a New York Times view of the world; others saw things through the lens of a local news outlet. Some didn’t watch or read the news at all, instead getting what information they needed from neighbors and friends.
Many didn’t care about the news or about politics because they were too busy trying to make ends meet while raising a family.
Each lived in their own reality, some without even realizing it.
But as different as each of them is, they were all Americans — Americans who needed to find common ground, to talk to each other and not “at’ each other. They were Americans who might have forgotten that once you get far enough away from the color of skin, the gender they are, the people they love and the God they worship (or don’t worship) were all living on the same land as every other American.
All those lights were flickering, tiny beacons signaling, “I am here scrambling to live my life.” From that perspective, I realized we had more in common than we have differences.
At that critical time in our country’s history, we all needed to stop and take a 35,000-foot view to try and gain this perspective, finding ways to unite rather than divide. We had a common dream that would not be reached without our fellow Americans dreaming with us.
That was true four years ago, and it is even more true today.