Remembering where I was when I heard the news
It’s 2:40 in the morning in Ipswich, Queensland. The low hum of the refrigerator is drowned out by the kettle as I make my first batch of coffee. The stove-top light has attracted a couple of moths that make light thuds as they strike against the light. My dogs pace the kitchen, anxious to interrogate the cats we hear fighting on my front lawn.
I scroll through the live blogs on my phone to catch up on US election results that came through as I slept. The ABC bloggers are doing a good job of making conversation in between incremental changes to ballot counts in key states of Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania. Some say Arizona could still be in question.
I reflect how any surprise I might have once had from a media scroll is now replaced with dull expectation. The news cycle is like waiting for the next skit in a Saturday Night Live show when they are having an off night.
Then the notification pops up on my phone from the Australian Financial Review app. “Joe Biden will be America’s 46th president…”. The AP called Pennsylvania.
And the emotions roll in.
“Kamala Harris will be the first woman, and woman of colour, to become the vice president of the United States.”
I am unable to stop the tears each time I hear that statement from the news desks. It is an incredible moment, a major significance on the journey towards acceptance and commonplace. Where one day a “female person of colour in a position of leadership” is noted as “a person in leadership”. As Kamala noted “I am who I am. I’m good with it. You might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it.”
The end of the Trump presidency, the first one-term president since 1993, is a statement that being in a position is not validation of behaviour. Trump appeared to negate every lesson taught from Sunday School through to an MBA. Covey’s seven habits, Lencioni’s rules for teams, Schein’s culture, Gandhi’s experiments, Jesus’ beatitudes — all dismissed as unnecessary norms that get in the way of success of self.
Using a corporate lens, the administration experienced high staff turnover, continuous litigation and corruption, multiple allegations and prior admission of sexual assault, and a lack of singular accountability and personal awareness. Acceptance of Trump was a lesson for corporates that personal character came second to economic performance. Trump staying in office tells future generations that denigrating others based on appearance, age, or background is appropriate. Trump being voted out of office sends a strong message that words and character matter.
I am looking forward to a US presidency that is not entirely focused on the person of the US president. As an American and Australian in Australia, I often reflect how I do not think about the person of the Prime Minister on a regular basis. Days can go by when the name or face of the sitting prime minister does not come to mind, apart from when it is raised by either side of the moderately politicised media. The Trump administration by comparison was defined by vanity metrics where success is described in terms of ratings, likes, and crowd sizes.
Some would say that Trump simply highlighted deep divisions that already exist. There is no doubt that there are systemic and embedded inequalities in terms of race, geography, and position. But hate is not overcome by hate.
We know what distrust, fear, anger, and pride look like. We have seen it particularly over the past four years in social media feeds.
What we are not as familiar with as a society is love, trust, compassion, and humility. We continue to aspire to examples of what could be, rather than wallow in the depths of what is. We have a daily opportunity to be better versions of ourselves, without having to focus on beating everyone else.
I remember where I was when I heard the news. And I am grateful.