To paraphrase Winston Churchill, if our country were to last a thousand years, would they say, “This was their finest hour?” Perhaps an interesting question, given recent events…
For that question to be answered in the affirmative, we have to make a few changes. There are some things we need to do more of, and some we need to do less of. First, we all need to reflect more, slow down and think deeply about principles and core values in order to find unity of purpose as a nation.
It would help if we unplugged routinely, giving us time to pause, reorder our hearts and minds toward the greater good, while finding ways to encourage and build each other up. Let’s agree to set aside one hour each day to disconnect from the Internet, all social media, and most of all, TV. Read a devotional book, write poetry, or think about someone you can serve, forgive or thank.
Now comes the hard part. The second change we should make is to employ a rule I learned from an organization called The Positive Coaching Alliance. Essentially, one of their core principles is to offer praise more than criticism, in at least a three to one ratio. Try it for one day with anyone you regularly interact with. Once you’ve gotten used to it, apply it to politicians from the party you don’t support, media figures you despise, and all groups or individuals that you detest.
Right-minded, grounded in faith, there is nothing that can’t be overcome or accomplished.
I’ve written many times about the need in our country for a charismatic, honorable leader to unite us. But, I think I’ve been a bit off target. There are leadership opportunities for all of us right now. Collectively, we are responsible for getting our country back on track. It isn’t government’s responsibility, it is ours. Let’s stop looking for someone or some group to blame and get on with healing and unification.
A helpful exercise… in your family, small group, or inner circle, try this exercise. Pick a prominent person (I’m not suggesting anyone specific) or controversial issue, and debate it in this fashion: Those predisposed for the person or issue will research and prepare an argument against, and all those predisposed against, will develop a coherent argument in favor. In short, for polarization to end in our country, we have to learn to understand and respect people and opinions we currently don’t like. Extremists are driving the debate on too many topics. We need a new paradigm, one with less blame, more responsibility and greater understanding.
Despite the disturbing events in places like Charlottesville and Barcelona, the momentum from an economic and market perspective is positive. To begin with, corporate earnings growth has been impressive. S&P 500 earnings are on pace to increase over 10% for the calendar year, an outstanding achievement given all the political dysfunction and global anxiety. In addition, interest rates and inflation remain very low by historical standards, both of which support higher stock prices. The stock market may be overdue for a correction, but as long as earnings continue to grow as they have, the long-term trend in the market should remain positive. Across our equity portfolios, we remain cautious, but patiently opportunistic.
Despite this generally positive long-term view, we are concerned that further civil unrest and worsening political discord could raise the level of anxiety to a point that triggers a market and economic downturn. The economy and markets are performing well in spite of the political arena. Just think how well they would be doing if Washington could actually accomplish something positive!
They are about to get their chance… tax reform is the last chance for the Republican-led congress to prove they can govern effectively. Expectations today are much lower than they were, so maybe they will surprise us.
There seems to be a sense that before long things are either going to get measurably better or measurably worse. Unfortunately, it is unclear which way it is going to go. I realize this isn’t much help. But don’t blame me, I just need a little more time to figure it out.