05 diverse group circleE Pluribus Unum or “Out of many, one” is the United States’ traditional motto. I can’t think of anywhere else in the world that such a slogan would even be proposed, let alone embraced. It has produced a society that is unique in human experience. Our national personality has morphed through the years as different cultures have been adopted and embraced the American experience.

I see this in our cuisine. What shall we have tonight, Asian, Italian, Greek, Sushi, barbecue? All these are similar yet somewhat different from what you would get in the places of origin. Each is influenced by the different cultures that make up the American personality. I think they are better than the originals, and the same can be said about Americans. As a nation, I genuinely believe that we are the most accepting, generous and engaged people on earth.

So how did we get to the point where we now find ourselves? A place where friends, families and portions of society are against one another. How do we get back to E Pluribus Unum? We could start with our Constitution. In the beginning, the Preamble lays out for us the intent of this steadfast document. “We, the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union...”

Notice it says “a more perfect union,” not a perfect union. The Framers thought we should work towards perfection. They knew we had flaws, some of them severe. The challenge was to strive towards perfection, something they knew was unattainable but still worthy of the effort.

Maybe the most important word is “union.” Defined, a union is an act of joining or being joined. It’s “a club, society, or association formed by people with a common interest.”

Today we have people, agencies and organizations pitted against one another with what appears to be an all-or-nothing mentality. We seem to have lost our ability to empathize or compromise with opposing views. Worse is the willingness to vilify and demonize anyone who disagrees with us. The lack of civility in public discourse is stunning—the use of deception and falsehoods to silence someone who dares to think differently borders on being immoral. Is the willingness to resort to violence for the same purpose dangerous to individuals and the larger society? This will lead to catastrophe if we don’t get it under control. So how do we stop this level of intolerance?

First, we must accept the fact that no one is the center of the universe. While we all have value, no one is inherently more valuable than anyone else. At the same time, as the Declaration of Independence states, “We are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We should be steadfast in defending those rights as much for others as we do for ourselves.

Secondly, we should not just be willing to listen to other opinions; we must make an effort to truly understand them. This is tricky because we often mistake opinions for facts — especially our own. It is essential sometimes to let go of your views and listen to the other person's concerns. Emotions have to be vented before moving on to an honest discussion.

If you can bring yourself to consider the other person's point of view with an open mind and heart, you will begin to develop understanding. You may conclude that some things you thought were real and genuine are not. You may convince the other person that they were not 100% correct. You may even conclude that the things that have divided us are more about misunderstanding than they are about cross-purposes. At this point, we may even begin to drift back to E Pluribus Unum.

This is why I am running for Cumberland County’s District 43rd Seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives. Communication is crucial, and if we talk with one another and treat each other with respect and fairness, there is no situation or problem we cannot collectively overcome. I have decades of public service experience and a verifiable record of working and communicating with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to solve problems and find workable solutions for my constituents. I will continue to do so as your representative in District 43 of the NC House.

We have lots of work to do for Cumberland County and North Carolina. Recovering the economy, providing affordable health care, educating our children, protecting the environment, expanding broadband to rural areas, protecting our citizens and providing for our needy and vulnerable. These are my priorities, and they are all within our grasp. E Pluribus Unum. May God make it so.

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