One Shining Moment

Last week, while listening to “All Things Considered” on NPR, I heard a member of the Colorado Legislature, his voice choked with emotion, relate how a longtime political rival approached him and gave him a hug. (That, of course, occurred before social distancing practices took effect.) Two days earlier, while watching the proceedings of the California Assembly on my desktop monitor, I saw a prominent Republican lawmaker express confidence in leadership of the state’s Democratic governor as he wished Gavin Newsom well. On Capitol Hill, jaded partisans are still struggling to set aside the rancor that has for so long ensnarled American political discourse, so that they might begin working together to provide for the general welfare.

We’re going to need a lot more love, and a lot less rancor if we are to make it through this extraordinary challenge to our lives and our way of life with minimum damage to our social fabric. Though we depend heavily upon our elected officials at every level of government to pursue laws and policies that are wise, effective, and compassionate, the underlying power in our political system derives from the people. Which bestows upon us the privilege and responsibility to determine what kind of nation we wish ours to be and to become.  And truth be told, no one political leader is going to make America great.  Not Donald Trump.  Not Joe Biden.  Not Bernie Sanders.

But we can.  We can make America great by setting aside our differences and coming together as one.  Even as we find ourselves ever more physically isolated by dint of social distancing, sheltering in place, or outright quarantine, we can draw closer. Yes, it is unfortunate that it takes a virus to remind us that we are united by our mortality.  But the uncertainty, anxiety, and pain inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying economic fallout invite, if not implore us to become our most humane.  The virus erects no barriers to empathy.  Instead of othering one another, we must embrace through acts of kindness, caring, and consideration.

We can make our nation great by turning neighbors into friends. and turning the impulse to hoard into the practice of sharing. We can make our nation great by cheering on our health workers and scientists while our sports arenas and stadia remain dark, and finding resourceful ways of educating the next generation of physicians and researchers while our school sites remain closed. We can make our nation great by granting the presumption of good intentions to those with whom we disagree over matters of policy and politics.  We can make our nation great by using social media as bridges rather than battering rams. We can make our nation great by saving lives without regard to national origin, race, ethnicity, sex, gender, religion, or class. Being good to one another will make us great.

We can and should do these things, even if we know we’re being our best because we’re running scared.  Even though we know it won’t last.  Which, of course, it won’t, because, well…we are what we are. We may succeed in “flattening the curve” when it comes to the incidence of COVID-19, but we’re near certain to revert to the mean when it comes to human nature. To put our differences aside at a time of crisis is heroic. To do so, thereafter, is superhuman. Nevertheless, the exigencies of the hour beckon us to summon our inner angels, and we must not squander the opportunity.

At the conclusion of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament – an event which a great many of us would normally be enjoying at this moment – viewers are treated to a brilliant audio-visual montage called “One Shining Moment.” It’s a moving recap of the tourney’s unforgettable moments, both high and low. Now, in the midst of an entirely different “March Madness,” we’re all in the game, and the clock is ticking down. This is our opportunity to shine.  Our one shining moment.  Will we rise to the occasion?  We can…and we must.

(Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints or policies of the California Association of Private School Organizations.)


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