Even as world events this year revealed this nation’s divisions in thought, beliefs and rhetoric, I continue to believe in underlying values we all share as Americans. Those values include love of country, love of community and a desire to make tomorrow better for our children and grandchildren.
Significantly, we must recognize that history shows leadership to be effective only when leaders work toward consensus and when they strive to find the common ground underpinning progress.
As a leader of an institution of higher learning, I see this notion play out daily in every classroom. We benefit from the diversity of thoughts, philosophies and experiences. From the discussions such diversity yields, we learn and grow in thought and character. We prepare students from every corner of the country and the world to lead, to be resilient and to work through challenges large and small. Our students come to us with open minds and leave us ready to change the world.
So the challenge before us – no matter the status of global or national events – involves working together to find areas of mutual understanding and to properly shepherd our community and our world today and tomorrow.
Because of our freedom of thought and expression, each day starts afresh in the U.S. The American dream remains within reach for everyone here – and we all have an opportunity to lead from where we are.
In that light, reach out to serve in your organizations, your communities, your state and your nation. Seek opportunities to make connections, share ideas and find common ground.
In the days and months ahead, each of us must approach our differences respectfully and focus on the values we share and the ideals that unite us.
Dr. Benjamin Ola. Akande is the former assistant vice chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis. A long-time St. Louis resident, he currently serves on the boards of the Saint Louis Art Museum, Forest Park Forever, Girls Inc. and Argent Capital.