Editorial note: This article appeared in Linkedin on November 11th, 2016
This volatile election has been a traumatic experience for America, and we are still processing its impact. The floods of offensive viral material circulating the Internet are evidence. For example one video shows Pennsylvania teenagers shouting ‘white power’ in celebration of Trump’s win. Another photo shows a truck driving around Brooksville, Florida, emblazoned with hate messages towards Muslims. Even more revealing though is the startling impact on our nation’s most valuable resource: America’s children.
This survey of 2000 teachers conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center first revealed during primaries how “The Trump Effect” is influencing classrooms. Teachers reported that bullying and racial discrimination has been increasing, and also indicated a general decline in “civil political discourse” among school aged kids. It can’t be ignored that whether intentional or not, Trump’s campaign has emboldened bigotry in this country, and his rhetoric has been interpreted by some as permission to target and intimidate immigrants and people of color. What is the role and responsibility of a leader in this situation?
As President-Elect of the United States of America, Donald Trump should be taking this question seriously. Building unity now in this deeply divided and hurting nation will mean having the self-awareness to acknowledge his role in creating “The Trump Effect” and having the integrity to confront the parts of his constituency perpetuating it. It will mean intentionally transforming his presence to model constructive attitudes that inspire collaboration. It would mean a new Donald Trump presence. Is that happening?
Changes in the tone of Trump tweets from yesterday to today give indication that Trump might be working on his leadership presence. His tweet from last night accusing demonstrators of being “professional protestors incited by media” reflects Candidate Trump’s typical reactionary focus on his own emotions. However this morning he offers a glimmer of hope from the President-Elect by a tweet “Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country”. We will all come together and be proud!”. By focusing on the motivations of the people he is leading, rather than invalidating their experiences, Trump is demonstrating a positive leadership presence.
I hope our new leader continues down this path. To unite the country, he needs to walk the talk and provide a safe environment for all to grow together and thrive.