The Legislature is back in session on Utah’s Capitol Hill. In Washington, Congress continues to kick the can down the road with continuing resolutions, shutdown showdowns, fake fights and backroom deals. President Trump has completed a tumultuous first year in office marked by victories in tax reform, judicial appointments and regulatory reductions — and peppered with Twitter battles, temper tantrums and salty statements.
Meanwhile, many exhausted citizens try to discern where we are as a nation, what matters most and where the country will go from here.
The way out and the way up for America has nothing to do with politics, something to do with policy, more to do with principles and everything to do with people. We far too often look to politics when we should be looking to people and principles.
Sutherland Institute founder Gaylord Swim foresaw the challenges we would face in 2018 when he said over a decade ago, “This process requires strong advocates, certainly, but it also takes a counter-balancing sense of humility, civility, and dialogue. … The political course often leads to power struggles, pride, vanity and egocentric ambition, ending in acrimony. It all too often manifests itself in strident voices, character assassinations, protest demonstrations, cloakroom deals, and corruption.”
A quick glance at the news will confirm that this is where we are as a nation. Sadly, politics has failed, our leaders are lagging and too many in the media feed and foster divisive anger, fear and frustration across the nation.
Perhaps what the country needs is fewer politicians perpetuating the way of the swamp and more citizens following the way of the reformer. We need real reformers in the style of William George Jordan’s 1902 definition: “The reformers of the world are its people of mighty purpose … those with the courage of individual conviction, who dare run counter to the criticism of smaller minds and hearts … who renounce the commonplace and conventional for higher things. They are reformers because they are striving to bring about new conditions; they are consecrating their lives to ideals.” Political reformers are important, but the real need is for the kind of citizen-reformers who have always propelled the country forward.
Yes politics has failed — but America will not. I can be quite pessimistic about our nation’s politics, but I have never been more bullish and confident about the future of America — because America has proven time and again that even in our darkest hours — in times of natural disaster or manmade tragedy — the people of this nation harness our better angels and rise to create our finest hours.
In an attempt to elevate dialogue, promote the principles of liberty and drive effective policy, I often speak of Kairos moments. Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning the “right or opportune moment” or the “crucial and critical time.”
Kairos time differs from the more common word for time, which is chronos (as in chronological time). Kairos is different — it is more the “chance of a lifetime” kind of time. We must remember that the opportunity of a lifetime can only be grasped in the lifetime of the opportunity — what we do with such moments matters, because they are often fleeting.
Recognizing and responding to a Kairos moment is the initial requirement for being a reformer. Embracing and acting on such moments is the gateway to our finest hours, individually and collectively.
Usually our finest hours are achieved in quiet moments, far from public view, where we focus on people. A neighbor helping a neighbor in need, an already overworked teacher staying late to help a struggling student, a fifth-grader standing up to a bully for a classmate or local citizens rallying around the family of a deployed soldier. Because of the people of Utah and communities like we have across this great state, I am confident there are Kairos moments and better days ahead for America.23 comments on this story
Sometimes we rationalize our disengagement by telling ourselves that the big Kairos moments for America are in the distant past. It is interesting to note that a young Abraham Lincoln felt similarly and was very concerned that the “field of glory” had been harvested by our Founding Fathers, and all that was left to his generation were “modest ambitions.” We know the wheels of history turned, and Lincoln responded to his Kairos moment by advocating for people on America’s founding principles. He ultimately not only saved but reformed and advanced the republic the Founders had established — ushering in a new birth of freedom for the nation.
Today, we are no less active players in a history being written in real time. And as active participants, we have choices to make and Kairos moments to meet. As citizen-reformers we must reject the politics of personal destruction and division — and focus instead on unifying principles and people.