After attending the inauguration of Mayor Tom Arceneaux and our new City Council on the last day of 2022, my optimism grows for Shreveport. Early last year, some concepts in this column were shared in BIZ Magazine and the 318 Forum. This seems like a good time at the start of a New Year and new administration to reconsider these thoughts.
Watching news, reading newspapers, and scouring social media identifies deep division in our culture. People on all sides of the political divide have significant concerns about the direction of our community and country,
Our tendency is to initially blame some entity for our troubles. It could be government, political leaders, schools, universities, or political parties. However, pointing our fingers at one or more of these entities accomplishes nothing. The blame game does nothing to change things for the better.
For this column, I thought about five things to share that I could do as an individual to promote civility in areas of disagreement with others. Then I added five more ways to work with others to change the direction of our culture in a positive way. This is what we can all do to make our community a better place to live and work. On a personal level we can:
Live the truth: Integrity is a requirement for great leaders. The Bible says “the truth will set you free”. The defense of freedom begins with all of us seeking truth and then living it.
Have gratitude for our blessings and share these blessings with others. My anxiety over the direction of our community is greatly allayed when I realize I live in the greatest country in the history of the world. For over 250 years, America has been the beacon of freedom.
Practice the Golden Rule: Would the world around me be better if I treated others the way I want to be treated? Would there be greater civility? Could practicing this rule as individuals or as a community change the direction of the country? What if we really took the great commandment to heart and “loved one another”? What if we really did “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?
Don’t underestimate the potential to impact others for the good. It is easy to just throw up hands in despair at every new headline, but nothing good is accomplished with that attitude. None of us fully realize our impact on others and the world around us. When we think about it just a moment, we can all remember teachers, parents, and friends who transformed our lives. We can be those transformers for others.
Focus on creating opportunity for others. This means providing and encouraging work and innovation as keys to prosperity. Though no one can guarantee equal outcomes, equal opportunity is a founding principle. We can all work to provide excellence in education for the children of our community.
On a community and national level, we can work together to change the direction of our culture.
Strong families can turn the culture in the right direction. We can start with our own family. We can pass along the treasures of civilization and freedom to our children and grandchildren. Building families is the foundation of overcoming generational poverty. What if we could find a way to build more strong families?
Apply Biblical principles. In the Old Testament, the prophet Micah wrote, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God”? The scriptures show the way to justice and mercy. Silencing the church and censorship were the first steps in the Communist and Nazi movements of the 20th century. We shouldn’t let it happen in our community or our country.
Don’t forget the foundation of our Declaration of Independence. We should live by it as individuals and as a government. The Founding Fathers wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”.
Preserve the Bill of Rights. These civil liberties are our unalienable Rights. Threats to freedom of speech, press, assembly, protest, petition, and religion in the First Amendment are threats to our democracy. The same is true for the other civil liberties in Amendments Two through Ten. These rights are the bedrock of a functioning democracy. We should all work together to preserve the liberty that comes with the Bill of Rights.
Stand up for these foundation principles in our founding documents. This applies to federal, state and local government. In the classic work “Democracy in America” by de Tocqueville, he noted “Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot”.
We can and should speak truth to power. We can give thanks everyday for the wisdom of the founders that produced the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These documents have and continue to be remarkable antidotes to tyranny for 250 years.
There are individual and collective ways to provide solutions for our deep divide and seemingly endless hostility. Those solutions are found in the heart of Americans. Integrity, gratitude, charity, opportunity, and a reliance on long-standing principles applies the wisdom of the ages to our differences. As noted in an African proverb, “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion”. We are better together.
Dr. Phillip Rozeman is a practicing cardiologist. He has been recognized as a member of the JA Business Hall of Fame and Shreveport Chamber Business Leader of the Year.