It’s Time to Build Bridges!

“The nation is at a critical point. At a time like this we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the party aisle to do the citizens’ work.”

Not the words of Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton.

Those were the words of Republican candidate for US president, Mitt Romney, during his 2012 concession speech in Boston.

And yet, four years later, our nation is at an even more critical point.

The world has watched as The 2016 United States Campaign Season unraveled into the most insulting, accusatory, vulgar, and divisive campaign ever.  It’s finally election day and the polls remain tight with Clinton clinging to a narrow lead.

The tight race reflects American voter emotions.

Disillusioned. Fed up. Frustrated. Many Americans are voting today in disgust of the Republican and  Democratic candidate. I’ve even heard some are tossing both aside and going for a write-in ballot:

“Help.”

As a political reporter for CNN, I covered one of the tightest presidential races in US history – that of Al Gore and George W. Bush.

After six weeks of legal wrangling over Florida’s hanging chads, the Supreme Court stepped in and declared Florida and its electoral college votes for Bush. Despite winning the popular vote, Gore lost the presidency.

He called his opponent to congratulate him and then he addressed the nation:

“For the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession. I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new President-elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together in fulfillment of the great vision that our Declaration of Independence defines and that our Constitution affirms and defends.”

Today, as the election results are tallied. I pray that whoever wins and loses remembers that:

“We are one people with a shared history and a shared destiny.”

I hope tonight at New York’s Javits Convention Center where Hillary Clinton will be and at nearby the Hilton Hotel Midtown where Donald J. Trump will be, there is no talk of building walls.

Only of building bridges.

Kindly, Gina

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Postcard from the US: Election 2016. Stormy Weather.

After a year away in Ireland, I’m back home in the US for two full days now.  Today I’m in Miami hosting a tech conference. Inside it’s the bright lights of the studio.

Outside it’s hot. It’s muggy.  Thunderstorms are darkening the beach. The rough weather seems to reflect the mood of the latest presidential election news reports.

At the moment, CNN is interviewing Florida Governor Rick Scott about the state’s efforts to contain the Zika virus with 15 confirmed cases in a single neighbourhood. Scott, a Navy veteran, also happens to be a Donald Trump supporter, and as such is also being asked how he feels about the Republican candidate’s escalating feud with the family of slain US Muslim soldier, Humayun Kahn.

Scott tries at first to avoid answering the question by bringing up Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the economy. When pressed, he reaffirms his support and adds that Donald Trump is a friend to those in the military.

This, as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a group of families who also had service members killed in action are blasting Trump on another channel and demanding he apologize for his remarks.

Next, the topic around the candidate in question shifts as this breaking news comes across: Trump is refusing to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator John McCain in their re-election campaigns.

During the primaries, Ryan and McCain have had their share of disagreements with Trump and now, analysts say on air that Trump is getting his retribution. According to them it’s personal.

And it’s this string of behaviour that has turned Sam off from the presidential candidate for whom he was once planning to vote.

Meet Sam from Minnesota.

Sam is from Minneapolis but he’s here with me in Miami as the director of the on-line conference I am hosting.  He heads up his own event production business with ten employees.  He considers himself socially progressive and fiscally conservative.

He voted Republican in the past two elections and was preparing to vote the same way in November.

“I was impressed with Trump’s speech at the Republican convention,” Sam told me today.  “He talked calmly. Slowly. He seemed to be reading the teleprompter.  I listened to it on the radio and I thought he did a good job.”

Then came Trump’s string of polemical comments. The Khan controversy plus Donald Trump’s answer on Monday to a USA Today newspaper reporter that he would like to think his daughter Ivanka would find another career or find another company if she encountered sexual harassment on the job.

Sam has an eight-year-old daughter.

Trump’s verbal thunder has destroyed the calmer presidential image Sam thought he heard portrayed during the Republican nomination acceptance speech.

“Now I have no time for him,” Sam told me.

He wouldn’t say whether he would vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton instead.  Only that he, unlike Florida Governor Scott, would no longer support Trump.

It’s been a stormy couple of days in South Florida –  and for Donald Trump.

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. In August I’ll be writing about my experiences back in the US during the US presidential election. Please reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

 

Postcards from the US. Election 2016.

As an American now living in Ireland, it’s been a year since I last stepped foot on native soil.  In that year, Donald Trump emerged from the field of 17 as the first Republican presidential candidate since Dwight Eisenhower to not have previously served as an elected official. And since Eisenhower was a general in WW II, Trump notably is the first GOP candidate to not have had any form of prior government experience since lawyer Wendell Willkie in 1940.

Over on the Democratic side, another first is that Hillary Clinton’s name will forever be highlighted in the record books as the first female candidate (from a major political party) for US President.

With the primaries and both the Republican and Democratic conventions behind us, the heat is really on. Not only because temperatures in the States are record setting this August – but because now with the General Election upon us, America is truly in a first-of-its-kind race for the White House. 

 I won’t try to demonstrate any broad science that political polls may offer, but during my time back in the States, I’ll try to interview people from as many different walks of life as I can find – to give you who may be living abroad and watching with interest and perhaps trepidation a little insight into the minds of some of the Americans who will be casting a ballot in this historic election.

 Jim from New Jersey

 I landed yesterday. Sunday.  In Philadelphia. Host to the just-ended Democratic Convention, the city’s airport was still brilliant in red, white and blue. Shops were still stocked with convention paraphernalia like glasses, corkscrews and T-shirts sporting Hillary Clinton’s face onto Rosie the Riveter’s muscle-pumping likeness with the straightforward words, “HILLARY 2016.” Or the other T-shirt with Donald Trump’s image and the more snarky slogan, “WE SHALL OVERCOMB.”

I posted a photo of my eight-year-old daughter, Lulu, on Facebook as she held up the Hillary cork screw. It elicited a slew of quips from my Stateside friends: “She should be locked up.” “She sells favors to foreign governments.” Trump didn’t escape either as one friend blasted him for his recent comments that he wanted to “hit DNC speakers.”

The political battle-lines were clear. And I thought I’d landed in the City of Brotherly Love.

Earlier, my American Airlines flight had lifted-off quietly enough from Shannon, Ireland.  It didn’t take long, however, to notice that the plane was old and outdated. Among other things, it was lacking, as Lulu quickly pointed out, her expected modern convenience of individual video screens in the seats.

According to our flight attendant, the plane was 35 years old.  She apologized in one frustrated breath that the movie projector to the single overhead screen was broken so my daughter couldn’t watch Pan as advertised in the seat-back magazine, that the bathrooms weren’t equipped to handle the er, “needs” of the passengers on a long overseas flight and that there wasn’t even enough trash bin space to hold the used cups and sandwich boxes and other garbage. Instead, the excess refuse was piled high on top of the metal aisle carts.

My seat-mate on the flight from Shannon to Phily was named Jim.  He and I agreed that many of the flight attendants’ grumpy demeanors likely stemmed from the expressed consternation they were feeling with the conditions of the aged plane.

Jim was returning to the US after a vacation in Ireland with his wife of almost 50 years and their children and grandchildren.

A New Jersey resident, Jim was a retired operations manager from Wawa, an East Coast convenience store chain. He told me he’d worked his whole life for Wawa.

“It’s named after the wild geese or “wawa” that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described in the poem Hiawatha,” Jim explained.

He also confided to me that the company had left him with a healthy 401K plan and retirement package. He and his wife were considering taking a National Geographic sponsored world tour for their upcoming 50th anniversary  – at 75 thousand dollars a person.

While in Ireland, Jim’s family had toured the Dingle Peninsula, the Jameson whiskey plant and played a lot of golf.  They had also stayed at “Donald Trump’s golf course” as Jim described it in Doonbeg, County Clare.

“I noticed the Irish really don’t care for Trump,” Jim said. “Especially in Doonbeg.”

In many ways, as a retired professional who isn’t disenfranchised about losing a manufacturing job, Jim doesn’t fit the easy profile of a Trump supporter.  But Jim told me he is planning to vote for Donald Trump as the next American president.

He voted for Trump earlier in the New Jersey primary too.

When I asked him why he chose the Republican candidate over the Democrat, he immediately blamed Hillary Clinton for “messing up Benghazi.”

“She got those soldiers killed,” he flatly stated.

(In fact, none of the four men killed in 2012 in Benghazi were active soldiers.  Ambassador Chris Stevens, his information officer and two former CIA operatives died in the attack.)

Jim added that he’s not one to defend Donald on his comments against women, or Muslims like Khizr Khan, the father of the fallen US Army Captain or about calling on Russia to find Clinton’s missing emails.

“I’m just ready to see him shake things up,” he told me simply, when I asked him to give me one reason why he was going to vote for Trump.

He said he doesn’t trust politicians and he’s tired of things as they are.

Like that aged plane with the piled up garbage,  Jim is frustrated with what he sees as American problems that are chronic and not getting fixed.

Copyright 2016 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved. 

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. During August, I’ll be writing about my return to the US and the Presidential Elections.  Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

We can be better.

A fellow human being on this planet just wrote this to me on Linked In:

 I saw you speak at the UCC Commerce Conference and was blown away by your speech – you’re so inspirational! Hope you’re keeping well 🙂

The message came at a time when I – and perhaps many of you – need a reminder about the importance of inspiring others.

It’s this time in the wake of the deadly rampage in Orlando – which just happens to be where I started my career as a journalist working for the Orlando Sentinel.  A town I associated with happy memories now forever tainted with the statistic as the deadliest shooting in the US.

That horror was shortly followed by the senseless killing of a young Member of Britain’s Parliament. In the middle of the afternoon. In front of a library.

The victims in Orlando had been inspirations for their friends and family.  MP Jo Cox was an inspiration too.

As Britain votes Thursday on Brexit, and my home country of the United States prepares to vote for a new president, I implore us all to remember that this is a time to not give up.  We must go on and be inspirations.

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Candlelight vigil at Lake Eola in Orlando

Yes, there are plenty of people who are cynical or angry or divisive or even hateful.  Some analysts say the global geopolitical landscape is turning more toward  nationalism, more toward nativism.  We can still stave off this turn.

We, as humans who share a planet, are better when we are positive.  When we are uplifting. Encouraging. When we are appeal to our better instincts – which are, in fact, not instincts after all, but traits that we can develop and deploy – if we set our minds to it.

No matter if we’re in the public sector or the private sector. If we work in local or national government.  For an SME or a major multi-national.  A for-profit or a not-for-profit. If we interact with other people, let us try to focus on how we can encourage one another – not tear each other down – in order to get ahead.

We can deliberately decide that we won’t get personal when we disagree with someone else on a policy or about a work project or about a whatever.

It’s time to get serious about being kind.  It’s about deliberately deciding that “we” is better than “me,” that being considerate is not the same as being weak. That caring for someone who may come from a different background than us, who may look different than us, who may even have a different culture than us – is okay.

I have lived or worked in dozens of countries. From Italy to Indonesia. Egypt to Nigeria. France to Romania. Cambodia to Ireland. I have friends from every place I have been. We continue to inspire each other.

As a fellow Member of Parliament, Rachel Reeves, said yesterday in tribute to Jo Cox, “What we have in common is greater than what divides us.”

We can carry on the work of those who stood for togetherness. For walking forward. Hand in hand.

I am convinced that we can be better.

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com