A few weeks ago, President Joe Biden gave his inaugural address to the nation, and one message was clear: he was calling for unity throughout the United States.
Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or Independent voter, we all know that right now, our country is at an extraordinary point of polarization and constant disagreement. Some conflict is okay, and sometimes may even be beneficial. But what is happening right now is dangerous to our country’s future.
Former President Donald Trump’s time in office deeply divided us. We were not a unified country, but rather a mix of red states and blue states. Some of us refused to speak to our neighbors, our friends and even our families due to the way we voted. Many of us argued, angry with the way things were going. On top of that, an unprecedented pandemic hit, and we became even more anxious and frustrated with the country as we debated how to handle the health crisis and reopen safely.
Despite all of this turmoil, Biden stood by his call for unity throughout the entirety of the presidential primaries and during the debates, until he was elected in November.
Back in the fall, I thought this was a waste of time. Why try to unify a nation that has no chance of coming together? Why would we try to work with the other side when we had deep, fundamental differences of opinions that weren’t changing anytime soon?
Looking back, I myself was completely caught up in the election madness, and I regret thinking that unity was too ambitious a goal.
Of course now, months after Biden’s win, I have slowly warmed up to this idea of unity. I’ve heard it repeated time and time again, and although it may be difficult to achieve, I do believe that it is the only way that this country will begin to heal. Sure, not everyone will completely agree on certain policies or decisions that President Biden will make over the next four years. But at the very least, it is important to acknowledge that Biden is, and always has been, running on the idea of love and acceptance, a stark contrast from the previous administration.
And that’s exactly what we need. In order to regroup and grow as a nation, we must love, accept and care for one another. It’s really that simple. Having a President in office who listens to and respects the people is the key to unity.
So, will this message of unity prevail? Ultimately, I think it will. Something that I’ve learned, especially being in college now and meeting so many new people, is that we all hold distinct opinions. We have to be okay with talking to those who do not agree with us on political issues. In fact, we should remain open to learning from those we disagree with. These candid conversations, along with acceptance of different opinions, can and will lead us out of this dark time in our nation’s history.
So now, I ask you to do a self-examination. Ask yourself, am I genuinely listening to those around me? Do I care about my peers’ opinions, even if I disagree with them? Am I willing to have a conversation with the opposing side?
I struggled with being able to do this in the fall leading up to the election. I had to stop, step outside of myself and really look into whether or not I was listening or simply dismissing the other side. I quickly realized how important it was to listen to the opinions of those around me, even if I disagreed.
At the end of the day, I hope that we can all heed the call of nationwide unity, especially here at Villanova, as we follow our Augustinian values of Unitas, Veritas, and Caritas–– unity, truth and love.