United We Stand?


Also posted on MariaShriver.com

I’ve raised two young men, whom I’d love to tell you about. My 25 years with them has astounded me more often than not. I’m a far better person having known them. Mothering these two men is my greatest and most fulfilling accomplishment.

And yet, over the last two days, I’ve had two deeply disturbing discussions initiated by my sons at separate times about Presidential candidates, ethics, and the disappointment of adults in general.

Let me step back.

I considered not having children.

I am a deeply passionate and curious person – about work, about writing, about engaging.

I am also a realist.

I knew what it would take to parent children in the way I felt I owed to any person I would bring into this world. I knew having children was not to be a gamble or I’ll-give-it-a-shot or whatever. If I was in, I knew I needed to be all in.

Having and raising a human being wasn’t something to be taken lightly or something to which I could give half my attention or my love. It was not like a diet or exercise program that I might start enthusiastically and then give up on.

Raising a person required 100% commitment…from here on out.

Not just until they turned 18.

But from here on out.

I didn’t take that realization lightly. I thought long and hard.

And then, I committed.

As I said, I now know it is the most important right decision I’ve made in my life.

I have grown more as a person having raised children than from any other experience. I have tried to be present, broad-minded, supportive, nurturing, attentive. I have grown up with them.

My husband and I have both worked full time all the way through the raising of our sons while never shunning the deep discussions, the long nights of homework, the tears (from them or us), the sports, the heart aches, the friends, the proms, the failures, the broken bones, the guitar lessons.

In the 1st grade, my son was often paired up with the child with Down’s Syndrome. Of course, he would be. Matt has been mature, compassionate, empathetic from the moment he could speak. (Now he’s a trainer, musician, songwriter.)

My younger son, Ben, is a senior at the Savannah College of Art + Design going into interactive game design/computer animation – a field which barely existed when he was born. He says: technology can rule our lives if we let it; artists are the ones who keep it creative and human.

His nature is surely one that parents want to create the technology their kids will find all consuming.

My sons and future generations are far from tuned out. Far from entitled or apathetic or out of touch.

My sons asked me if the current Presidential candidates are the best the entire United States has to offer? They both discussed in detail the importance of ethics and character – these qualities matter so much to them. They do not separate job from person. To them, it’s all entwined. The two are not compartments that people can maintain and be judged on separately.

They ask why we have a two-party system that can never meet in the middle. Why don’t we get rid of parties and just all be….people….voting for what is right without baggage and conflicts of interest?

They ask – can’t someone be smart and a great leader….and of sound character?

Both said to me that the more they’re learning of adults, the more they’re disappointed.

My husband and I have spent more than two decades teaching these men that their one voice matters, their one vote matters, they should always stand up to bullies, and right wrongs.

And you know what?

My sons do.

And we are collectively letting them down.

I believe families shouldn’t ask their Government to do more than they do. But our Government should not ask families to do what they are not doing.

Support us out in the field, on the front lines, teaching and molding the next generations, second-mortgaging our homes to send them to college, trying so hard to help them launch in a tough economy as good, contributing citizens of the United States of America, and not fearful to fly or go to clubs (or school) due to gun violence. Let’s speak kindly, politely, respectfully.

Let’s be kind, polite, respectful.

Let’s act in a way that can proudly show the next generations what united means. Can we think with common sense and common decency?

Isn’t our job to mentor and model to uplift and improve?

Can we possibly all come together…and do better to solve problems?

Knowing we’re being observed and followed, don’t we want to live and lead as the best versions of ourselves? For the collective consciousness? To foster future generations who do the same?

…and with their potential….even more?

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