There is a quote often attributed to Nelson Mandela, but more appropriately credited to author Nicholas Sparks...”It’s never too late to do the right thing.”
The reference can be applied in many aspects of life. We learn as we move through life and surrounding conditions can evolve. The quote is framed to remind us that, despite our beliefs and past actions, we should not be bound by them once we realize that a better path exists.
This quote is worth our reflection. We may look back at our beliefs and past actions with some degree of regret. From there, we have a choice. We can double down our position. Or we can now “do the right thing.”
Of course, we cannot change the past. The latter option reminds us of the importance of the actions we take today. We cannot change the past, but we can take steps to influence the future.
This is a truism in all aspects of life, including politics. To be certain, there is political pressure to support partisan positions. But as conditions evolve, there may be opportunities to reach out to members of the other political party. Such is the case in an ad that was developed by the Stop the Covid Spread Coalition. In this ad, Congressman Mark Pocan (Democrat) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (Republican) jointly promote safe practices in response to the expanded impact of the COVID pandemic in Wisconsin.
The message is clear. COVID-19 is not a “left” or “right” issue, but a public health issue. Many of us have questioned why leaders in the two major political parties have not taken similar collaborative steps at an earlier stage of the pandemic.
However, in the words of Nicholas Sparks, the options boil down to rationalizing the missteps or missed opportunities of the past, or do the right thing now. Fortunately, Congressman Pocan and Speaker Vos opted for the latter. They earn a green light for promoting a unifying message.
Another example of bipartisan collaborative messaging is worth noting. State Reps. Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska), Jill Billings (D-La Crosse), and Loren Oldenburg (R-Viroqua) released a joint statement on December 1 asking for cooperation with masking, distancing and sanitation guidelines:
“Recently we had the opportunity to participate in a webinar where a number of medical professionals discussed their current day-to-day experiences as hospital workers during this pandemic. The stories that the hospital staff shared show the reality, and the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wisconsin Hospital Association is asking that we all work together to stop the spread.
“We are in the midst of a public health crisis. Across the state our hospitals are filling up or are already full, and in some cases, are sending sick people home to make room for the sickest of the sick. In addition, our medical staff are overburdened, stretched too thin, facing their own quarantines, or are so burned out that they cannot continue to work. We can each do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The Wisconsin Hospital Association asks us to wear a mask, wash our hands & socially distance. We need to slow the spread to give our hospitals time to heal those already in their care. If we follow the CDC and Wisconsin Hospital Association’s guidelines together we can accomplish this goal. Please join us in frequently washing your hands, staying socially distant, cleaning and disinfecting frequently used surfaces, covering your coughs and sneezes, and wearing a mask when you are in public, or around people who aren’t a part of your household. When we all take these steps we can slow the spread.”
Collaborative messages such as these are vitally important. In a climate of political divisiveness, they can be met with outspoken skepticism and negativity. But many citizens very much welcome this approach. It serves as a reminder that we face a common enemy, not the opposing political party, but COVID-19. Mark Pocan, Robin Vos, Steve Doyle, Jill Billings and Loren Oldenburg have earned a green light for their collaborative efforts.
The quote by Nicholas Sparks is “It’s never too late to do the right thing.” The same is true for us, as citizens. Given the politically divided conditions in our country, there will be pushback for elected officials who make public collaborative statements. But we can provide words of support for these actions.
This does not mean we agree with all of the policy positions the politicians may represent. It does mean, when we see elected officials acting as unifiers, rather than dividers, we have an opportunity to provide recognition. In this regard, we can adopt the Sparks statement with a slight modification...”It’s never too late to recognize the right thing.”
Lee Rasch is executive director of LeaderEthics-Wisconsin. Visit leaderethicswi.org for more information on the group.