The COVID-19 pandemic stalled our economy and left millions without jobs and stuck in their houses. Then came the protests, attended by many now willing to brave the risk posed by the virus.
While our economy is starting to regain traction, President Donald Trump's reelection chances will be determined by our country's "ability to bounce back after encountering difficulty." That's the definition of resilience in the book "Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges" by Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney.
This election's message should focus on our country's resilience and our ability to work together to make our country even better than it was as we rebuild. Trump has the opportunity to call us to action, to work with him to create a better future for ourselves and our nation.
What themes could Trump potentially draw out through his campaign? Southwick and Charney interviewed survivors of severe stress (prisoners of war, victims of terrorism, etc.) and reviewed and analyzed scientific research. They concluded that there are 10 factors to resilience: "Optimism: belief in a brighter future; facing fear: an adaptive response; moral compass, ethics and altruism: doing what is right; religion and spirituality: drawing on faith; social support: learning the tap code; role models: providing the road map; training: physical and strengthening; brain fitness: challenging your mind and heart; cognitive and emotional flexibility; meaning, purpose and growth."
Let's focus on the first five.
First, express optimism. For Trump to win, his voters need to believe that our future would be better with him as president than without his leadership. Trump should focus on what our country could be if we work together. This is not about him as a leader with the country watching; this is a message of working side by side.
Second, face fears. Many people are afraid: afraid of the economy, afraid of COVID-19, afraid of tribalism and political strife in our country. Facing the fears does not mean being unafraid; it means being called into action to move forward. The ability to articulate what others are afraid of and acknowledge fears — while still moving forward — is very powerful.
Third, focus on the moral compass of our nation and our citizens. Define the actions we must take to demonstrate the moral underpinnings of our country. We need to ensure that every citizen in our country has the rights and freedoms declared at our founding and has the opportunities to be successful.
Fourth, draw on faith so that we can connect to something bigger than ourselves and thereby gain the strength we need to move forward when things seem dark, and the ability to reach out to others to understand and love one another — regardless. This ability to love, even during times of disagreement, is essential to creating connections and relationships.
Fifth, take measures to increase your social support. When the authors wrote about social support and learning the tap code, they were referring to prisoners of war who used taps between walls to communicate to one another. We need ways to encourage and reinforce one another as we remain indoors. We need to hear our president say that he believes in us, the American people, and that he will work by our side. We do not need to be berated — this does not lead to social support.
Life presents challenges to everyone. Our responses to those challenges are key. Some view challenges as permanent and pervasive and might, therefore, give up in the face of adversity. Others see challenges as temporary and specific and might, therefore, use them as opportunities to learn and grow. As a nation, we must see these challenges as temporary and specific, and as opportunities to learn and grow.
Very often, moving the focus from ourselves and our individual plight to others can change our perspective and lead to greater resilience. Trump has the opportunity to challenge us to focus on our country and offer to work beside us as we rebuild.
Southwick and Charney's conclusion: "We need not be the swiftest or the strongest. What counts instead is that we 'come in' — that we develop our talents, put forth our best effort and commit ourselves to a life of purpose, growth and resilience." The candidate who can articulate to voters this call to action in service to our nation will be our next president.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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