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My Mother's Letter of Advice

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In a family with same-sex moms, I am afraid.

In a diverse friend group with many who are worried about their and their families lives in America, I am afraid.

As a citizen of the United States, I am afraid.

As a human on this planet, I am afraid.

By next spring, will my parents still have the right to marry? Will they be forced into gay conversion therapy? Will some of my best friends be deported? Will there still be a planet for me after my college graduation in 2020?

There are many questions up in the air about the future of our country with Donald Trump as our president. I offer a piece of advice from my mother about how to move forward in such a time of fear.

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A letter to my children:

Eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and do something to relieve stress. It's more important than ever that you remain healthy, both mentally and physically. There are people who need your help, and you must remain strong.

Support your Muslim friends. Vehemently speak out and stand up for them. Let them know that you know they are a peaceful people who do not deserve to be registered or condemned. Just like Westboro Baptist doesn't represent all Christians, neither does ISIS represent Muslims. There is room for all religions in this country. Comfort your Hispanic friends. Let them know they are welcome here, and you will fight to keep their families together. Many fear that although they were born in this country, that their parents will now be deported and their families torn apart. Support your black friends and let them know you are not a closeted racist. Protect them from the white nationalist rage that has been once again unleashed in this country.

Invite your LGBTQ+ friends who feel they have no family to be a part of your LGBTQ+ family. Support your female friends who realize now more than ever that no matter how educated and experienced they are, they will always have to fight harder and be significantly better to be considered half as good. Accommodate people, no matter what their needs, so they can be their best selves and can contribute to the best of their abilities. And dare to stand up to Christians who think their ways and their God are the only ones to be respected. Check your privilege and also use your privilege to lift others up. Be inclusive of all in all that you do.

Educate yourselves. You are already doing that at the highest level, but if possible, take it even more seriously. Realize that only so much education can come from the classroom. You must expose yourself to different kinds of people, ideas, places, and experiences to truly inform your perspective. It is through diversity that the best solutions are found. It's diversity that generates creative solutions and inventions. There is discomfort and awkwardness in the unfamiliar, but don't be afraid. Experience as much as you can and learn from it. Your education is something no one can ever take away from you. It is also what will give you the tools you need to solve the problems you will face as an individual as well as the problems that face the world. Look at what happens when people are not educated. They become egocentric, narrow minded and respond with fear. They worry about protecting their own instead of caring for others. They rationalize the value of remaining within Plato's cave, content to experience life in shadows.

Give a damn about the planet. Learn the science so well that you can educate those who adamantly hold on to their ignorance in an effort to protect their personal gain. Find a way to make the case undeniable. You understand climate change. You've seen Dimock, Pennsylvania. You really understand the intricacies of alternative energies. Fight the exploitation and be the ones to build the alternatives.

Fight the propaganda. You were the champions. Every year for many years your team won the propaganda championships at every level. Use your knowledge of those techniques to blow holes in the arguments of those who seek to take advantage of others.

Save your money. The economy is in danger. The global markets are watching and signs are they are dropping because the USA just became unstable. The market will likely drop by 200 points in the next few days and probably 1000 points in the next 2 weeks. The masses here learned nothing from Brexit. A recession is on the way that will affect us for the next 5 years. I thank God you are at Cornell where your education is not dependent upon state schools and federal support. The rich are going to get richer and the poor are going to get poorer. And the sick are going to get sicker, because although every major country in the world has healthcare, what progress we made towards that goal is likely going to be lost.

Be smart about the leaders you become and the leaders you support. Self-righteous, indignant support of 3rd party candidates doesn't work. It gave rise to a demagogue who doesn't care about any of those 3rd party issues. When you vote, you must consider who can win as well as who is best for the club, community, state or country. You do not vote for who is best for you, but who is best for all. Consider who will move the group forward positively even if the movement forward is small. Small steps forward are better than risking giant steps backwards. And be careful the damage you do in the early battle. Bust and burn within your own ideology can damage your ability to work together and make progress later.

And do the work. Show up. Speak up. And do the work. Remember, you don't always know why it is important to show up, but show up anyway. You will miss every opportunity that you don't show up for. And speak up. Share your ideas. Ask questions, all question, easy questions, difficult questions, uncomfortable questions. And listen. You can't effectively speak up if you haven't listened. Do the work. Volunteer. Take out the trash, mop the floor, feed the people. No job is beneath you. Not every job offers payment or other reward. Do it anyway.

We raised you to see the best in people, to expect the best in people, and to be proud of who you are and where you came from. You have effectively risen above the ignorance demonstrated by those who claimed to be supportive of your family. We accepted what they could give and tried to forgive them for their ignorance. Continuing to do that is going to become increasingly harder because the deeply rooted bigotry of all sorts has now risen again to the surface. Don't be surprised if they can't look you in the eye or explain to you why your family doesn't matter. Their self-serving fear drives them. You are seeing and experiencing what was something you thought was only in your history books. Be smart. Protect yourself. Surround yourself with people who authentically support and accept you. BUT, you must still see the best in people, expect the best in people, and continue to educate by sharing yourselves and your stories. It's the only thing that has ever effected real change.

Practice, practice, practice the art of making what is possible.

From my mother,
Jane Switzer