Fifteen years ago Sunday, terrorists attacked America and changed our sense of security forever. The collapse of the Twin Towers, the black smoke hanging above the Potomac River after Flight 77 hit the Pentagon and the messages left by the passengers of Flight 93 before it hit the ground in Shanksville are now part of our collective memory as a nation. Our immediate and extraordinary response on September 11th was to come together as a nation and do whatever needed to be done
Today, that unity seems impossible to create. Our politics are toxic and devisive; driving us further apart as people. While political fights are to be expected, the tenor of the current presidential election is beyond the pale. Instead of focusing issues in ways that will unite us to solve the tough issues; the political debate, regardless of whether the issue is national defense, religion, immigration, or income, is now framed as us versus them.
Whatever happened to debates and discussions that focused on making America a better place for everyone? We were all Americans on September 11, 2001, and we still are today, though it seems some of our politicians and the TV talking heads don't believe that and don't want us to believe that.
Our country is better than this. We need to focus on what unites us, not on who yells the loudest. We need to support each other in times of need, because we all find ourselves in need at one point or another. And we must to work together to find answers to the difficult issues of our time.
The people of New York City, in aftermath of 9/11, provide an example of what can be done when we work together. After plans were disclosed for rebuilding lower Manhattan, people were very concerned. I was honored to facilitate an America Speaks 21st century Town Meeting: "Listening to the City: Remember and Rebuild" which brought together more than 5000 people from every walk of life . They sat down and worked through the complicated issues facing the city and came up with a new plan for rebuilding. They certainly didn't all agree when they walked in the door, but through civil discussion, debate and compromise, they recrafted the plan they had been presented with into one they all could support. It was from "Listening to the City" that a new approach to redesigning and rebuilding lower Manhattan emerged, and was eventually successful.
Our founding fathers started the most important document in our country's history with the words "We, the people", and now is the time for us to stand together as a nation- just as we did in the aftermath of 9/11 - and demand that our elected leaders, and those running for office -address what they will do to move our country forward.