As I look back on 2017, I find it maybe one of the most troubling years in my somewhat lengthy memory. It has been a year of division, anguish, meanness and a mounting fear of external and internal dangers to our country. From mass shootings and random terror attacks, to the ugly specter of sexual harassment in all its many forms, to Charlottesville and Confederate statues, to the insanity of nuclear threats on the Korean peninsula, to the divisive and dangerous actions of the Russian government – the bad news and dangers to our basic ways of life seem more and more threatening in their fulfillment of all that is wrong with our society. Our most basic institutions are under attack and their credibility repeatedly undermined.
However, lost in the 24/7 news cycle and in-your-face style of debating the important issues of our time (and many of the not-so-important issues) are incredible acts of kindness and goodness performed individually and by businesses, non-profits and governments to make our lives better and more secure. Ironically, we have a president who has an insatiable need to be thanked. But saying “thank you” more often to all those people who make life for me and others better in large and small ways is one goal I’d like to accomplish in the new year.
For some time now I have tried to sit down at the close of each year and set down in writing those things I would like to accomplish in the year ahead. No, it’s not some new year’s resolution endeavor but hopefully a more thoughtful attempt at defining what I can do better and what “projects” and personal actions are most important to me to accomplish in the coming months. This may be a product of getting older, but I find it a useful exercise.
And while acts of kindness seem relegated to personal interaction, I’m convinced that our leaders – political, business and civic – can do a far better job of showing each other and the world that “kindness” isn’t some sign of weakness but instead it’s a powerful way to share the humanity and challenges we all face. So, I want to be a kinder person in 2018 and I want the people around me and leading my state and country to show their kindness in large and small ways to all people – particularly those who are different from us.
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Finally, leadership and how it is manifested has never been more important whether locally, nationally or around the world. I just saw “Our Darkest Hour.” Winston Churchill with all his flaws showed what leadership in times of crisis was about. We’re not yet in our darkest hour as a country, but we’re stumbling down that path. Leadership must rise above petty politics or personal power or self-aggrandizement if we are to survive as a nation. 2018 is a clarion call for visionary women and men to step forward under challenging and often divisive circumstances and try to bring our state, nation and the world closer together. I’ll try in 2018 to help them.
Orr is a former N.C. Supreme Court justice. Email: greenponds.