Thursday, May 16, 2013

“Team of Rivals” - Reflections from my trip to Washington D.C. May 13-15, 2013

The Colorado Delegation in front of the Capitol

I am currently reading the book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  The movie “Lincoln” was based, in part, on this book – although the movie only depicted a small segment of the story.

When “Lincoln” hit the theaters, I was enthralled by it.   I knew how it would end – happily, the slaves would be freed and tragically, he ultimately would meet his demise from an assassin’s bullet. 

The story illustrated his focus on doing what was right in his heart.  He faced tremendous challenges within himself, his wife/family and his political advisors.  Not to mention, the social norm at the time (slavery), the soldiers that were fighting in the Union Blues and the forgiveness that he exhibited toward the Confederates.  Lincoln, filled with guilt over the realities of war, always considered the southern states his countrymen and reinstated them to full citizenship upon the ending of the war. 

Lincoln was torn every minute of every day.  I could imagine the questions that he would be asking himself – “Am I doing the right thing?  Is it worth the war and all of its casualties? Why do the people I am leading, continue to follow?  Is all of this worth the personal sacrifice to me and my family?”  And the most important question,  “Why me? Couldn’t Seward or Chase be in charge?”

There was so much history in the movie that I was unaware if, I went and saw the movie again – and ultimately bought the book.  The book tells the back-story of how Lincoln arrived at becoming the leader that he was. 

 “Team of Rival’s” – Lincoln took his biggest political rivals – people he ran against for President and lesser political positions - and made them his cabinet.  He made them his closest, most trusted advisors.

This is the political equivalent of President Obama asking John McCain or Mitt Romney to fill the same roles. 

I have been in Washington DC this past week as part of a delegation of the Colorado Dental Association and the American Dental Association to try to improve the delivery of dental care to our communities.  During our time here we heard many politicians and pundits describing for us the current state of politics and the political process. 

As you already know, the climate isn’t pretty.  The government is spending much more than it has and nothing is getting done.  There is party posturing and political stalemates on every front. 
Our delegation met with all of our legislators or legislative staff.  We are looking to reform dental insurance - to break up the monopoly that they have.  With a monopoly, there is no competition.  With no competition, there is no innovation in the plans and the insured don’t always get the best benefits at the best price. 

A new medical device task is being implemented soon.  But there is no definition of what constitutes a “medical device”.  We asked to repeal the tax.  If they aren’t going to repeal the tax, at least define what is to be taxed.  As of now, no one has any idea!

I didn’t get a feeling like we were making an impression on any front.  I hope we planted a seed of change that we can nurture over time into definitive action.

Back to Abe Lincoln…As we were meeting with our legislators, searching for inspiration I began to think, what would a leader like Lincoln do in today’s Washington?

I would think he/she would act courageously, inspire us as a country and bring us together by forgiving the past to move us forward. 

I would hope that he/she would say, “We as a country are in trouble. If we continue along the path we are on, the country and all of it’s people will not be free.  Unfortunately, there is no easy solution.  Everyone must be willing to sacrifice and compromise your beliefs so we can once again be the country that we once were. We must not live in the past and pass along the blame that it was the democrats or republicans fault.  It does no good.  We must move forward with a unified vision of a thriving future -an America that courageously stands on the principles upon which it was founded.  We must change or suffer our demise.”

The only way to do this is for our president to look back in our history and create a “Team of Rivals”.  Get the political fighting done behind closed doors, come out with a unified front and unite us, inspire us and let’s move forward before it is too late.