The power of a vote

Since the 2016 election, there’s been increasing talk about the voting power of the states being disproportional to state population — both through the electoral college electing the president (proportional + 2) and in the Senate (2 votes each). This system was created when there were 16 states, 5 of which (VA, PA, MA, NY, NC) comprised 58% of the country’s population. The system prevents the larger states from drowning out the voice of the smaller states.

Fast forward to 2018. Should this still apply? We now have 50 states. Taking approximately the same proportion (16 states – CA, TX, FL, NY, PA, IL, OH, GA, NC, MI, NJ, VA, WA, AZ, MA, TN), the population of this “top third” now comprises 68% of the population, so we’ve gotten more concentrated as a nation.

So, if we still want the protection of the little state, the system makes sense. The chances of changing it are nearly impossible, because it would take a constitutional amendment that would require the vote of the bottom 2/3 to pass.

We’re stuck with this folks, so it’s likely time to stop complaining about it and figure out how to work within the system. The Republicans have their strategy — focus on the presidency and the Senate. Dems? Well, it looks like they need to rebuild a base in states like PA and MI to flip the imbalance of power in their favor.

Changing attitudes

We are the largest experiment in multiethnic democracy the world has ever seen — just approaching 250 years old. We’re 150 years removed from a civil war whose wounds still bleed. The Civil Rights Act — banning discrimination in professional and public life — was passed 54 years ago. Great public movements, many that have required protest and civil disobedience, have resulted in progressive legislation that has defined and made us a better nation.

But laws aren’t always successful in changing attitudes and beliefs of individuals. They often result in retrenchment of the very ideas they aim to codify out of society.

Individuals and attitudes change as a result of real human interaction. When we get to know our neighbor whose culture is different than ours. When our kids play on the same soccer team. When we take a moment to listen to our colleagues who come from different backgrounds. When we get fresh air outside of our echo chambers.

Elections, policy, and legislation are still critical, but we can’t stop there. We need to do the hard work every day, in our own hearts and minds, and in our daily interactions with others. If we want a truly inclusive, progressive nation, it’s much more than politics. It’s the hard work of engaging people, day in and day out, to create opportunities for understanding.

Presenting a better alternative

While talking to scouts last night about respecting the American flag, some of their questions led to a great discussion about our American right to free speech — specifically how the government can’t prevent any citizen from expressing his or her ideas even when those ideas make us feel extremely uncomfortable or unwelcome. As long as the expression is not a direct threat to personal or public safety or inciting violence, it has as much right to the public square as ours do. The second we start to limit speech, we’ve sacrificed one of the greatest of our founding ideals.

The way to counter ideas we find reprehensible is not squelching or drowning them, but by presenting a better alternative.

Over the threshold of a new year

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Back in October, K and I celebrated my 46th birthday watching Matt Nathanson and Matchbox Twenty perform at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline. Matt opened with the perfect blend of concert, revival, and comedy jam that energized the crowd for Rob Thomas and crew’s last stop on their 20th anniversary tour. The arena went completely black at the same moment a single white spotlight illuminated an empty microphone stand.

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Renewing my energy for life in 2018

“Closing your heart does not really protect you from anything; it just cuts you off from your source of energy. In the end, it only serves to lock you inside.” — Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul

I visited Seattle this past June to attend a work conference, and was lucky to extend my trip on both ends to see two close friends who moved to the city years ago.

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Ajith and I worked together while he was a student at University of Illinois, but we hadn’t seen each other for a good part of a decade.

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Dave and I were college roommates, the best men at each other’s weddings, and our sons were born five weeks apart, but we’d only seen each other once since he moved to Seattle years ago.

In the collective 72 hours I spent with these two old friends, there was a lot of catching up to do. It’s always an interesting experience to try to encapsulate long periods of time into shorter conversations. What do you chose to share? How do you paint the picture of your life?

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Being intentional about personal effectiveness

I manage my time and balance the activities in my life perfectly so that I can achieve my goals.

Does the above statement ring close to true for you? It certainly doesn’t for me.

Despite that, I found myself in front of 30 or so professionals last week talking about time management. It’s funny how we become expert at things, isn’t it? Not in a thousand years did I ever think I’d be the expert in the room when it comes to using time effectively. If those in attendance could see the amount of wasted time in my daily life, they’d have demanded the impostor leave the room.  Read More

A win-win for everyone

I had to call customer service for the Illinois Tollway system this morning to clear up a payment issue, and the automated call system informed me that their customer service is run by Chicago Lighthouse, a non-profit that hires disabled and veteran employees. My customer experience was top notch as the young woman quickly helped me to clear up the problem. As I hung up, I thought to myself how much initiatives like this can be such a win-win for everyone involved.