A Message From The President

December 2022

As I joined a Zoom call a few weeks ago, a woman was expressing her views on the general election.  Apparently, she had voted against the Hillsborough County All for Transportation referendum and in support of the Florida Supreme Court justices seeking merit retention, because “[she] work[s] remotely from home, so transportation isn’t of major concern.  [She is] no longer able to have children, so choice isn’t [her] fight, and the Court isn’t a political body that should be used like a pawn piece.”  In response, another person on the call asked, “What about your family members who are on the roads going to and from work and school and your daughters who are now of childbearing age?”  Before she could respond, the meeting organizer started the meeting, so we didn’t get to hear her response.

Since the conversation was already in progress when I joined the call, I don’t know what prompted her to share, but during the remainder of the call, I found myself thinking about her comments and questioning whether she knew or took into consideration that our population grew by approximately 100,000 and more than 1,000 people have lost their lives on Hillsborough County roads in the last four years.  Our traffic fatalities hit an all-time high in 2021 and now compare to those of New York City, whose population is six times larger.  Also, did she realize we should all be concerned about protecting our rights to bodily autonomy because it is a human rights issue, not solely an issue for woman of childbearing years and that the Court’s decisions repealing precedents indicate it has been reshaped into a political instrument?  Did any of that matter and was she willing to look beyond her own interest?

Well, weeks later I am still reflecting on the election results and her comments.  I wonder what her reply would have been if the conversation had continued.  Would she simply shrug off the question by making light of the matter?  Would she double down on her position and become defensive?  Would she provide additional support for her position?  Or, would she acknowledge the other person’s point of view and reflect on his perspective before responding?  So often we perceive the same circumstances and events differently, based on our perspective and point of view.

The Boat-Land cartoon always reminds me that while knowing and conveying your point of view is important, it’s equally important to understand someone else’s as well.  The fact that everybody believes they’re right is not a groundbreaking concept.  We think what we believe is the truth whether it’s backed up by empirical facts or not.  There is a reason why we believe what we do and it is important for us to remember this when talking to and interacting with each other.  Especially during the holidays, there will be numerous opportunities to spend time together and discuss politics, religion, gun control, choice, etc. with family, colleagues, and friends, but if a conversation is as Yogi Berra would say, “déjà vu all over again,” give yourself permission to respectfully agree to disagree.

I don’t know if I will have the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with the woman on the Zoom call.  But it’s likely, I like you will be speaking with others who do not share our respective views.  So, my holiday wish is for all of us is to:

  • try and understand why the other person believes they’re right,
  • avoid listening with the intent to discredit or disprove, and
  • accept that we might not agree or change minds and that’s ok.

As we celebrate the holidays, please engage in caring communication, be safe, give thanks, and enjoy the season.

Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a fantastic new year!