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Some thoughts on Election Day (and beyond)

voting stickers and voting day sign

MBE Students:

Today we celebrate a tradition that to a very large extent defines us as a country. We’re freely electing a person to serve as head of state for the next 4 years. It’s not uncommon that a presidential election brings out strong feelings on both sides of the contest, but since nothing should surprise us about 2020, this particular election seems particularly fraught. Let’s face it, tensions are high.

So I thought I’d take a few minutes to offer you all some (admittedly unsolicited) advice.

Here’s the most important thought I want to share with you. It seems likely that we won’t know the winner tonight, or maybe not even for the next several days. First: take a breath. Realize that the system we have for selecting a leader, while arcane and convoluted, has survived countless scandals and even a civil war. Have some trust in the system. But more importantly, don’t contribute to the problem by amplifying social media messages (on either side) that are unsubstantiated and of questionable veracity.

Once we do know the results, there will still be strong feelings to be resolved. If the results went your way: take a breath. Realize that the election is over and that both sides of the debate raised valid issues. Don’t assume that the folks who disagree with you are somehow “less American” than you are. Be gracious in victory and patient with folks who may have a hard time accepting the outcome.

And if it didn’t go your way: take a breath. Take another breath. Maybe a third. This probably isn’t the first time in your life you’ve been disappointed, and I can just about guarantee you it won’t be your last. Realize that a big part of this campaign was painting a picture of gloom, doom, and disaster if the other side won. Guess what– they were wrong. I truly believe that this democracy is bigger than one political party, and a heck of a lot bigger than one person. Life goes on and the best thing we can do is do our jobs to the best of our abilities.

Dr. John Gardner

So take one more deep breath, and get on with your life, and the business of studying engineering. And stay engaged in politics if you want — there are a whole lot more elections ahead and the state and municipal elections are just as likely to impact your daily life as the national ones. Let’s face it, democracy takes a lot of work.

Regardless of the outcome and how you may feel about it, take a breath, and let’s get back to work. That’s what I plan to do.

With Respect,
John Gardner

Maintaining an unshakable focus on learning

John F. Gardner, Ph.D., P.E.
Professor and Chair of Mechanical & Biomedical Engineering
Sustainability Governance Council Co-Chair
Director, CAES Energy Efficiency Research Institute
(208) 426-5702