A new wave of lead­er­ship

Greenwich Time - - OPINION - Mar­garet Van Vliet is a Green­wich res­i­dent.

I was a life­long Green­wich Repub­li­can. Grow­ing up in Belle Haven, my neigh­bors were Repub­li­cans. My par­ents were Repub­li­cans. My grand­fa­ther was a twoterm Repub­li­can state se­na­tor from this Dis­trict, 36.

But now, I am a new mem­ber of the Demo­crat party, hav­ing moved from the Repub­li­can side just weeks af­ter the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and be­fore learn­ing about Alex Berg­stein. I know Scott Frantz so­cially, and have al­ways liked him very much. But af­ter watch­ing the two of them de­bate on Oct. 10, I knew I had heard the voice that res­onated with my deep­est sen­si­bil­i­ties, and I be­came a late­comer to vol­un­teer on Alex’s cam­paign.

We all know these are di­vi­sive times in our coun­try and so the time came for me to look in­wardly and ask my­self “what re­ally were the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial val­ues that drove my life de­ci­sions ... and did I have the courage to live by those val­ues?”

As I at­tended Alex’s cam­paign meet­ings, made phone calls, wrote cor­re­spon­dences, rang door­bells and set up yard signs, I ex­pe­ri­enced a fear of be­ing caught as a Repub­li­can traitor and re­ported to my life­long Repub­li­can friends, only to have them scorn me.

As I en­gaged in news­pa­per in­ter­views and wrote sup­port­ive commentaries for Alex, I ex­pe­ri­enced added anx­i­ety. Be­ing hon­est about dif­fi­cult truths in life is not easy. But as it’s said, the truth sets one free, and with each new di­men­sion of self-aware­ness, I gained courage know­ing that I might be able to im­pact this elec­tion, thus giv­ing me a sense of peace and courage. For I knew that this elec­tion held much more mean­ing that even I had imag­ined. It forced us all to de­fend and pro­tect our most es­teemed, long-held cul­tural norms while it also re­vealed the de­ter­mi­na­tion of oth­ers in our dis­trict to de­fend and pro­tect their equally valu­able sets of long held cul­tural norms.

Alex’s con­crete plans on so­cial im­per­a­tives such as taxes and pen­sion re­form and trans­porta­tion and ed­u­ca­tion and pro­tec­tion of our rights are all the best for our dis­trict. Pe­riod. But this elec­tion was sym­bolic of not only those is­sues but much, much more. It sym­bol­ized the trans­for­ma­tive in­sti­tu­tional changes that are fright­en­ing nearly all of us in the coun­try, if not glob­ally. Know­ing, ac­cept­ing and work­ing to­gether to soften these hard truths can set us free from the di­vi­sive ha­tred that we all know is plagu­ing us.

We are in hugely trans­for­ma­tional times and nearly all of our hu­man-made in­sti­tu­tions are be­ing ques­tioned, chal­lenged or even dis­carded. The in­sti­tu­tion of mar­riage has been re-de­fined, gen­der iden­ti­ties are be­ing re-clas­si­fied, the cli­mate is chang­ing, the high re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions are di­min­ish­ing in num­bers amid in­creased cor­rup­tion and chal­lenged ethos, ro­botic life-sciences are re­plac­ing tra­di­tional mod­els, tra­di­tional war has mor­phed from the tragic known to the cat­a­strophic un­pre­dictable and un­think­able mass mur­der in our gather­ing places is not an un­com­mon re­al­ity any­more. The ag­gre­gate flat world has re­moved the tra­di­tional bar­ri­ers that al­lowed hu­man­ity to ex­ist com­fort­ably in pro­tected si­los. In the mi­cro­cosm of our dis­trict 36, the same flat world has melted those bar­ri­ers and now we’re ex­posed to our some­what in­con­ve­nient neigh­bors to whom we showed only pa­tron­iz­ing ap­proval in the past.

But that was the past. To­day, we all re­side within a click on a key­board. In­sti­tu­tional changes and in­ter-re­la­tional as­sim­i­la­tions trickle down to the com­mu­nity level and cause great stress that is tasked not only to each cit­i­zen for process, but they are also fed up to our pub­lic ser­vants for man­age­ment and re­solve. The only way to man­age these stres­sors is with for­ward-think­ing, de­tailed, process-ori­en­tated, com­pas­sion­ate, coura­geous and in­tel­li­gent lead­er­ship. Suc­cess­ful lead­er­ship in to­day’s world will ex­ist out­side the con­fines of group­think and have a solid knowl­edge of the law, fi­nan­cial mar­kets, world his­tory, so­ci­ol­ogy, earth sci­ence, hu­man strife and grief re­cov­ery.

Alex Berg­stein holds this col­lec­tive knowl­edge base and she will be a most suc­cess­ful leader for our chal­lenges to­day. She is the one called for this role in this com­mu­nity at this time in our lives. There­fore, I ask the com­mu­nity to ac­cept your own per­sonal truths, ac­knowl­edge your si­los and sup­port Alex. To para­phrase James Carville this week: we have a choice: “All this in­sta­bil­ity in the world can take us down the road of po­lit­i­cal volatil­ity. In­stead, we can view this new world as an op­por­tu­nity for for­ward think­ing.” Af­ter all, we like to boast our for­ward and dis­rup­tive think­ing in medicine and tech­nol­ogy, so why not adopt these higher-level tenets to our in­di­vid­ual mind­sets?

We are in a unique time in world his­tory. It’s a time of shake up. I liken it to the tran­si­tion from the Mid­dle Ages to the Re­nais­sance; a time of bril­liance and growth ... but a scary time when many of the tra­di­tional in­sti­tu­tions col­lapsed. Those who thrived in his­tory were al­ways part of a brave new front of lead­er­ship. Alex is a brave new leader. She is our fu­ture.


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