“Of course,” we say, yet the massive polarization and divide in America are based on loyalty to personality and attraction to policies and promises….not core ideals. When the majority of Americans vote according to their sacred beliefs, our country gets sound leadership, and the United States becomes more united. Because our nation is a rare democracy founded upon shared ideals which most Americans try to live by. Our founding principles like freedom, justice for all, honesty, and commitment to the common good are America’s soul.
How do you confirm that your core values are driving your vote? Here are a few easy tests to confirm that answer. Bring to mind the person who most profoundly shaped your character during your formative years. For many, that “ most influential person” is a parent, a teacher or coach, or maybe a close friend or another family member. We all have someone who helped shape our core beliefs and behavior as we grew up.
Picture that person who had the greatest impact on you. And then write down the most important core principles they lived by—the ones you most admired. Perhaps you identified with their honesty, kindness, or decency. Or you were impressed that they were inventive, sly, or rebellious. Or it was their open, trusting, and respectful nature you deeply admired.
All that matters is that you pick the traits that you most admired. Jot them down.
Growing up, my hero was Milton Hershey, the chocolate magnate, who saved my life and the lives of countless orphans. As best I can, I have tried to emulate his core values of:
HONESTY, RESPECT ( for all ), and SERVICE above self.
These are now my aspirational ideals. I use them to pick my friends, my priorities, and presidents.
Back to your core values list. Are you applying them as a critical screen to pick our next president and congressional leaders? Sure, other factors like policies, programs, and promises make a difference. But nothing drives behavior like a leader’s core values… Just as it does for us. We all know that politicians can and do say just about anything. But what they stand for and how they treat people, that is driven by who they fundamentally are.
Self-assessment #2. When we pick our “ Greatest Presidents Ever,” we tend to heavily weigh their character. What they stood for, not just what they said and did. What core traits do you most admire in your “ Best President Ever”? More importantly, are you requiring these character strengths of our national leaders in this election?
And a final reality check of one’s core values. What sacred principles and behaviors do you want your children and grandchildren to embrace? The “Shadow of the Leader” tends to be cast further and deeper than we ever suspect. And children are especially susceptible to the behavior modeled by our national leaders. It can influence their lives forever.
So, for your family, community, and your country, what cherished values are you voting from and for in this vital election? Your voice and vote matter more than ever! And character counts. Our shared and sacred values are America’s soul. And all are at risk.
Johnny O’Brien is President Emeritus of the Milton Hershey School and founder and CEO of Renaissance Leadership, Inc. He lives in Easton, Maryland.