What a pivotal moment in world history can teach us today

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Professional headshot of Mark Lehman

11/11/2016 | Author: Mark Lehman

In 1989, ten years after I studied Cold War policy and politics in East and West Europe while living in Germany, citizens on both sides of the Berlin Wall used hammers and small chisels to destroy this symbol of communist oppression that had stood for 28 long and heartbreaking years.

I snapped this photo from my dorm room in 1979 using a Kodak Instamatic—a far cry from today's digital cameras.

The wall didn’t just physically divide a city—it was a chasm of political philosophies, where personal freedoms like free elections, religious choice, and basic human rights were oppressed.

The wall fell on November 9, 1989, and Germans still pause on this day each year to celebrate the democratic freedoms all of them now enjoy.

This week, while Germany was honoring the anniversary of the Berlin Wall destruction, the United States of America was practicing democracy in another way—the American election.

Candidates engaged in races at all levels of government across the country, from school boards and city councils to state houses. Then, in the early hours of November 9, winners were announced.

Now that votes are tallied, we’re seeing people express their attitudes and opinions about the outcomes in uniquely American post-election celebrations and protests.

After personally witnessing a city physically divided and then reunited, I have grown to believe this free expression of ideals is actually the cornerstone of democracy.

Even though we may be divided by political perspectives, the world watched as defeated candidates conceded their races and newly-elected officeholders almost immediately shrugged off the slings and arrows of difficult campaigns and began to unite behind what is best for their constituencies. 

This magnanimous transfer of power is the envy of the world. While our campaigns have become too negative, personal, expensive, and lengthy, the final analysis is something to celebrate.

After her defeat in the race for the highest elected office in America, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained this perspective best in a gracious concession speech.

She told her supporters, “I count my blessings every single day that I am an American, and I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions, and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us. Because, you know, I believe we are stronger together, and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that.”

If your candidate of choice didn’t win on November 8, use this opportunity to stay engaged in the political process.

And join me in being thankful that the only dividing line we have to face is philosophical.

Mark Lehman is vice president of Governmental Affairs for the Texas Association of REALTORS®.

Tags: in lehman's terms, governmental affairs, political affairs, elections


Judy Nguyen on 11/28/2016

Well written. Thank you so much for sharing.

John Crews on 11/18/2016

Excellent explanation of why we should be thankful and do the best we can with whoever is elected.  But we still do not have a good source for vetting state-wide candidates.  TREPAC could be that source and it would be a welcomed service for the public.

Alison Street on 11/17/2016

You sound like a ‘True citizen’! Excellent statement..we need to appreciate our Democratic Republic & our Constitution !

Kay Webster Latham on 11/17/2016

Mark-great commentary.  We must all pull together as one.

Nancy Furst on 11/11/2016

Mark, what an excellent commentary/read.  I so appreciate your viewpoint, and yes, we do need to ALL work together.  Thanks for the reminder.

John M. Stone, CCIM, CPM, CIPS on 11/11/2016

Enjoyed your remarks about the transfer of power in the United States and how it differs from other world jurisdictions.  We have to keep and guard this privilege.  I remember President Reagan’s clarion call:  “Mr. Gorbychev, tear down this wall.”
It symbolized much more than just a boundary line.  It symbolized the difference between freedom and slavery.  In its own way, our system of government’s transfer of power is a precious symbolism of its rarity.

Devorah Ring on 11/11/2016

Very welcomed commentary.  Thank you.

wayne thorburn on 11/11/2016

We should never forget the divide created by Communism and the significance of the peaceful end to the Soviet Union.  Thanks for reminding us of the significance of it.

Sandy Bednar on 11/11/2016

Mark…..so well put and on such a grateful day as Veterans Day!

Randy Wright on 11/11/2016

Good job, Mark!

John Harrell on 11/11/2016

This is an excellent read. Concise and to the point, it reminds us of how our world has changed. As Secretary Clinton said, we are ‘stronger together.’ We cannot let our society be divided like Berlin was. Looking forward to the next “In Lehman’s Terms.”

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