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I get it, people are angry. Most recently, many in Great Britain are angry about the Brexit outcome. Forget that many of these same people voted for it, as an expression of frustration, not thinking it would become reality.

Now that reality has set in, they are baffled as to why they can’t do a “do-over.” A large, vocal constituency is angry about “politics as usual” (the meaning of which differs depending on whom you ask) resulting in a primary outcome that, now in the light of day, they aren’t really sure about. You guessed it, many now want a “do-over,” or at least an alternative candidate, thus portending a, you guessed it, angry convention. Or for those who thrive on the theater of anger, fresh blood-letting entertainment during the summer rerun season.

Every night on television, we witness recaps of members of Congress being angry at members of the other party because they simply can’t see it their way—the only and, of course, right way. All find a voice for their anger through Twitter and the ever-expanding range of emojis. In short, forget informed discussion, perspective, and compromise when you can enjoy (and share) the cathartic expression of anger, broadly and instantly.

However, anger is not a solution. Nor does it ever result in a good one. That’s the problem with anger. It’s a negative emotion that clouds rationale thinking. Anger as a response to anxiety or frustration burns hotly and then what are you left with? A pile of useless ashes…and more times than not, regret. Unfortunately, on the national and world stages, there are no “do-overs.” At least, similar to the aftermath of hurtful words spewed during an argument, not for a long time, and with lingering implications. Quite frankly, despite my usual Pollyanna optimism, the impact of all this anger on our nation’s future has me worried.

That said, every now and then something happens that renews my faith in the future. I recently had the privilege of presenting awards at two fifth grade promotion ceremonies that recognized, among other things, good citizenship. Both ceremonies, at different schools, left me with a feeling of, well, happiness. And the confidence that these kids “got it.” At one of the schools, the graduating fifth graders left messages for those coming behind them “to not be afraid to try new things,” “always do the best that you can,” “be kind,” and “always remember a sweater.”

I take the latter to be a reminder to be prepared for anything, but sound advice, regardless. “Be kind” was repeated by many of the kids, and it was reflected in how excited they were for one another as awards were given out or pictures from the past 6 years flashed on the screen. “Be kind.” What an interesting concept.
At one of the schools, the principal read to the audience from a bookmark that was being placed in each of the student’s report cards. It read:

Watch your thoughts, thoughts become words.
Watch your words, words become actions.
Watch your actions, actions become habits.
Watch your habits, habits become character.
Watch your character, character becomes your Destiny!

That bookmark has become my daily mantra. It hangs from a shelf above my laptop, so that I see it every day. That and the six-word memoir written by one student that sagely summed up life to now, “sometimes it’s a lemon, sometimes it’s candy.”

What does all this have with national security? Everything. How we think, speak and act now will become normal behavior, and eventually, our destiny. A destiny of anger, resentment of others, and a tacit permission to engage in vitriol and ad hominem attacks instead of listening, discussing, debating, and even accepting different perspectives to reach solutions to very real problems that impact the security of our nation and the principals that serve as our foundation.

Since the Puritans, we have striven to be that “City upon a Hill.” A nation that believes in freedom from oppression, pursuit of justice, and the opportunity to be the best that we can be. We’ve stumbled at times, but we have always, always gone back to the principals of our founding fathers, working even harder to be that City upon a Hill.

I certainly don’t want decisions that affect my future and those I care about (that includes this country and planet, by the way) being made in anger. I certainly don’t intend to vote that way. I only hope that we can be good stewards of all that makes this country great, until those fifth graders are in leadership positions. They’ve got my vote!

Dr. Sharla P. Rausch currently serves on the Women in Homeland Security Board of Directors. She recently retired from the Federal Government after 27 years of service, last serving as the Deputy Director for the Office of National Laboratories, where she was responsible for an extensive network of Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology laboratories focused on countering chemical, biological, radioactive nuclear, and explosives terrorism. Read More