It was a timely week for the The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL’s) annual National Consumer Technology Industry division dinner.
The organization has been fighting injustice and hatred for more than 100 years. While its official mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” its work, sowing good will and honoring those who promote equality, branches out to include all who care about decency.
For those honored, Almo principals Gene and Warren Chaiken; AVB/Brand- Source CEO Jim Ristow; and Crutchfield founder/CEO Bill Crutchfield, there is plenty of good will to go around. These are some of the good guys of the industry: upstanding executives who not only are admired business leaders but also, as they say in Yiddish, “mensches.”
The timing of the dinner, a few days following one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in this country’s history, was not lost on those who attended. Keynote speaker Shelly Palmer, another mensch, wasted no time in referencing the gorilla in the room, declaring, “We must get out of our comfort zones. To make America truly great, we have to listen to and respect each other’s views.”
I’ll be clear here. I did not vote for Donald Trump. I found his anti-immigrant, anti-tolerance rhetoric deeply disturbing. I found the behavior of many of his followers frightening. And since the election was settled, I find the behavior of many of my fellow citizens embarrassing and literally un-American.
Spray-painting swastikas on black churches is not something that can be justified because one person got more votes than another.
That being said, I have been encouraged by the reactions of my conservative friends and colleagues who chose to vote for the Donald. Most of them have been conciliatory and understand that this was an election that exposed a lot of America’s wounds. It was emotional and it’s hard to get over that.
See also: Will Trump Wreck Tech?
But seeing organizations like the ADL, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, and even the American Civil Liberties Union, double down on their diligence against hate and injustice gives me hope, despite the fact that I now have a president who I do not feel represents my interests, or I can be proud of.
My apologies if my politics bother you. I understand that you have every right to disagree with me. When I voted for Barack Obama, twice, I understood that many of my peers and fellow citizens saw my actions as crazy, and they themselves worried about the future of our country because they strongly disagreed with his policies. That’s the nature of politics. But it’s also the root of our democracy.
But in the end, the president does not define a country. Its people do.
As long as we all remain diligent, watch our leaders carefully, call them out when we disagree with their actions, and, most importantly, validate or invalidate their performance and behavior in the voting booth, our country will remain a product of its people, not its leaders.
My hope is that whatever your political views, you remain tolerant of others’ opinions and respect the fact that we all have a say in what direction our country goes. And sometimes that’s in a different direction than the one you believe in.
The fact that we still need non-profit organizations like the ADL to combat hate, now probably more than ever, says to me that we have a long way to go.