Praise the Bridge That Carried You Over (George Colman)

I’ve always thought it strange that various things can be happening in our lives which seem totally unrelated, and then something happens which causes them all to flip and join together. The phrase ‘Praise the Bridge’ was my ‘flip’ moment for 2 major current events I’d been observing, and a third more slow burning situation I’d been vaguely aware of.

The first event was the surprise election of President Donald Trump; the second was the emergence of a new kind of political leader here in New Zealand and the third was the massive rise of house prices in Auckland. All seemingly unrelated.

In the case of Donald Trump, I couldn’t understand his perverse need to undo everything that President Obama had implemented during his 2 terms in office.

The second event was here in NZ when a young woman took over the leadership of the NZ Labour party with literally four weeks to go before our general election. Within days she caused a political hurricane which quickly became affectionately known as ‘The Jacinda Effect’.

She decried dirty tactics; she refused to belittle anything the National government had done or said during their 9 years in office. She absolutely challenged them on key issues, but didn’t do it in a derogatory  way and she actually praised some of the National governments initiatives during the time they had been in power.

Praising the opposition! An unheard of thing for a politician to do.

On the issues facing NZ she acknowledged that we were viewed as a ‘rock star’ economy; that the country had a healthy budget surplus and that many things had improved under this government. However, she also noted that these things had come at a massive cost to NZ society.

We had a housing crisis which left families sleeping in cars; child poverty at levels never seen before and an Auckland traffic jam that starts around 6 a.m. and lasts till around 7 p.m. She was very clear that this wasn’t the future she wanted for our country.

I’m stunned and delighted to say that there was a happy ending to this story and that Jacinda is our new Prime Minister.  So standing for what you believe in without the need to denigrate someone else paid off.

I truly believe that both the NZ and even the US elections generated a ground swell of people desperately wanting change. Hopefully, sooner or later politicians around the world will hear the message and offer more authentic leadership and tackle the very real issues facing their followers rather than playing politics. In particular, I think we are all ready for them to become better role models for our kids. The Jacinda effect.

I live in eternal hope.

Whilst writing my latest book ‘Lessons in Leadership: How to Avoid Falling Into The Trump Trap, I stumbled across the amazing quote from George Colman ‘Praise the Bridge That Carried You Over’ I used as my title.  And it just resonated.

Why does Donald need to marginalise; minimise and name call? Why can’t politicians praise their opposition parties for great ideas? Why do they have to waste millions of dollars undoing everything their predecessors did just so they can make a name for themselves. Why can’t they put party politics aside and work together on issues that affect families, the country they represent and the world at large? Imagine the money that would be saved by building on things rather than trashing them; imagine also the difference it would to our perception of politicians.

The third event I was aware of is more generational.

Auckland has just experienced the most dramatic rise in house prices seen for generations. Houses that 5 years ago would have sold for $200-300k are now selling for over $1m. First home buyers  have little or no chance of buying a home which sadly has unleashed a generational bIame game.

I’m saddened when I hear young people berating their parents or grandparents for creating a housing market they can’t afford; pollution that the youngsters are left trying to clean up and any other axe they want to grind as to why their lives are so tough.  And to be fair, it is tough for this generation.

Previous generations received free education, this generation is burdened with massive student debt. Their parents could have envisaged jobs for life; now jobs are a scarce commodity. They are suffering the outcome of years of previous generations not knowing or caring about climate change; they will be left with the clean up; they may never own their own home.

There is a song ‘Every generation blames the one before’.

Our parents did the best they could given their own circumstances.  Our Grandparents not only fought in the very wars that gave us our democracies, they also survived depressions, food rationing and levels of poverty, hardship and deprivation today’s generation couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Our grandparents and great grandparents really had it tough. They were the bridges that carried us over.

Blaming someone or something else serves no purpose at all. It just takes away the energy and motivation required to drive us over the next bridge.

There are so many huge issues we need to face as a society and a planet. We need our energies to be spent finding ways to reverse climate change; to find ways to feed an ever burgeoning population; to deal with immigration challenges; to deal with the never ending cycle of the rich getting richer and the working classes being put out to pasture and getting poorer. We absolutely need to work with and not against those nations who think having nuclear weapons is the answer to perceived threats.

As humans we can be our own worst enemy or the amazing brains that could join forces to address the tough challenges that face us. We really do need to work together as humans to ensure that our planet actually survives. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about because no matter our culture or colour; our religion our politics or our beliefs, we only have one planet.

Let’s work together to make sure we don’t destroy it. Let’s all become part of the solution not the problem; let’s be grateful for the bridges that carried us over; let’s put our energies into building the bridge that carries the next generation over.  Let’s be the change we wish to see.

And if you feel even vaguely powerless to do anything to start changing your world, I leave the last thought to the amazing Maya Angelou:

‘You have to develop new ways so that you can take up for yourself and then you take up for someone else. And so sooner or later you have the courage to stand up for the human race and say  ‘I’m a representative’.

Ann Andrews CSP

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