Our ability to change is only limited by our willingness. Americans must aspire to be better and they must strive to be inclusive of differences. Failing at this task will lead us to more divisiveness, which will limit our ability to grow together as a society.

What causes this divisiveness and how can we minimize its prominence?

It is undoubtedly a choice. The choice to build a wall and separate each other based on differences only continues the divisiveness.  This wall, one that acknowledges others as unimportant and refuses to respect an opinion which may differ from your own, causes unnecessary tension.

From this tension comes a polarization of what is considered right or wrong. The truth and right or wrong are word associations and perspectives, nothing more; however, we continue to judge one another from a perspective of absolutism, as if our way of life is the only correct version.

I had the opportunity to listen to an influential speaker named Dr. Bernice King. She is the daughter of a great role model; her father Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most important leaders of the civil rights movement. She models his attitudes and devotion to improving society in her life.

In her visit to ETSU, Dr. Bernice King spoke about building bridges, so they may connect us all. She offered unique thoughts, observations and insights to the cause of America’s current division, if you were willing.

What is more important, she gave us a solution: “We must have the courage to engage each other and to get to know each other.”

Her commitment, determination, and continuation of her father’s goal to create a better America speaks volumes of her family and gives us all something to strive for. She is a true American.

Is America great? Absolutely. Can it become better? Of course.

Will it? That is up to you.

We are Republicans, conservatives, liberals, and Democrats. We are religious and not and somewhere in between. We are born here and immigrated here. We speak English and other languages. We love without respect to boundaries that are placed on relationships, and we transcend gender roles.

We are not a race; we are a people. We are Americans.

My military service has given me a unique perspective on life and people. Like America, service members in the military come from all walks of life. Not only are we able to work together civilly, we are willing to die for each other. This is a somber reality and it happens more often than it should.

The conclusion you should draw: follow our lead.

Americans must remove their stereotypical behavior, as this leads to prejudice.  Never allow others to define you and abstain from defining others.  Actions define individuals, not the group they belong to. Let us seek our commonality instead of our differences. In doing so, we all act with a sense of civility.

After the event, during the drive home, Dr. Bernice King’s message became clear to me: Love. With love comes understanding, understanding removes ignorance. Ignorance that would have created hate, and hate created our walls.

I am a conservative, Republican, Christian, white male. I am not hateful. I do not engage or participate in racism, sexism or any other -ism that represents hate and promotes divisiveness. Let us not forget that all descriptors used to describe me are unnecessary, as I am an American and I am on the other side of your wall.