Dear Ashley:

If you’re happy to see pelicans, blue herons, and other wonderful wildlife along the Gulf Coast, raise your right hand and give thanks to Republican President Richard Nixon, who created the Environmental Protection Agency by executive order in 1970.

If you enjoyed the Olympics and took pride in the strong performance of our United States team, which won a record 121 medals, raise your left hand and give thanks to Democratic Senator Birch Bayh from Indiana and Democratic congresswoman Edith Green from Oregon, who introduced the bill that created Title IX protection for women’s sports in 1972.

If you’re grateful that the cold war is over and the Soviet Bloc crumbled, raise your right hand and thank Republican President Ronald Reagan, who drew a line in the sand in 1987 with the words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

If you’re thankful for Social Security and the way it protects men and women who worked all their lives from living their senior years in desperate poverty, raise your left hand and thank Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt, who introduced his intentions to create the Social Security Administration in 1934.

These incredible achievements along with other nation-defining and world-transforming works like the Civil Rights Act, the interstate highway system, the mission to the moon and life-saving medical breakthroughs were all possible because the left and the right — Democrats and Republicans — worked together.

It would not be to our benefit to have only one hand, as anyone who has lost use of a hand even temporarily can tell you. Nor would we be better off if our two hands were identical. The chiral nature of our opposing hands allows us to lift heavy objects, to perform tedious tasks and to create masterpieces. Just so, our nation is strengthened and enriched when we have both a strong left and a strong right which work together.

Imagine the frustration and harm you would face if your left hand and your right hand worked against each other, each causing the other to be completely unusable. Just so, our nation languishes in dysfunction when the left and the right expend their energies simply to defeat the other and to create gridlock in Washington.

I say all of this to encourage us in this election season when we are tempted to demonize political viewpoints that differ from our own, to consider our two hands and use them to pat on the back those who have the courage to share their insights, to put them together to applaud the virtues of a nation which offers us the freedom to differ, and to fold them in prayer for our nation which finds both its greatest achievements and its grandest hopes in having two hands work together.

Dr. Gorman Houston,
Tuscaloosa