Like many college students, I felt scared and betrayed by the election of Donald Trump. I am the daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants, family member to LGBTQ relatives, and a volunteer who helps refugees in my community. I expected Hillary Clinton to win, not because I supported all of her platform, but because I was offended by Trump’s rhetoric, and I assumed most other people were as well. During the campaign, all I paid attention to were his rants against immigrants, Mexicans, refugees, Muslims, and women. For me and those I love, he represented a negative change in our political system, a swing from civil discourse to open and accepted bigotry and hate. Since the election, I have lost count of how many times my classmates have come to me to talk about the outcome. They’re looking to ease their anxiety about what the next four years will bring, and find productive ways to shape the future of our country. Now that the shock has worn off, and the reality of a Trump presidency has set in, I believe the answer is for students to stop contributing to the divisive dialogue we see and hear on the news.
We must start setting an example for the country for how we can work together to find common ground. The United States is bigger than the president. At the University of La Verne, we support a thriving community of interfaith leaders who build bridges across religious, spiritual and philosophical divides. The community encourages people with fundamentally different views about the world to work together; to focus on the values that we share rather than arguing over the topics upon which we clash. As an interfaith scholar and member of this community, I understand how difficult these conversations can be. We wrestle with epic disagreements about the nature of God, or whether such a force even exists. But if focusing on those disagreements was all that we did, we would never accomplish anything. Instead, [pullquote position="left"]we rally around our shared values, such as community engagement and lifelong learning, which allows us to mobilize for social justice issues. The struggle for civil rights, opposition to wars and dedication to causes such as Standing Rock are made possible by communities of compassionate individuals empowered by interfaith movements to work past their differences for the common good. The same can be true for Democrats and Republicans, for Trump voters and Clinton supporters. Since the election, I have listened to my peers to learn and understand why they voted for their candidate. Some chose Trump because he was anti-establishment, and they felt the U.S. needed a new direction. They saw his economic and trade policies as healthy for the country’s growth. Others voted for Clinton because of her support for a higher minimum wage, a reformed tax plan, and her experience on the international stage. Both sides saw an economic system that needed to be reformed, an immigration system that needed to be updated, and a sense of community engagement that needed to be reawakened. These are shared concerns, and we can work together toward finding solutions to address them. The United States is bigger than the president. He will only be in the White House for a handful of years. The rest of us will be together for much longer than that. Our country will stall if we choose only to focus on what divides us. We all share common ground. We just have to be willing to see it.