The “better angels of our nature” have been released and they will always drown out the selfish and destructive impulses of people bent on destruction and harm to others. What will happen to that positive energy? Who will requisition those energies into something sustainable, creative and redemptive?
New leadership in Congress and the White House and in local states and municipalities is just one part of the answer. Elections are a few months away. People can take action and choose better leaders. But, in order to sustain the energies that will address our lingering racial inequalities and the challenges of poverty and lack of opportunity for masses of people, we will need moral leadership.
Such leadership can be taught, at least large and necessary components of moral leadership are teachable. But we will need public and private structures to help convene people from varieties of backgrounds who want to help this nation change its course by having more productive conversations about our racial past and our moral possibilities for a better future.
Schools that educate our over 76 million students will have a critical role to play. For schools that do not fully open this fall, perhaps there are service opportunities for community-building for which students and faculty could get credit. Businesses should also play a leading role as they accelerate their own diversity but also promote and sponsor opportunities for people to build bonds of common humanity.
Our houses of worship are natural leaders in inviting people into community and modeling respect and cooperation for the common good. Nonprofits and foundations should invest in these initiatives and intensify the good work they are already doing. Artists must help us dream of a new future, and they should be compensated since they may not yet be able to perform or exhibit their work for the masses. But it is up to our elected officials, those whom we pay and who take oaths to serve with honor, who must set the right tone at the top.
Let a rebirth of moral leadership begin.
Robert M. Franklin is the James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and author of the book, “Moral Leadership: Integrity, Courage, Imagination.”