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Americans issue a powerful statement of hope for a new direction

From the President

Well, the end of the four days that took seven years off of every American’s life – whether your tribe is red, blue, purple or some other entry on the color wheel – has come.

So, too, has the phishing for evidence that would support lawsuits challenging the most remarkable acts of courage and professionalism in polling places throughout America . . . . the ebb and flow of vote prognostications in places none of us would have dreamt would be pivotal to the presidency . . . . the flailing and stridency and abuse of position of those who fear their time in power may be over . . . . the congressional partisanship that immobilized the extension of desperately needed relief to a COVID-ravaged economy . . . . and on and on, penetrating ever-deeper into the farthest recessions of our most primal anxieties and fears.

And yet, the American people have cut through the din with an unequivocally crystalline statement of hope for a new direction. This was not a mandate election in the sense of so many others. This was anything but a healing election. This could hardly be seen as a referendum on clear policy prescriptions to guide the next four years. But we are collectively justified in seeing in it an affirmation of the need – the hunger – for something different, something less chaotic, something more constructive.

We’ve already seen hundreds of commentaries deciphering what that something is . . . should be . . . will be. As we dial back the heat – and regain some objective distance and equilibrium – the answer will begin to emerge. But some things immediately rise to the top of this institution’s priorities:

  • We will contribute to an immediate pivot toward reasoned and balanced civil discourse – rejecting the continued manipulation and false positioning of each news cycle . . .  the feints and diversions that trivialized the important and elevated the petty . . . the cloaking of dishonesty in attacks on the fundamentals of democracy.
  • We will valorize and fortify the inviolability of respect for perspectives different from our own – continuing to shun the intolerance of dissent, the suppression of science, the rejection of transparency, the acceptance of bigotry.
  • We will re-energize the imperative of rallying behind the efforts of this nation’s cities to right the ship of municipal finance and steer toward renewed structures of opportunity for all residents – pulling down the curtain on a dark and ill-begotten era of destructive demonization and petty marginalization of residents and political leaders in places like Detroit and Chicago . . .  Memphis and Philadelphia . . . El Paso and Atlanta . . . and every other community whose demographics don’t align with one side of the electoral calculation.
  • We will embrace the task of building a powerful and enduring machinery of racial and ethnic justice, reconciliation and healing – discarding lamentable attempts to drive a wedge between cities and their suburban neighbors . . . to equate peaceful protest with criminal activity . . . to position those who seek police reform as a threat to public safety.
  • We will invest in the recalibration of our public health system toward scientifically-grounded, adequately-resourced, clearly articulated practices aimed at protecting the common good – shedding the unforgivable impulse to advance health policies rooted in rhetorical nonsense.
  • We will contribute to re-centering our nation’s environmental stewardship on principles of climate change – casting off the concerted dismantling of environmental protections in service of the invidious falsehoods of climate denial . . . the elevation to positions of regulatory authority people who have spent their careers pursuing self-interested environmental laissez faire . . .  the reckless privatization of irreplaceable natural areas held in the public trust.

The Kresge Foundation will be full and enthusiastic partners with the new administration. We share with so many others pride in the momentous elevation of the first and only woman in 243 years of this nation’s history – and the first person of color – to the vice presidency. We are hopeful that a public servant who was instrumental in helping navigate Detroit through the crises of the Great Recession, the housing foreclosure crisis, and the bankruptcies of the automotive sector will emerge as a president with the experience, skill and commitment to be a champion of the Detroits of this country. We are energized by the likelihood that so many of our partners will be tapped to contribute to the next four years of federal policy.

We will call to service our grantmaking, our lending, our use of the balance sheet, our reputational equity, our staff members’ expertise and skill, and our voice to help. With this new partner, we have every reason to believe, and hope, that we can advance in important ways the heroic work being done every day by the public, private, nonprofit, and civic sectors to ensure equitable and just life opportunities for people with low incomes and few financial assets living in American cities.

As I said in an earlier note, this won’t be easy. The nation’s divisions are apparent. The distrust clear and pervasive. The passions red-hot. But we see in today’s events a path forward. Reaffirming our values. Recommitting to our strategies of equity and opportunity. Resolving to identify tangible, practical, investible things that, by touching people concretely and beneficially where they live and work, can serve to bridge our divides.

We are limited only by our imaginations. It is time to give them full berth. We’ll start on Monday. Today, let’s all take a breath. We deserve it.

Kresge staff is working remotely, and our offices are closed until further notice.  See our promise to partners during COVID-19.
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