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Focus over Distractions

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The post-election response to Trump’s victory, has been loud and pervasive. They are marching in the streets of major cities. They’re raging on Facebook and Twitter. Many even disinvited relatives who voted for Trump from Thanksgiving dinner. Disappointment has turned ugly for some Trump critics.

When the vice president elect Mike Pence took his family to see the popular, patriotic musical, Hamilton, the cast had a prepared message to deliver before he left. The designated spokesperson first complimented Pence for coming and then pleaded: “We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. I truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Mike Pence took time to listen before leaving. When asked about the comments, he complimented the cast’s outstanding performance and said: “When we arrived, we heard a few boos and some cheers. I reminded my kids that that is what freedom sounds like. But at the end, I did hear what was said from the stage, and I can tell you that I wasn’t offended by what was said. I will leave to others whether that was the appropriate venue to say that.”

President-elect Donald Trump was much less conciliatory, taking to Twitter to express his displeasure. He tweeted: “The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior.”

Responding to Trump’s request for an apology, the cast member said that it was unnecessary and called his comments “a message of love.” No, it was a message of protest that will certainly not be the last.

When Saturday Night Live did a takeoff on the Hamilton cast statement, Trump again went to Twitter to attack the show, “I watched part of Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one-sided, biased show—nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?”

Politics is messy. Freedom is at times offensive. Satire almost always stings. Mike Pence has lived in the world of politics as a U.S. Representative and Governor of Indiana. He understands that such statements are the sounds of freedom. May Donald Trump soon embrace the same reality and move from fuming on Twitter to focusing on the future he was elected to create.

As with any president, many will refuse to accept Trump’s presidency. All the talk about unity is counter to the democratic principles we cherish. Yes, Trump is everyone’s president, but it’s every citizen’s right to disagree, to march, and to do what they can to further their own political perspective. If Trump continues to Tweet at every attack or comedic parody, he’ll be distracted from what he was elected to do.

When you’re moving fast on a freeway, if you spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, you’ll miss opportunities out the front window. Texting or tweeting while driving can prove to be a deadly distraction.

Leading transformational change is similar. Instead of being distracted by the comments and marches being covered by the media, Trump would be wise to stay focused on building his team and the consensus needed to make his promised changes work. Let the “sounds of freedom” roar, but don’t reward and fuel them with a Twitter response.

In fact, learning from Lincoln’s “team of rivals,” Trump should continue adding “Never Trumpers” and even responsible Democrats with the right expertise who are committed to work with him. Those who brought you to Washington want results, not tweets.

Those who did not vote for Trump are also watching. Many are surprised by the breadth of candidates he’s interviewed for key posts. Some have been impressed with his sending Mike Pence to meet with key Democrats. They’ve also appreciated Trump’s conciliatory public statements.

The best leaders know the importance of driving their vision, but they also know the importance of listening and building consensus where they can. The Trump team is laying out their first 100 days. May the days leading up to January 20th be filled with fewer tweets and more consensus-building conversations across our divide to bring as many Americans as possible on board the fast-moving Trump train.

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