Opinion: Uniting the nation, starting at UNF

Paul Donaldson

peace-signThe United States of America just elected its 45th president. The social upheaval that America experienced over the course of the 2016 presidential election due to candidate controversy was virtually unparalleled. Everyone is mentally exhausted.

How did we as a society become so polarized? While it would be easy to blame the system, neither candidate is the problem. “We the People” are the problem — we have inexcusably divided ourselves along party lines, leaving little room for compromise. Still, there is hope for the future.

Admittedly, widespread change does not occur in an instant. While the 2016 presidential election may be over, change must begin with us — on UNF’s campus and the greater Jacksonville community — if America is to ever improve.

Here’s how we do it:

First, we advocate for the creation of an ombudsman position within UNF Student Government. This elected official will hold no allegiance to any political party, nor any branch of government. Traditional “checks and balances” have clearly been insufficient in Washington, and we believe an additional countermeasure against party bias should be put into effect.

The waning years of the Obama Administration have been characterized by an ongoing stalemate between the Democratic President and the Republican Congress; President Obama has not allowed Congress to pass key legislation, and in return, Congress refuses to appoint President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. If America is to progress, this kind of behavior cannot continue.

Moreover, too many elections have been marred by campaigns anchored in reckless mudslinging, most notably the election just finalized Nov. 8, at great cost to the public.

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Author Paul Donaldson is a finance major at UNF and a member of the Hicks Honors College.

Therefore, it will be the ombudsman’s duty to remain ever vigilant for any sign of fraudulent or malicious statements or actions within Student Government that would seek to give advantage to one party or branch over another. In addition, the ombudsman will act as a third-party advisor in the event of a contested decision within Student Government.

Second, we advocate for the reduction in manipulative political propaganda and biased media sources that would seek to deceive and sway the opinions of the public. In order for truth and knowledge to prevail, journalism needs to return to its roots of facts instead of relying on skewed figures and storylines for financial gain. As a finance major, I understand full well the necessity of making a profit; however, it is irresponsible of us as a society to traffic our greatest asset — unity — in exchange for short-term monetary returns. This means holding the media accountable for what it produces as well as incentivizing the media to proclaim the truth. On campus, UNF Spinnaker can serve as an example for other media sources to follow.

Moreover, in addition to increasing voter knowledge, we seek to embrace technology to increase voter participation. Therefore, we advocate for the creation of mobile-capable voting for Student Government elections.

Third, we advocate for the urgent promotion of self-education amongst the student body regarding issues impacting national policy. We are the generation of future leaders and the future is now; regardless of our nation’s past, our generation will determine its course. Therefore, it is imperative that we become well-versed in the issues that our country faces and reach conclusions on our opinions through critical thinking, not propaganda.

Fourth, we advocate for the establishment of a Civilian & Student “Round Table” Co-Op comprised of students and organization leaders, in addition to experts in various fields to meet in a publicly held meeting on campus to discuss the issues that our nation and community faces. Everyone has a different background and unique perspective that ought to be shared and heard; we must work together if we are to be successful.

Lastly, we have a message: “We the People” are a family. Regardless of whatever group we subscribe (or do not subscribe) to, we are all a part of the University of North Florida. As such, we seek to discard labels and stereotypes as we strive for unity.  We lay down our right to be “right” in order that we may empathize and learn from one another.

America is in dire need of honesty, humility, thick skin and soft hearts. While we do not expect everyone to drop their convictions and political parties, we can certainly be more civil toward one another.

Upon further review, both Democrats and Republicans bring forth excellent points. We can and will “Make America Great Again” when we finally realize that we truly are “Stronger Together.” This country and this university are only as strong as the weakest link.

If we remain divided and continue down the path of divisive political discourse, then the future of America is already lost; the harder we pull in opposite directions, the bigger the tear becomes. But if we claim to be the United States, if we claim to be “One Nation under God,” then we had better start acting like it.

 

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