Let’s Try and Try Again

What if we were all a bit more patient, or kind? I’m not picturing a worldwide hug, but recent events and conversations reminded me that looking for things to agree upon rather than squaring off in disagreement builds connection. Those connections lead to better—well, everything from policy to neighborhood harmony.

And one of the kindest, most patient people I know is Brad Cole. Brad is retiring from the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) where I started my own lobbying career. At Brad’s Statehouse sendoff earlier this week, I saw legislators and local government officials from all political viewpoints and geographic areas.

This reminded me how Brad approaches his work—patient, exhaustive research and cordial, calm conversation and testimony. Through this, he collected many friends and admirers, doing quality work for Ohio. On impatient days I try and try again to channel this kind of equanimity.

I also attended the Women of Power reception organized by the John Glenn College of Public Affairs this week. Women and men from state government, city councils and the advocacy world created a collective energy that was positive, hopeful and fun. Chatting and hugging my way through that crowded room, I thought how utterly lucky I am to work with dedicated, funny people from all political outlooks. I wish I could bottle that spirit and uncap it when disagreements flair reminding myself and others how we can use our differences to find creative ways to advance good policy.

On a very personal level, I am working on patience. I represent an industry with terrific supporters and fierce detractors. When our critics scapegoat us on issues like obesity, I try my best to use logic and facts to push back, patiently explaining about our range of beverages, declining calories in those beverages and real efforts to help people find balance. Many people understand and appreciate these efforts, and some brush aside anything that doesn’t fit their preconceived ideas.

What I wish our critics could see is the nearly 10,000 Ohioans who work hard at Pepsi, Dr Pepper Snapple and Coca-Cola around Ohio. And after long hours driving trucks, working forklifts or squinting at lab results, these folks go home and help their kids with homework, shovel their neighbors’ driveways, coach soccer and attend PTA meetings. They are proud members of communities and I am fiercely protective of them and their jobs. They are people not brands.

So, what if instead of believing the worst about an industry or people with different points of view, we tried to see the person behind the job or the title? There will always be disagreements. That’s healthy, but how we work through them will always define who we really are as advocates, elected officials, and neighbors. Thank goodness for people like Brad Cole and many others who navigate their work and lives with kindness and patience. Let’s all try and try again.

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