If we learned anything from the last election, we learned that we all have to be heard—and that there is no wrong answer, no one path, but multiple paths. Everyone has a voice. Everyone has an opinion. The question is, “Do you want your voice to be heard?” And, “Are you willing to come to the table to have the conversation?“
Our nation is facing an epidemic, an opioid epidemic of unparalleled proportion. And it’s not just opioids; it’s not just an overdose epidemic. It’s a substance use disorder epidemic affecting millions of men, women and children. Forty percent of all addiction treatment programs are located here in California. We have more addiction treatment here than anywhere else in the nation. So, why are we in an epidemic? Because we all have a different opinion. Because we don’t say hello to our neighbors. Because we don’t have the conversation. But it all starts with a conversation.
There’s no reason why every street in America can’t take care of its own neighbors. We have the smarts. We have the wherewithal to provide the best possible care for every individual, regardless of socioeconomic status, education, race, or criminal background. We have the right health care professionals—holistic, traditional, integrated, Eastern, and Western. All we need is a bridging of the gaps, where, as medical and clinical, Democrat and Republican, we all come together, willing to hear all sides and not be so attached to this or that idea being the best.
There are pieces of all that we do that can be brought together to be the best. We have the ability to do this, to do it well, and to do it right, so that everyone walks away a winner. We simply need to come to the table and have a different conversation.
Thomas Jefferson said, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” In the early 1800s, if you were invited to dinner at the White House with President Thomas Jefferson, you were in the company of thought leaders and influencers from a variety of backgrounds, fields and contradictory beliefs. Upon entering the dining room, “you would have found a round table—so that there would be no one at its head— (and) without an assigned seat, in a careful attempt to avoid the parade of rank and hierarchy so typical of the European monarchy to which (Jefferson) so strenuously objected. (You) came to work in a spirit of avowed misunderstanding, without the smallest wish to agree.”
The men at these dinners engineered conversations that helped people discover their common humanity. It was a convergence of all of the ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds that make up the melting pot of this wonderful nation. Jefferson’s dinners are credited with saving our nation’s early republic.
A 94-year-old woman by the name of Faith Strong, who is the world’s largest donor to Greenpeace, The Hunger Project, A Place Called Home in Los Angeles, and New Directions For Women—and gives away 75% of her income every year—says everything starts with a conversation, and that conversation can change the world.