Detroit should emulate the example in Dallas

Sandy Baruah

The tragic events of recent days, including the ambush in Dallas, have been difficult for our nation. But as I watched the interfaith service to mourn the loss of five of Dallas’ finest Tuesday, I saw some of the best of America.

While this happened in Dallas, the lessons reverberate throughout Detroit and Michigan. The message that our 44th and 43rd presidents communicated to the nation that morning went far beyond their eloquent words.

Two presidents. One black. One white. One born of an immigrant parent. One born into American royalty. One finds refuge in the sandy beaches of Hawaii. One finds refuge clearing brush on a Texas prairie. One Democrat. One Republican.

But they delivered the same message: what unites us is stronger than what divides us.

Despite the countless differences between Barack Obama and George W. Bush — and the fact that Obama used overheated rhetoric on the campaign trail in 2008 against Bush’s policies — these two leaders demonstrated how a civil society can disagree without being disagreeable.

Real leaders lead by example and know when to put ideology and differences aside for the greater good. Tuesday in Dallas was an example for us all to emulate: a successor and predecessor sharing the stage at a time of national grief. The graciousness between these two men extends far beyond that moment in Dallas.

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, President Bush directed his team to make the upcoming transition of power “the best in history.” And it was. The Bush daughters wrote a poignant letter to the Obama daughters girding them for life in the White House. The families have dined together in the White House. All to ensure that Bush’s successor was given every opportunity to succeed, despite political differences.

President Obama has responded in-kind. When Osama bin Laden was killed, President Obama called George W. Bush before he told the American people. He reached out to President Bush to be involved in the observance of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 and again in Dallas.

If these two men, who are in the business of political leadership can disagree without being disagreeable, show courtesy and respect, demonstrate unity and healing, why can’t the rest of us?

Detroit has been fortunate to have avoided the pain experienced in communities including Dallas, Baltimore and Ferguson. Perhaps that’s due to the hard lessons Detroit learned in previous decades.

But as Detroit and the region navigate an economic resurgence and tries to build an inclusive future, we need to emulate the example from the service in Dallas. To know when to put our disagreements aside. To create ways to ensure all voices are heard and perspectives understood and to have the graciousness to recognize the humanity in all of us.

Sandy Baruah is the president of the Detroit Regional Chamber.