Opinion | Ted Konnerth: When you stand in the middle, you see things from a distinctly different perspective
As a newly invited opinion columnist, I am honored by the opportunity to contribute to Summit County in any meaningful way. I also recognize that “meaningful” is subject to extraordinary interpretive meanings.
A quick snapshot of who I am: Midwestern born (Ohio) to parents who were middle class, veterans of World War II and viewed the world as filled by goodness. I earned a doctorate in behavioral physiology, and shortly after that achievement, I made the move into a business career in the pursuit of feeding my newly born daughter.
I rose through the corporate levels and was global vice president of sales for a $1 billion manufacturer. I left and started my own recruiting firm, ran that for 19 years and then semiretired by joining a mergers and acquisitions firm specializing in the lighting industry.
I first met Summit County over 30 years ago, and I was awestruck — especially as a flatlander. I bought a townhouse in 1999 and have lived here ever since, splitting time with our home in Chicago, where we have four grandkids that so far refuse to move here.
I’ve been a centrist for most of my life. I was raised to appreciate the opposing opinion of any topic, no matter how severe a position that may have been. I’ve voted Democrat, I’ve voted Republican, and I can best label myself as a fiscally conservative Demopublican.
I’ve found that when you stand in the middle, you see things from a distinctly different perspective — much like standing in the valley and seeing both mountains. Our country and even our small county has tremendous wealth and tremendous shortcomings concurrently. But for my first column, let’s talk about labels.
Labels are normally a healthy shortcut to capsulize a construct, process, belief, occupation or tangible item. Sometimes, labels are imperfect. Engineer, for example, can be defined across IT, computers, electrical, chemistry or even railroads. But labels to define a person are more concerning and prone to misuse. When we use labels to classify an individual, we introduce confusion, over-simplification and inherent misunderstanding. When we begin to classify our friends, neighbors or relatives by political labels, we’ve depreciated our relationship and diminished our ability to build bonds among our community.
Our country is terribly divided, which to me means there is ample room to stand in the middle and ask, “Why are so many so angry?” We have immeasurable wealth, incredible diversity and yet stark differences in opportunity and equal access to our infinite resources. We categorize and label people as poor, illegal, leftist, right wing, old, transgender, racist, etc. To what end? How does the label enable our ability to relate to, engage with or assist them? How often are labels used to categorize people solely to dismiss them from our lives?
As a professionally trained scientist, I revert to facts. The reason for my column title of “Centricity” is that our country comprises a majority of people with common beliefs and goals; it’s the center of the bell curve. But we get drowned out by the long-tail of the curve: those with extreme views. I’m open to listening to any views, but I want facts to drive our decisions with fiscal responsibility and justification for the changes. And more importantly, I want balanced solutions for our problems.
I don’t believe “politician” is a term of derision. I do believe that we should be enabled to elect the politician rather than the political party. I have this unreasonable expectation that my representative should represent my beliefs, or at least the beliefs of the majority of their constituency, regardless of the political label associated with the legislation.
I was truly impressed by the recent town hall meeting in Summit County with Colorado legislators from both sides of the aisle. Rep. Julie McCluskie and Sen. Bob Rankin met with local voters to talk about the needs of Summit County through a bipartisan lens focused on one unique county’s needs. That’s what politics should emulate everywhere. I only wish I could have stood between them!
I can’t wait to see Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sit down for a fireside chat with America on their mutual plans for solving our country’s most urgent needs.
Ted Konnerth’s column “Centricity” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Konnerth is the founder and CEO of an executive search firm and author of a monthly newsletter for the electrical industry. He lives in Silverthorne. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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