John McCain and the Lost Art of Compromise

America lost more than a well-known politician on Saturday, August 25. We lost one of the last leaders of a breed that is not only dying, but might perhaps now be extinct. We lost a politician who was not afraid to speak his mind, but always did so with respect and decency for those with the opposing view. We lost a man who clearly had his own opinions and positions, but was never afraid to sit down and discuss issues with anyone, regardless of party. We lost a man who knew how to disagree without being disagreeable.

John McCain will be missed by all of us, including those who won’t even realize they miss him. Because he may have been our last connection to a different era of politics in America. He was not driven exclusively by ideology. He was primarily driven by a desire to get things done, through a common sense approach to compromise.

Compromise… there is a word you don’t hear very often in America anymore. We are a country founded on compromise. We are a country that has been saved, more than once, by our ability to compromise. Historically America and Americans have showed an ability to compromise to get beyond our challenges and move forward.

But that ability to compromise seems to have disappeared from the American skill set, and not only among our political class. We are now a zero-sum country, where both sides pursue nothing less than absolute victory… where groups take a “you are with us completely or we will destroy you” position on the issues they care about… where so many of us, across the entire political spectrum, seem perfectly comfortable tearing something or someone down if we don’t get exactly what we want… where we no longer give anyone or anything the benefit of the doubt, and careers are ended and people destroyed because of one verbal misstep.

Compromise… remember that concept? Compromise is not a sign of weakness. Ignore the ideologues who tell you that it is. Compromise is a sign a strength, of wisdom, of respect. Compromise is the foundation of all successful relationships, partnerships, businesses, and communities. Without the willingness or ability to compromise we eventually destroy ourselves. Marriage, or any form of partnership, without compromise eventually ends, badly.

Senator McCain understood compromise, and wasn’t afraid to partner with a political opponent to find better and common ground. His is a dying breed, indeed. Let’s just hope that someone in Washington has the courage to pick up the standard set by Senator McCain, and teach America and Americans that compromise is not a dirty word.

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.