Asserting Kindness

The president deserves our support on his trade agenda. Here's why.

Maybe it’s just my shameless faith in the power of love (yes, I grew up in the 80's listening to Huey Lewis), but recently the solution to all my problems seems to be kindness. Not just as an abstract ideal, but as an active choice.

Kindness is a de facto meme in scientific research and popular culture— from “random acts of kindness” to the Dalai Lama’s Center for Compassion and Altruisim Research and Education at Stanford Medical School.

Dacher Keltner of U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, argue that a growing body of scientific research shows that human evolution is wired to reward acts of kindness.

In his critically acclaimed The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, Jeff Hobbs traces the life of an African American boy from Newark who receives a full scholarship to Yale, only to succumb to the drug trade and addiction. A key thread is importance of compassion — and its alternately stark and subtle absence in our criminal justice system, our neighborhoods, andour elite schools.

In the New York Times best-selling youth novel Wonder, by R.J. Palaccio, a boy with a dramatic cranio-facial anomaly teaches an entire community about kindness through his example. Palaccio, quoting Christoper Nolan, cites kindness in reverential tones:

“It was at moments such as these that Joseph recognized the face of God in human form. It glimmered in their kindness to him, it glowed in their keenness, it hinted in their caring, indeed it caressed in their gaze.”

Maybe it's because of my belief in the power of kindness, then, that I am saddened by decidedly unkind rhetoric in our nation’s political debates, such as the current attacks on President Obama’s trade agenda.

I feel compassion for our President. Leadership is lonely. It sucks sometimes. And for what it’s worth, I am so looking forward to seeing what he will do post-presidency, when he can freely leverage his passion, talent, and influence to help Americans, starting with supporting men like Robert Peace as he is doing with his My Brother’s Keeper program.

In the meantime, he deserves our support for his remaining priorities, and faith in his process.

As I see it, the main criticisms of trade promotion authority (TPA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the landmark trade agreement with 11 Pacific countries excluding China, come down to two concerns: 1) income inequality and 2) corporate power.

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