Is it time to re-imagine the U.S. Congress with positive expectation?

Is it time to re-imagine the U.S. Congress with positive expectation?

The U.S Congress has become the government body that we love to hate. How has that worked out for us?  Surely, the U.S. Congress has lived up to our low expectations.

Perhaps, instead of focusing on electing new members to a branch of government that we love to hate, it is time to change our expectations. If we have participated in co-constructing a culture around the U.S. Congress that is characterized by gridlock, partisanship and narrow self-interest perhaps it is time for us, the people to construct a different expectation.

Is it time to re-imagine the U.S. Congress? I propose a season of appreciating the U.S. Congress.

Imagine, with me a U.S. Congress that is composed of 541 individuals, most of whom are highly educated, have had distinctive service in business professions. Many of them have law degrees.  They include physicians, farmers, educators psychologists, ministers and former mayors.

Imagine that this is the most diverse body of individuals we have ever seen in the U.S. Congress. There are a record number of women.  The religious diversity is broader than ever before.  It includes—besides Protestants—Catholics, Jewish, Muslim Greek Orthodox, Quaker, Christian Science and many other faith traditions.  There is a solid contingent of Hispanic members, African American members and some representatives from Native communities.

Imagine that this body has the life, educational, and professional experiences to consider significant issues facing our nation. There diversity of backgrounds brings the possibility for rich and divergent perspectives.  There is the possibility for interfaith dialogue among members from diverse faith traditions.

Imagine if we had a U.S. Congress like this? In fact, we do!  This is precisely the profile of the 113th U.S. Congress.

Now, imagine that we abandon the pathway of the U.S. Congress being the body that we most love to hate. Imagine instead that a nation weary of partisan bickering expects that this body will have the skills and abilities to engage in critical dialogue and deep conversations about the future of our country.  Imagine that we expect the U.S. Congress will be an intelligent caring group that is able to engage in difficult conversations, cross the aisle with each other, caucus across party labels, and respectfully acknowledge differences.

The Seal of the United States adopted for Congress pictures such positive expectations. The eagle is soaring to new heights.  In its talons it holds an olive branch, a symbol of the power of the U.S. Congress to make peace. The motto E Pluribus Unum speaks unequivocally the power and the mandate of this body to find consensus and agreement.  The Seal is a call for Congress to be engaged in peace making, agreement building and focusing on the shared common good.  It is a powerful symbol to re-imagine Congress living into its intended purpose.

As we go to the polls on Nov. 4, 2014 perhaps what we need to bring into this election is not so much new representatives but new expectations.  Imagine the 114th Congress living into positive expectations.

If we have participated in creating a dysfunctional and deadlocked Congress by our shared low expectations, we can co-construct different expectations that may define a positive and desired future.

Together, let us send a message to Congress. “We expect you to live into being the capable and intelligent people you are.  As you convene, we expect dialogue, mutual respect, and the deep conversations about our future that move beyond partisan rhetoric.”

It is the simple lesson that those of us who are parents have learned. Our children, in large part, live into the expectations we have of them.  When we expect them to be mature, respectful and generous of spirit they tend to be that.  Let’s allow Congress be the grown-ups they are.

Instead of asking this election: “Who controls the U.S. Senate?”  I want to ask this question:

“How might a highly capable and collaborative 114th Congress take leadership in moving us into a shared vision of our desired future for this great country?”