Four years ago, my wife and I took an eye-opening train trip from Lhasa (Tibet) to Wuhan (China); about 2,500 miles on the “Sky Road”.  It is renowned as the highest railway in the world climbing to a height of over 16,000’ and much of the journey is at an altitude of more than 13,000’. It also happened to coincide, and was for us a weird juxtaposition of the Republican and Democratic conventions and technologies. We watched the conventions live or streaming near ancient ruins in Xi’an or Xining or on a 22-hour train ride across the middle of China; with speeches from the DNC and RNC conventions. There was something then, and something still in my head and heart that is fighting to get out – around ABCDE – Acceptance, Bias, Compassion, Diversity and Extremism.

This last eighteen months (or four years) of electioneering and short-term gains over long-term strategies reminded me that other cultures and countries are not the enemy – but are part of the diverse species called humans that make up this world.   I think I have a unique perspective on this. In the last twenty years or so, I have lived and led networking technology organizations in five different countries, on three different continents and in several different states. Traveling to more than 75 countries and finishing marathons in 35 states have given me a unique multi-colored view of the world. I’ve lived with Baptists in Dallas; Lutherans in Sweden; and Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Growing up Jewish; we have family and friends who are Jehovah’s Witnesses and Agnostics and Atheists and every other belief and sexual orientation. We love them all equally – why wouldn’t we? 

Michelle and I have been in synagogues, mosques, temples, churches and monasteries. Some years ago, I went to Jerusalem and prayed at the Wailing Wall, walked to the Church of the Sepulchre and then the Dome on the Rock – the three holiest places for Judaism, Christianity and Islam – all within a mile or so of each other. In China we visited one of the biggest mosques in X’ining – where one million Muslims live along with one million Buddhists – in apparent peace and harmony. All we had to do was smile at people and most people smiled back.

On most days while exploring China on that “before-times” trip, we were the only Westerners we saw. Local Chinese stared at us, kids pointed, and people wanted to try their English and take our pictures with them. For many of the locals, their greatest dream would be to visit America. Not necessarily to move there, but just to see what it is like.  At times we felt either apologetic or embarrassed by the election rhetoric at the time, but that was far from their top of mind. They would ask about guns or religion or race – but also about basketball and music. We were ourselves curious; wanting to know more about their culture and history; we spent more time listening and smiling.

Once I asked our local guide in Xi’an what he thought China would be like in fifty years. Without hesitation, he listed the top three priorities for their country and progress they were making. It was not about world domination; it was around peace, prosperity and the future of their children and grandchildren. (Of course, the cynic would say this is what he was “taught” to say, but I would argue that we were some random stranger-foreigners, and he had no reason to speak state-rhetoric.) It made us think that the U.S. hardly ever talks about a strategic multi-year plan (except for space exploration). We are always busy just getting past the last election cycle and the divisiveness between the two parties unfortunately doesn’t allow for strategic debates and planning .  Speaking of which, the last multi-year plan the U.S. had was in 1961 to reach the moon by the end of the decade (which we did).  I would also argue that the vaccines just coming out would normally have taken years but thanks to science and government working together, we are on the verge of the major roll-out).

In a world full of prejudice, we must continue to work to find Acceptance for all other peoples, faiths, identities, and ethnicities. We must put aside our Bias and find love instead of hate. We must reach deep for Compassion – for Black Lives, for Blue Lives for all colors of lives. We must embrace Diversity – of culture, of beliefs, of political leanings, for without it, this would be a boring planet. And finally, we must discourage Extremism; in all parties, in all religions, and encourage moderation.

I have been a fortunate executive (and still am) to work in an industry for these past decades that has enabled IP and 5G, Cloud & AI, iPhones, Amazon, Google and yes, Facebook. In many ways, technology is the great equalizer; it allows families in the Dharavi slum (we’ve visited several times) in Mumbai to stream Bollywood movies; and remote places in Sri Lanka and Tibet to have wireless internet.  We – the collective industry- have built a global democratized network that allows most humans on Earth to communicate with anyone or anything else instantly, anywhere, anytime. During this deadly pandemic, the communications and networking infrastructure we built stayed safe, secure and scaled-out to allow the many new home-workers high-speed secure access.  Indeed, we are all connected. 

As Americans, we are held to a higher standard – we do live in an already great country and have a quality of living, life, democracy, freedom, prosperity and promise that most of the world can only wish for. With so many people of all faiths and backgrounds hurting this holiday season, we can indeed practice gratitude and giving.  When we see someone on the street, smile (or more; Michelle told me she gave her umbrella yesterday to a homeless woman in Seattle.) Be generous, give tips freely and help make someone’s day. Be thankful that fate has smiled on us so much that we can afford electricity and devices to read this, that we have a roof over our head, food on our table and that our children and grandchildren are assured of getting an education. 

During this holiday season, let us all continue to lead with love, not hate.  Let us redouble our efforts to make all lives that we touch better in whatever small or big ways we can through thoughtful acts of kindness. Let us be tolerant; of those whose political or religious beliefs we do not agree with, or those who have more or less than us.  During this holiday season, let us give thanks from the heart for all that we have while giving our prayers for a safe, healthy, and prosperous new year, not just for us, but for all.