Legendary Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek died yesterday at the age of eighty after a battle with cancer. His life story was part of his appeal: his father was a hotel cook who emigrated to Canada from Ukraine. Trebek graduated from college with a philosophy degree and worked as a newscaster before beginning his career in game shows in 1973.
In his autobiography, The Answer Is . . . Reflections on My Life, Trebek stated his life motto: “A good education and a kind heart will serve you well throughout your entire life.”
Let’s apply the latter to the story dominating the news: Numerous media outlets declared Saturday that Joe Biden has won the White House. President Trump’s team has filed numerous legal challenges.
Whatever our position on the election, I believe God has two messages of encouragement for us today. Both are calls to a “kind heart” based on five words that continue to change the world.
A message for all Americans
I walked yesterday in a cemetery in our neighborhood, where I found myself standing at the graves of a father and the son who bore his name. The father fought for the Confederate Army; his son fought for the United States in World War I. Their stories are the story of American democracy.
Presidential elections have been passionately contested since the first contested election in 1796, but each time, our democracy held. The United States has fought twelve major wars across our history, but each time (with one exception, as we will see), our democracy held.
America has survived pandemics, depressions, recessions, and presidential assassinations. We have seen rioting in our streets and terror attacks on our cities. And yet, each time, our democracy held.
The only exception was the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, which led to the Civil War and the deaths of as many as 750,000 American soldiers, more than all other American war casualties combined.
Our democracy was broken by the 1860 election because we rejected the five words which birthed our nation: “All men are created equal.” This is America’s founding creed, a statement first proclaimed in the biblical declaration that “God created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:27).
The South blamed the war on northern aggression against their rights; the North blamed the war on southern slavery. The two sides could not find a peaceful way to protect the equality of all people, and our nation’s bloodiest war was the result.
Democracy works so long as we continue to embrace our founding creed.
It works because it gives every citizen the same vote as every other citizen. No matter your wealth, race, or gender, your vote counted as much as that of the president, the president-elect, and our wealthiest billionaire.
As a result, Americans live in a country where seventy million people supported the incumbent of our highest office, but our nation will peacefully transfer power to his opponent. Even the ongoing legal challenges to the outcome are an expression of the rule of law based on the equality of all citizens.
Whether your candidate won or lost, if we continue to believe that “all men are created equal,” America won.