The presidential election of 2016 has certainly made a difference in the lives of many Maine residents. For my husband and me, we became much more interested in politics, locally and nationally, reading current books and watching much more televised news. I cut out a commentary last spring from The New York Times, titled “The age of the MSNBC mom,” and sent it to my son, saying that it described his father and me now.

Having been educators in the Portland area for more than 40 years, my husband and I have talked about what we think school systems need to focus on in these political times: specifically, civil discourse and social media.

We feel that, starting with students in the early grades, we need to help young people express their thoughts and beliefs in a rational manner that is respectful of other points of view. They need to be able to listen to others and react not necessarily with agreement, but with restraint, not resorting to nicknames or mean and unkind sentiments.

We also need to help students analyze technology. They need to learn how to figure out who’s sponsoring certain websites and how to analyze articles and Twitter feeds for factual bases. News organizations are biased, and students need to be able to weed out the facts from the often-misleading headlines.

I tend to be usually on the liberal side of most issues. I don’t approve of much of anything this current president says or does. However, I think it’s very important to have discussions with my friends who do not agree with me. I need to listen and try to understand their point of view.

I grew up in a small town in central Maine and have been fortunate to have maintained some childhood friendships. Some of these friends are very strong supporters of President Donald Trump. I recognize that about them, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to change their minds about his actions and policies.

But because I’ve known them since kindergarten, I know much more about them than just their political leanings. I know that:

• They honored their parents, being good daughters.

• They are great mothers. They raised healthy children, who are raising healthy children of their own.

• They are involved grandmothers, taking an interest in their grandchildren’s activities and supporting their families.

• They are active in their communities and churches, volunteering in organizations and helping others.

• They have a great sense of humor and are fun to be around.

So I value their friendship. We may need to limit our political discussions to minutes rather than hours, but I sure hope we continue talking. It’s good to share a past with someone as we consider the future. That’s what Maine communities are all about.

I need to listen, to try and understand — and to practice restraint. My mother always said it was good for the soul, and she was a very wise woman. I hope to keep talking and listening as we all continue our friendship.

Cheryl Stitham White is a resident of South Portland.

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