I’d like to start our first column by thanking the Indy for giving a voice to “the other side.” My wife, Michèle, and I will take turns writing a bi-monthly column dealing with issues of interest to people with center to right-leaning philosophies—the “other side” of liberal Laguna.
I say the “other side” not because I believe we are on different teams. No, we have different political opinions, but the reality is we are on the same team. We all want our nation to do well. For example, everyone who needs a job and wants a job should be able to find a job which suits their abilities and provides the hope of a better future for themselves and their families. So, with that as one of many common starting points, we then try to figure out how our nation can do that in the best way possible. Of course, this is where disagreements begin.
As a businessman, I traveled to over 40 countries and dealt with people who were very different from me. Typically, I avoided political discussions. Those discussions were not going to add to the safety and security of our employees and franchisees. They probably would create some resistance to what should have been common goals. So, I stuck to this as an operating principal on all but one occasion. I was in the Middle East and one of our managers insisted on having a political discussion. This did not make for a pleasant dinner conversation. As a Republican, I found myself in the unusual position of defending President Clinton. I posited the question: “If you could get 95 percent of what you wanted, wouldn’t that be a good deal?” I outlined what the deal was. His response was that it can’t be true. This only leads to “yes, it is,” “no, it isn’t.” So, I was able to end the discussion by asking him to research it himself. I’m not sure what, if anything, he learned from me, but what I learned is that facts don’t necessarily combat hardened beliefs. We left on cordial terms and our future dealings remained cordial. We concentrated on our common objectives: keeping our employees and customers safe. So, what’s the point of this story?
Diversity. I don’t mean diversity involving race, creed or sexual orientation, because those things are pretty much a given in today’s society. By diversity I mean diversity of thought. This acceptance of diversity of thought is in danger in America today. Labels are tossed about to shut down debate. Racist. Homophobe. Or whatever label is the best way to marginalize someone we disagree with. Recently, I spoke during the public comment section of a Laguna Beach Unified School District Board meeting. I talked about diversity of thought. What does that mean? I asked a simple question at the close of my remarks: How many School Board members stopped listening to me when I started speaking and said I was president of the Laguna Beach Republicans?
Diversity is what I’d like this column to be about. To me, diversity of thought means listening to opposing viewpoints and evaluating how those viewpoints might inform our own thinking. Notice I didn’t say that agreement was necessary. Let me give you an example.
My youngest son is a graduate of Boston University, the alma mater of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. One of his professors whom I met was very much a man of the left. In his class, my son sat up front and at appropriate times engaged in spirited discussion. The professor told me that he almost never agreed with what my son had to say, but he was very complementary about the logical, respectful way he presented his ideas. My son had the same opinion of his professor. He got an ‘A’ in the course. I tell this story not because I’m bragging about my son, but rather, I’m bragging about his professor who tolerated—no, encouraged—diversity of thought as a core value.
So, as you read future columns from me, know that while I’d love converts to my message, I truly value diversity of thought. It makes us all better. I look forward to hearing from you.
Emil Monda has lived in Laguna Beach for 25 years with his wife, Michèle, and three sons. He is president of the Laguna Beach Republicans and a member of the Laguna Art Museum Board of Trustees.