14:08 PM

Closing the gaps of our divide


As the election approaches, American Family CEO Jack Salzwedel urges people to focus on coming together to heal. 

I was chatting with a friend recently about the upcoming presidential election. The conversation wasn’t about the candidates or their platforms, or who we thought would win the election. It was about the election process, and how our nation, communities and people would reconcile a result in what’s likely to be a divided electorate. 

This friend shared a story about the 2016 presidential election. She was at a women’s leadership conference. The attendees were energized by the prospect of being together on election night when our country’s first female president would be elected. This was not about red or blue. It was about a potentially historic event. The conference was filled with hopefulness, energy and pride.

We all know what happened with the polls, the pundits and the media forecasts. The predictions were wrong.

The day after the election, my friend said many of her fellow conference attendees were somber, disappointed and emotional. But they vowed to continue working within our democratic system for positive change. And, they came together to support each other, even though not all of them voted for the same candidate.

Today, we’re dealing with just as much – if not more – trepidation as we did four years ago. We’re seeing more concerns about the electoral process, too – early voting, foreign intervention, cyber-risk and more. These could produce potentially troubling post-election dynamics:

  • What if one candidate won’t accept the legitimacy of the results?
  • What if mail-in ballots aren’t counted properly?
  • What if polling station malfunctions delay results or call them into question, raising the prospect of a contested result or possible legal challenges?

And, we’re talking about post-election dynamics like never before. Certainly, there are a number of legitimate issues that could delay a full and official vote tally. Personally, I’m concerned about the election response and the potential for civil unrest and violence. People and communities could be impacted … if a winner is declared, if no winner is declared, or even if a candidate prematurely claims election victory.

The divide in America has also widened since 2016. Our country feels more unsettled and volatile than at any point in my lifetime. Again, this is not a left or right, or a red or blue issue. It’s a reality we face. And unfortunately, we must face it amid a deadly pandemic, and deepening economic, racial and leadership crises.

As CEO of the American Family Insurance group, I can tell you our organization fully believes in the democratic process. It’s why we designated Election Day as a paid day off, so our people can vote and engage in this important civic process.

Many have already cast absentee ballots or voted early. I encourage you to vote! If you’re planning to vote on Election Day, please take the necessary steps to ensure your health and safety, which includes following proper social distancing protocols as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Remember, with high voter turnout expected, increased voting by mail, and potential for a disputed election, it may take days or weeks to finalize results. Let’s support the process. I remain confident in our democratic systems and in this country. I hope you do, too.

But let’s face it … even when the election is eventually called, that divide won’t magically disappear. This is when we need leadership – especially in our local communities. How we act and treat one another in the coming days and weeks is vital. Let’s find ways to bring the hope – not more unrest – to our communities.

No matter what happens as a result of this election – American Family will continue to serve our customers with distinction. We will keep building a diverse and inclusive workforce. And we will live our values – every day.

A CEO of another company told me about one of his employees, who said, “I don’t know if I can work with this person after the election. I really disagree with him politically.” Maybe you’ve thought the same about a co-worker – or cut ties with friends and family members over this election. Even if we disagree – or don’t like the outcome of the election – we must begin to heal. As a nation. In our communities. And yes, at our workplaces.

There IS a full spectrum of views among people – colleagues, family members, friends – and that’s a good thing. It’s more important than ever that we treat each other with respect and close the gaps – not widen the divide – with each other.

Jack C. Salzwedel

Chair and Chief Executive Officer

Follow Jack and read this and other articles on LinkedIn                                                                        

About the American Family Insurance group
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, American Family Insurance has been serving customers since 1927. We inspire, protect and restore dreams through our insurance products, exceptional service from our agency owners and employees, community investment and creative partnerships to address societal challenges. We act on our belief in diversity and inclusion by constantly evolving to meet customer needs and preferences. American Family Insurance group is the nation’s 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group, ranking No. 254 on the Fortune 500 list. The group sells American Family-brand products, primarily through exclusive agency owners in 19 states. The American Family Insurance group also includes CONNECT, powered by American Family Insurance, The General, Homesite and Main Street America. Across these companies the group has more than 13,500 employees nationwide.