This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post
In honor of President’s’ Day, as part of the Flawless Foundation’s month of spotlighting champions of love and peace, we’re sharing some of the most inspiring models for collaboration across political lines. Lately, there’s been a lot of attention on all that we disagree on, but if we look a little more closely, we can always find some area of common ground. No one in the mental health advocacy community models this better than former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who has an an incredible gift for bringing people together in support of the universal and critical challenges within our health and education systems.
The Kennedy Forum, the initiative Patrick founded to promote advancements in behavioral health, consistently brings together leaders in advocacy, academia, public health, policy, and politics to share research, ideas and solutions. Its success as a unifying force in the field is thanks in part to Patrick’s heroic enthusiasm and passion. Having worked at the forefront of these issues for decades, he is a model of the power of steady, sustained commitment.
Patrick has been a leading voice for mental health parity, and recognizes that we will need a chorus of voices to get behind this critical cause, as well as true collaboration in action to craft legislation to support it. He hosted a recent event which included speakers from both parties, including Republican Senator John McCain, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi and other politicians. While the speakers may differ on many issues, at this event they echoed one another on key points, underscoring the truly bipartisan, universal significance of the fight for mental health parity.
In another important example in the area of mental health and addiction, Patrick, Newt Gingrich and Van Jones came together to lead Advocates for Opioid Recovery, a nonprofit organization working to address the epidemic of opioid addiction in our country. By combining their influence, resources, and voices they’ve achieved a much greater impact than any one of them would have been able to independently.
And most recently, Patrick demonstrated the grace and optimism that characterizes his family’s legacy in an interview about the new administration. While many are demonizing the “other side” and remain paralyzed by uncertainty about the future, Patrick sees an opportunity for his party to refocus on those who’ve been left out.
These words from Patrick’s father, Ted Kennedy, have never been more poignant, necessary or true:
It seems the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Patrick is leading the way for our current generation, modeling these values of equanimity and commitment to service. Only by following this example — choosing the high road, looking for the light in those we disagree with, and reaching out in collaboration — will we be able to solve our most pressing challenges.