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Carol Donohue: “Remember that EVERYONE is entitled to his or her OPINION”

Remember that EVERYONE is entitled to his or her OPINION — facts are facts and alternative facts are OPINIONS What got us to this place and the problem we are in is the beginning of “alternative facts” which is not actually anything tethered to reality. The blurring of the lines between news and opinion needs to be reset […]

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Remember that EVERYONE is entitled to his or her OPINION — facts are facts and alternative facts are OPINIONS

What got us to this place and the problem we are in is the beginning of “alternative facts” which is not actually anything tethered to reality. The blurring of the lines between news and opinion needs to be reset to their proper boundaries.


As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carol Donohue.

Carol Donohue is a Data Scientist and Author. She is a co-founder of Immigrant Writers Association, which helps immigrants express themselves through words. She is a second-generation American currently living in Canada. She writes about the journey of life, lessons learned and wisdom.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born in Bronx, NY and grew up on Long Island. I had your typical suburban childhood, participating in sports, music and dramatic arts. I enjoyed spending summers at the beach with my three sisters.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I’ve always like exploring data, examining it for patterns. I spent many years in project management and would create databases to find insights in the data to help manage project risk. This path eventually led me to data science and data visualizations. I love the creativity aspect of data visualizations.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m currently working on a project that ties together data visualizations and DNA data. This will help people solve their genealogy and ancestry questions. When you receive your DNA kit results, there is a large volume of data, which is very tedious and complicated to weed through. I am developing a data analytic tool in which you can visualize your kit along with other people’s kits and that will help find common ancestors. I will be helping people find the proverbial needle in a haystack.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My father always taught me to work hard and keep focused on my goals and ideals. He was always positive and encouraging. Even when faced with adversity, he would always encourage me to view it as a challenge and an opportunity, to rise to it, be clever and find a solution. This is how you build resilience and grow stronger and wiser.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

The most interesting mistake is that I should have followed the data science path sooner than I did. Lesson learned is that sometimes we become too complacent with the status quo and hesitate to take a risk and think outside the box.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The most impactful book that I have read is “The Republic” by Plato. It discusses philosophy, society and government. Even though it was written so long ago, it stands the test of time and it is quite pertinent in our current days. It is very insightful in regards to leadership.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” This quote really resonates with me because I firmly believe that whatever adversity life throws your way, it is a challenge and an opportunity to overcome and use as a stepping stone to create something better. This quote was the point of departure for my first book “In the Moment”.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is taking responsibility and accountability of the activities of a collective in a transparent manner. I wrote a book entitled “Abdicate Down, Delegate Up?” which explains what is and is not leadership from a project management perspective. Shirking responsibilities and not accepting accountability for actions taken while in a leadership position is not leadership. As Harry Truman said, “the buck stops here” — the best example of responsibility, accountability and leadership.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

This has been a long time brewing, so reaching the boiling point was inevitable. One cannot resolve a problem if one does not address it. Just ignoring a problem and kicking the can down the road does not address it either, but rather, just lets it fester a while longer, which makes the problem grow. It comes down to a lack of leadership on many sides — not having the courage to stand up and take right action; acting in one’s self interest rather than the collective that one was supposed to be acting for; not striving for cooperation and collaboration for the common good of the collective.

I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

I just watch on Facebook how people who are friends, family and co-workers interact, sometimes harshly and sometimes with common sense and compassion. They sometimes block each other and sometimes stop talking to each other permanently. It is sad, but the one thing that is interesting in all this is that it is showing people’s true hearts. People need to remember that there are far many more things that unite us than divide us.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

Ah, that is a hard nut to crack. People will either come to their senses and realize their bonds are more important than mere politics or not. If they cannot reconcile, there means that there were probably other issues involved and the politics were just the catalyst.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

Actually, in my experience, with most people working at home and on Zoom calls, there is not much time for water cooler talk involving politics. In my company, there is more focus on the things that unite us rather than what divides us. We have weekly Zoom calls where we get together for yoga, Pilates and cooking classes.

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

It is human nature to want to be part of a herd, so this will be hard to change. Politicians use their rhetoric to cultivate the members of their herd. In addition, of course, being part of a large strong herd is something that part of the self-identification is boosting the self-esteem of the individual.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

I think that now people are becoming aware of how many people and companies are making so much money off dividing people through these outlets that people are starting to realize this and act in a more reasoned way with their interactions.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

Be open-minded and listen to other outlets. Learn to do research and utilize critical thinking skills to separate fact from fiction, opinion and rhetoric. Don’t just mindlessly and blindly take as truth everything you read on the internet.

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

Our leaders need to be cognizant that leadership entails working for the collective country as a whole rather than just their own personal interest. Collaboration will always yield the best result for the majority of the people. Leadership is hard and you have to make hard decisions — elected officials need to be cognizant to put country first at all times.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

1) Read the lyrics and listen to song “What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding”, written by Nick Lowe and performed by Elvis Costello

https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/elviscostello/whatssofunnyboutpeaceloveandunderstanding.html

Play the song and listen to the uplifting lyrics and vibration of the music. It will resonate with you to have hope that things will get better.

2) Remember that EVERYONE is entitled to his or her OPINION — facts are facts and alternative facts are OPINIONS

What got us to this place and the problem we are in is the beginning of “alternative facts” which is not actually anything tethered to reality. The blurring of the lines between news and opinion needs to be reset to their proper boundaries.

3) Recite the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can,

and wisdom to know the difference

You will find yourself in a place of peace when you have clear boundaries of what you can change and what you must accept as fact.

4) Anger is a symptom of an internal problem — find the root cause of the anger and work to collaboratively solve the issue.

Anger is a manifestation of fear, depression, unmet needs or other deeper issues. You need to find the root of the problem and find a solution for that. Once you find the root cause, and solve that, the anger will dissipate.

5) As Andrew Carnegie said “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” we ALL need to work together as AMERICANS collaboratively and THAT is what will make America great again — as Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Lincoln summed it up brilliantly — we will not continue as a country if we remain divided. We must come together as “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?

Have patience, compassion and understanding of yourself first — do not be so judgmental and hard on yourself, then you will find it will be easier for you to have compassion and understanding for others.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

Absolutely — any journey begins with the first step — resolving to be positive and taking action, putting one foot in front of the other is how we build, change and grow on our life’s journey. Remember, overcoming adversity is what builds resilience.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

You are the co-creator of your reality — positive thoughts and actions beget positive results.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would like to have lunch with President Biden followed by a meeting with him and the Gang of Eight to have a brainstorming session about ways to unite the country.

How can our readers follow you online?

Here are the best ways to find me on line: caroldonohue.com, wisdomfromthewarehouse.com, and www.linkedin.com/in/caroldonohue. On twitter, @nahouw.

This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thanks!

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