Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a 2016 Republican presidential contender,...

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a 2016 Republican presidential contender, speaks Wednesday at Molloy College in Rockville Centre. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Volunteering, being kind to strangers, and helping a neighbor in need are simple, effective ways to heal a nation split by political tribalism, said former Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich during a speech Wednesday night at Molloy College in Rockville Centre.

“Instead of fighting about Trump or Hillary or Barr,” Kasich told an audience of about 400  in the college's Madison Theatre, referring to President Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and  Attorney General William Barr, “spend  a little time at the church bazaar. Don’t ask anybody who they voted for. Spend some time at the local pantry. Nobody’s caring what your politics is.”

In his speech, titled “How to Heal Our Political Divisions,” Kasich said local acts of kindness and civil civic engagement are the best antidotes for the polarized and partisan ideological warfare dividing the United States in 2019. The speech was part of Molloy's 15th Joe and Peggy Maher Leadership Forum.

Kasich's message was a call to action for those who live near Main Streets nationwide to work in their neighborhoods to influence the politics of Washington.

“It doesn’t matter so much about those big shots,” said Kasich, a two-term governor and presidential candidate in 2000 and 2016. “We matter. We count.”

The address was much like a TED Talk-styled event, with Kasich, dressed in a suit and wearing sneakers, pacing back and forth across the stage and speaking off the cuff, instead of standing at a podium with prepared remarks.

He came prepared, though, with anecdotes about humbler people who had made sacrifices for others, using the money or talents they had to help others.

There was the shoeshine man who donated up to $200,000 to a children’s hospital’s fund for the indigent, the 5-year-old girl who collected supplies for victims of Hurricane Florence with a wagon, and the 9-year-old boy who asked that money a relative wanted to use to buy him an Xbox game console as a gift, instead go toward the purchase of blankets for a homeless shelter.

Before citing philosophers including St. Thomas Aquinas, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, all of whom pondered the meaning of life, Kasich told the group an abridged version of the Bible’s Parable of the Talents,  in which God rewards those who invest what he has given them.

Kasich said the philanthropists in modern-day America like the shoeshine man and the altruistic children are examples of people who used their talents to make a difference that had, in some small way, changed the world.

“Power and change never comes from the top down,” he said. 

Grassroots efforts that evolved into mass movements for civil rights, the nation’s withdrawal from the Vietnam War and women’s suffrage resulted in monumental changes begun with individual acts by ordinary citizens, not the nation’s elite or its politicians, he said.

“We have to solve our problems,” he said at the end of a 40-minute speech. “And we can, and we will and we must — if we just slow down a little bit and dig inside of ourselves for those things that the Creator determined was our purpose when he put us on this Earth.”

He added: “You don’t have to be any of these great people. Just be somebody kind and special. Just show up sometimes. And if you do this, we’re going to win. … If the presidential campaign is … meet the new boss, same as the old boss, I’m spending my time fixing things where I live and making a difference.”

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