Once the 2016 election is over — no matter the outcome — we must come together as a nation, a state and most importantly of all, as a local community.

After all, this is where we live our everyday lives. It’s where we go to work, raise our kids, attend schools and, soon, shovel snow. It’s where we do business, go to church, work for the future. And despite the heated, frequently toxic rhetoric, we have so much more in common than that which divides us.

That’s why when crazy-as-a-fox attorney and hotelier Perry Sanders asked if our papers would co-host a community-wide election watch party, I immediately replied “BRILLIANT, but I need to check with each paper’s publisher.” After two quick phone calls, I reported: “We are all in.”

In the past, the political parties and quite a few of the campaigns hosted separate election night events. But this year, Sanders had a different idea: a community-wide election night gathering with free food at his recently renovated Antlers hotel.

The donkeys, the elephants, the Greens, the Libertarians and the unaffiliateds will each have their own ballrooms, but must mingle when seeking libations and refreshments.

At least, that was Sanders’ original concept. As it turns out, the Democrats will be charging $35 to attend a VIP-style watch party, because while the food is free, the rooms, the audiovisual, the entertainment and a thousand other expenses are adding up for the local party. Party volunteer and social media marketer Liz Hershberger says the party receives no money from the national Democratic party, so must rely on donations and fees for its events.

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But Sanders plans to set up screens in the hotel’s common areas with food and a cash bar, and he’s also planning an outdoor watch party with a big screen in the Antlers’ courtyard.

I have to admit, I thought his concept was a pipe dream. There’s no way, no how that the local Democrats and Republicans would ever agree to rub elbows on election night. But I had underestimated Sanders’ persuasive powers — something no one should ever do — because his offer helped these political adversaries reach agreement, at least on one thing: to participate in the community-wide election night event.

OUR NATIONAL REPUTATION

As anyone who has traveled nationally or even internationally knows all too well, for far too long, Colorado Springs has been perceived as a divided, mean-spirited community. Outsiders see us as too conservative, too religious, too set in our ways.

Inclusive and welcoming events like this one that showcase our community in a positive light will go along way toward redeeming our national image, which has harmed our economy.

On election night — and thereafter — both sides need to find ways to work together, discover that common ground that will create the right business environment for Colorado Springs. By working toward a unified vision of economic development, Colorado Springs can build on its potential to create more high-tech jobs, develop its already solid tourism industry and provide education and incentives to keep Millennials in the region. It’s vitally important to set aside the rancor of the past 16 months and work together.

So the Colorado Springs Business Journal and the Colorado Springs Independent are supporting this amazing inaugural event, fittingly named for “America the Beautiful,” since Katharine Lee Bates was staying at The Antlers hotel when she penned the poem in 1893 after an expedition up America’s Mountain.

Bates, along with other Colorado College visiting summer-school professors celebrated their term’s end with an expedition up America’s Mountain in a wooden wagon emblazoned with “Pikes Peak or Bust.”

Her words still ring true today:

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

John Weiss is chairman of the board for Colorado Publishing House, a media group that includes the Business Journal and the Colorado Springs Independent, as well as the Pikes Peak Bulletin and the Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group. He can be reached at jweiss@csindy.com.