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January 28, 2008
It’s Not Just the
Issues; Will the Next President Inspire?
At no time has the American electorate had so much
information on what the next president plans to do while in office, and
at no other time has it known from whom it would choose. It’s safe to
say that anyone who casts a vote in November not knowing a candidate’s
position on specific issues is a fool.
But there is something
missing, a crucial part of the equation. How will the next president
inspire our day-to-day living?
We know a little about
how we have reacted to the presidency of George W. Bush. Shortly after
being elected, he bribed the American people with a foolish tax rebate,
and right after September 11 he encouraged us to show the terrorists the
what-for by going shopping. He inspired us to be thoughtless, reckless
consumers, which also pretty well sums up how he’s run the executive
branch of the U.S. government. We responded by becoming even more so a
nation of debtors.
How will the next
president inspire changes in our day-to-day living? The question is as
important as the big picture policies he or she would like to pursue.
Perhaps, considering the give-and-take nature of politics, it’s more
We hear a lot about
positive change from some of the candidates, and something about unity.
The Barack Obama campaign is basically built on enthusiasm about
bringing people together, which is part of it.
The next president needs
to do more than inspire people to be nice to each other, however. Many
of the problems confronting the nation don’t need big picture solutions,
but a re-evaluation of things closer to home. Children need active
parents and communities need active citizens.
Am I talking about a John
F. Kennedy moment, another “Ask not what your country can do for you . .
.” speech? Maybe. Possibly. Probably.
What I can definitively
say is that the next president needs to encourage people to get engaged
in their neighborhoods, and to feel ownership over both the problems and
the solution. The unfortunate reality of all of this information is that
it provides the unreal sense that the world’s problems can be handed off
to one guy to solve.
I speak of basically
every problem that confronts us.
I use global warming as
an example. Global warming isn’t a problem created by policy, so a
change in policy will not solve it. Global warming is a problem created
by lifestyle decisions made by people everywhere, and the ultimate
solution is encouraging people to live smarter.
I also speak of
education. Federal and state governments can shape education policy
until the cows come home, and they can measure it with any number of
standardized tests. But the point of being educated isn’t just having
access to information that can be regurgitated on paper. It’s being able
to think, which is something that can’t be measured very well through a
standardized test. Being taught to think requires that children are
engaged with adult thought processes, and not expected to develop them
on their own.
Perhaps most importantly,
we will need a president who will inspire us to stop taking frivolities
seriously. It is a testament to our failure as a society when so many of
us are more familiar with the latest masochistic drive for humiliation
on the national stage – collectively called reality television – than
the true nature of the nation’s economy. The same can be said about the
person who can rattle off the passing statistics of every starting
quarterback in the NFL, but who has no idea how much a barrel of oil is
going for on the open market.
Will the next president
do these things, or will that person continue perpetuating the illusion
that one person in one city can solve important problems? It’s something
worth getting to the bottom of.
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