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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 important.


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.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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