Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let’s focus on our shared values

Flag flying over Liberty Island, 2009

The following op-ed, "Let's focus on our shared values", appeared in Raleigh's News and Observer on November 27, 2012. 
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My daughter, Michaela, recently encouraged our family to keep things positive and be careful not to offend those with whom we share this great country, even if we may not share their political preferences.  I thank her for a timely reminder, and for the hope that it represents, coming from a twentysomething with strong political preferences of her own.
This great United States of America came into existence thanks in no small part to the willingness of our forefathers to compromise.  They found ways to latch on to values they shared as they struggled to reconcile their tremendous differences.  Our very form of government depends on compromise and reconciliation.
In that spirit, I suggest that each one of us takes as much time as it takes, and exerts as much effort as it requires, to find common ground with our fellow Americans.  Yes we have differences, sharp and serious.  But we may share much more than we think.
Maybe reminding ourselves of all the things we together love about the USA will help us and our leaders figure out how to work out compromises to solve our current and future problems.  It worked in 1776 (Declaration of Independence), 1787 (Constitution), and 1791 (Bill of Rights), and they were at least as passionate as we are, and I hope we are as smart as they were.
I offer below a list of items upon which to begin a search for common ground.  Consider them, change them, add to them.  Discuss them with your fellow Americans.  Talk about them with your neighbors next door and across the street, at the gym, at the game, at work, in letters to the editor.  Search long and hard for the things that both of you like and value, and focus your attention, laserlike, on those things.  Let those shared values form the basis for a civil conversation that celebrates the things we all love about our country.
  • I want my children and grandchildren (may we be so blessed), to lead happy, healthy, and safe lives enjoying the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
  • I value a strong economy where everyone is enabled and encouraged to find or even create a good job that gives them the chance to exercise their talents and abilities, provide for their well-being, and contribute productively to our common good.
  • I want our country to continue to be a model and a shining light for freedom and liberty and tolerance and diversity.
  • I hope that the USA can continue to be a force for good around the world, both by our example and by sharing our time, talent, and treasure.
  • I want America to continue to protect its neediest citizens even as it provides the foundation upon which its most talented citizens build successful lives.
  • I value a natural environment surrounding me that reflects the diversity, productivity, and resilience found in healthy ecological systems, and that provides at the least cost possible, breathable clean air, drinkable pure water, and delicious healthy food.
  • I hope that all of our communities can continue to provide the structures that support our comfortable and productive lives: fire and police protection; good roads; abundant greenways, parks and playing fields; power utilities; water and waste utilities; engineering and safety standards; objective journalism outlets; and communications networks.
  • I value an educational system that provides a common, excellent learning experience for all of us, that teaches about the things that make the USA a beacon around the world, and that shares the best understanding we have of history, language, science, society, and mathematics with all of our students.
  • I want our elected and appointed leaders to respect our history, understand this world in which we live, value our diversity, appeal to the best in each of us, and bring us together as they improve our union.
  • I hope my children and grandchildren will, as I do, feel a lump in their throat or a tear in their eye whenever they hear or sing The Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, and God Bless America.

Lady Liberty on a visit in June, 2009

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