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New President, New Opportunities

(written just after the 2000 election results were finalized)

"America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is valued and expected… Our public interest depends on private character; on civic duty and family bonds and basic fairness; on uncounted, unhonored acts of decency which give direction to our freedom." Using such stirring and reassuring phrases as these, President George W. Bush gave his finest public speech to date January 20th on the steps of the Capitol building, only minutes after he had been sworn in as the nation’s 43rd President. More importantly, with this speech he took the first step toward healing the ideological and political rift that currently divides our country.

Bush’s words set the needed tone for a nation and a capital city that have become bogged down by political bickering and spiteful namecalling from members of both political parties. These politics of hate have resulted in legislative stagnation and have added to the distrust and repulsion with which many Americans now view the political scene. The last eight years have witnessed headlines dominated by scandals and legal battles, and to many Americans, the highest office in the land is no longer worthy of honor and respect. The unfortunate outcome of the past several years is increased political apathy on the part of many citizens, particularly young people. This lack of interest became apparent when, during one of the most tumultuous elections in our history, voter turnout fell to one of the lowest in our history. We witnessed this apathy again during the volatile “post-election,” when polls indicated that most Americans didn’t even care that the election had not produced a winner.

With the new Bush administration comes a return to the dignity and productivity that should be the hallmarks of our political system. As citizens, we should be excited about the new opportunities for change in this country--and, as key players in the realization of these opportunities, we should be excited about our chance to become active, responsible citizens.

If all of us follow President Bush’s lead and put aside political rancor in a spirit of unity and cooperation, our representatives in Congress will have a greater chance of passing legislation that will benefit all Americans, and together we will heal the wounds that now alienate us. Whatever our political affiliation or ideological beliefs, we need to realize that a continuation of the defensive (and offensive) attitudes of the recent past will only add to the political stagnation that has exasperated so many of us. Now that a new President is in office, our responsibility is to work with and for our new leader--to finally cease the protests and backbiting, and to come together for the country’s sake. I believe that we have already begun the journey toward the fairness, character, and decency that President Bush called for in his inaugural address. This is truly a bright time in our country’s history--if we choose to make it so.

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