In just over a month people will be going to the polls to vote for president and for other candidates. The presidential election will primarily center on these issues: economic growth; jobs and unemployment; government debt and spending; and health care and taxes.
All of these issues are to a certain extent measurable in that we have a sense of how these issues will impact us individually and how they define the overall well-being of the country. But are these the real measures of the health and well-being of America? Does annual economic growth or our unemployment rate, our national debt or the level of government spending or even our tax rates and health care options determine the health and well-being of America?
Richard Lamm, the former Democrat Governor of Colorado, wrote that “… great nations have great citizens, and the kind of future we will have depends on what kind of people we are and what kind of kids we produce.” In other words, the future of the nation depends on what kind of citizens we are, what we teach our children to aspire to be and what values and attributes we pass on to them.
It has long been understood that nations go into decline when the moral character of their citizens go into decline. Not only do large segments of the population neglect their civic responsibilities, but far too many of those who do participate do so primarily out of personal self-interest. And this is not just true for liberals who want to expand entitlement programs to “…spread the wealth around.” It is also true for conservatives who turn a blind eye to government corporate welfare and other programs that benefit them.
Our system of government as a constitutional republic cannot continue indefinitely if half of all Americans who vote are at odds with the other half over fundamental truths and principles regarding the role and scope of government.
We have now reached a point in politics where those from both the Democrat and Republican parties who have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution have become the greatest threat to its relevancy. That is why we are now faced with the prospect of nationalized health care and every citizen being under government compulsion to purchase it.
That said, these people are in office because we either voted for them or stayed home and allowed them to be elected.
Lamm wrote that “America talks endlessly about the follies of its leaders, but what about the follies of its citizens? America in many respects faces more of a ‘citizenship’ problem than a leadership problem.” He continued, “There has been a great unbalancing in America. We have unbalanced community in favor of individualism; responsibilities in favor of rights, and duties in favor of privileges. We want education without study; wealth without work; freedom without participation; and democracy without citizenship.”
When we have almost 40 million people on food stamps; almost 50 percent of all wage earners paying no income tax; almost 40 percent of all children born out-of-wedlock; social classes pitted one against another; and race and gender used for the advancement of a political agenda, society has become unbalanced to the point of tearing the nation apart.
Clearly, these are not the values of a great nation and it is a problem that will not self-correct. It will take leaders with conviction and courage to challenge the American people to a great awakening of the virtues that allowed America to become a great nation.
The Founding Fathers, when crafting the Constitution, assumed that future generations of Americans would possess a strong work ethic and sense of personal responsibility. They trusted that the American people would continue to have enough moral character shaped by faith and family to ensure that our experiment in constitutional government would succeed. They clearly understood America would not survive without these virtues.
As Lamm pointed out, “The Constitution is a structure for citizens who are dedicated and motivated. It will not save a society that does not vote, does not care, has not sense of posterity, and is addicted to hedonism. The Constitution, however brilliant, will not make up for people who have lost the ability to care about the future of their nation.”
Elections reflect our values and unfortunately, millions will cast their votes based not on what is best for the future of the nation, but on what is best for their own perceived short-term interests. As Lamm concluded, this is not a sustainable national agenda: “We must self-correct or perish.”
By the way, Gov. Lamm wrote his article in 1992, twenty years ago.
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