America is at a turning point; and as a people, we must decide what direction to take. Some mistakenly believe we can return to some past period, when America was great – say the Fifties. But those who long for that past need to be reminded things weren't so great for many Americans in the Fifties.
They also need to be reminded that in the Fifties, unions were powerful; and because of that, workers by the millions were able to move their families into the middle class. That was also a time when income tax rates were much, much higher on the wealthiest Americans. Indeed, the top tax rates are now about a third of what they were then.
But as much as some might like to return to some supposedly perfect past, life is not a movie, and it is mission impossible to try to go back to the future.
We must not only decide where we want to go as a country, we must also decide who we are as a people ... decide what it means to be an American ... and decide who gets to be an American. That will require us to communicate with each other and try to build bridges that unite us, rather than build walls that divide us.
Given how divided we are at this moment, that won't be easy, but we are fortunate to have avenues of communication available to us that previous generations couldn't have imagined. The Internet and social media have the potential to promote honest, heartfelt communication, and it's high time they were used for that purpose – rather than to tear each other down. And above all, we cannot afford to have these tools stolen from us by those who would use them to further divide us and bring this country down.
It is time to set our national priorities, as we did in the Great Depression, World War II, and the space program. If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can … well, we need to fill in the blanks. Fortunately, most Americans already substantially agree about some of those goals – universal healthcare, rebuilding our aging infrastructure, regulation of firearms and prohibition of assault weapons, and the need to address climate change.
Many Americans also believe it is high time to make some fundamental changes in our political system. It is abundantly clear the Electoral College has outlived whatever usefulness it once may have had. It has also become obvious that candidates for major offices, including President, Vice-President, Senators, Congresspersons, cabinet officers and Federal judges, should be required to show tax returns for at least the previous ten years.
These officials should also be required to divest themselves of their financial holdings, or at least place them in a true blind trust while serving. These officials and other high-ranking officials and members of their immediate families should also be prohibited from lobbying for at least ten years after leaving office, and preferably be prohibited from lobbying for life.
While these broad outlines are a step in the right direction, the genius, as always, is in the details. To ensure we get the details right requires that we elect people who first and foremost understand that public service is a privilege, and not a turn at the hog-trough. It also requires that we choose people who have the education, energy and experience necessary to fulfill our lofty goals.
To that end, each of us must put aside our prejudices and our partisan past; we must behave in a way that honors all that has been given us ... the blessings that have been bestowed upon us in this land of the free and home of the brave. We must demonstrate that we are worthy of the trust our forefathers placed in us, and we must honor the many who came before us who sacrificed so much so that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this earth.