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The election of our lives is upon us

I have spent many an autumn stumping around for political campaigns. By car, bus, foot and plane I have traipsed all over Indiana, promoting candidates for public office and carrying their message to voters. Each year, we have had an overriding issue that needed to be addressed, and we encouraged citizens to lend their hands to the solution of the problems by casting their ballots in the upcoming election. This is year is no exception.
However, I am sure you are aware that this is indeed the election of our lifetime. We are mired in issues, any one of them tantamount to a major crisis. We have been bombarded with one breaking news alert after another.
We hear of the dangers of overuse of fossil fuels in everything from the depletion of our atmosphere to our national security risks imposed by energy dependence upon foreign oil. At times, we are warned we can’t eat fish out of our waters or breathe the air over our cities. Altering our environment has increased the intensity of natural disasters, and Hurricane Ike recently reached into Southern Indiana with its devastating consequences.
We ponder why children in other countries are often getting better educations than our public schools provide. So many of them know more math and science ‘ the foundation of progress ‘ and even more about our history than many of us do ourselves. As unemployment in Indiana has hit a 21-year high, college tuition has skyrocketed. We worry about how we will be able to compete in this global society in the future.
We are aware from personal experience of the consequence of unavailable or expensive medical services. In the United States, 45 million of our citizens have no health insurance. For most of these, insurance is simply unaffordable. Half of our bankruptcy claims are due to medical needs and three-fourths of those citizens had health insurance when their illness started. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. is 37th in the world in quality of health care. We know our medical system is broken and that it must be repaired in order that our nation might be well.
We realize that in this day and age of technology, we are close neighbors to all people and conditions on this planet. We are a generous nation, and we rise to the needs of other countries through our nonprofit organizations and our government’s foreign assistance programs. Yet, we find ourselves involved in international conflicts, and we often misunderstand other countries just as they misunderstand us. Visions of terrorists, guns and war sit in the back of our minds and fill us with distrust and fear.
And then there is the economy! Oh my! What a jolt to find ourselves totally overwhelmed by the international turmoil of the economic institutions and systems we had previously assumed were stable. We felt that as Americans we were safe, living in a society that had learned money lessons from the past and had insured that we would always be economically sound as a nation. Now we ask how we will be able to pay our bills, hold onto our homes, buy a car or even if we will ever be able to retire.
How interrelated and complex are all these matters! When the insurance company AIG nearly collapsed, we heard that if it were allowed to do so, all the world economy would falter. If the bird flu strikes thousands of miles overseas, we must examine our ability to handle its spread to our own cities and towns. Terrorists attacked the symbols of our economic and military might on Sept. 11, 2001, and in October 2008 more destruction hit Wall Street, this time of our own making. When a country is economically weak, it loses its military advantage in a world where the balance of power controls war and peace.
Follow this sad scenario: 1. A retailer can’t get a loan to buy inventory for the holiday season. 2. Their employees get laid off from work. 3. The unemployed workers lose their health insurance. 4. The kids get sick, can’t go to the doctor and down go their school attendance and learning skills. 5. Financially stressed or ill citizens make poor decision-makers and under-involved responsibility-takers, and so on and on and on. It may sound like a gross exaggeration, but you get the drift of the downward slope. You may even be on it yourself or know someone who is.
We are not only a tough, resilient people, we are innovative and optimistic, and we will come out of all this stronger and better than we were. But it will take what it always has for a society to prosper: the best we all have to offer.
I know at times my partisan politics bent shows, but I can honestly say that I daily pray that we citizens in this election might be capable of selecting the absolute best team of leaders for our future. I believe that my views in this election are true to what I believe in my personal life and public activity. But folks, I don’t think I am the know-it-all of everything. Wise and caring people have views that differ from mine. It is with sincerity that I harp on the need for all of us to study the issues and the candidates and choose who to the best of our ability we think can do the best job in these challenging times.