Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 6, 2013

A greater America begins with united effort, commitment on grassroots level

By SAMANTHA PERRY
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— I believe the first step in our future — here at home, at Charleston and Richmond, and in Washington — can begin today. Whether one is a Democrat, Republican or Independent, a brighter tomorrow starts at the grassroots level and is built on a united effort for a greater country.

For too long we have worried about the fiscal cliff, pointed fingers at those on opposing sides of the partisan divide and become incensed at ads, blogs and Internet hyperbole aimed at raising our blood pressure while diluting our grey matter. We have put anger above rational thought, craziness above common sense. We have let our passions be highjacked by the faceless, impersonal world of social media. We have abandoned the manners taught by our parents and allowed corporations, PACs and nameless, Internet hate spewers to influence our judgment and voting choices.

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I believe we — the people — have much more power than those currently in charge realize. We are the masses. We have the numbers to re-elect or overthrow. But we tend not to.

I believe entirely too many people have become lackadaisical about elections and the political process. Too many individuals know few, if any, of their elected representatives. They fuss and gripe about the problems in the state and nation, yet when asked they have no idea who is representing them.

I believe President Obama is an easy target — as is any president in office — simply because he is under so much scrutiny. I do not agree with most of his policies or philosophies, but he is my president. I will give him the respect he is due while politely agreeing to disagree. All the while realizing he is only one man, and one part of the equation.

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I believe it is vital to know one’s federal lawmakers, senators and representatives; as well as state legislators and each and every person holding a local office. It is the actions of these individuals that can truly impact us directly and immediately.

I believe civics should be emphasized in schools , and then underscored at home. How can future generations be taught the importance of the political process if they have no idea what’s going on in the world?

I believe parents and other adults are role models to children and teens, and they should wisely wield the power that comes with it. Mentors take many shapes, but most all tout the virtues of hard work, honesty and a good character, and lecture about the dangers of drugs, violence and other social ills.

I believe mentors can teach the basics of the political process and engage youngsters in dialogue about local, state and county governments. Politics can be boring, but it doesn’t have to be.

I believe it’s OK to learn the words of the School House Rock jingle “I’m Just a Bill,” and sing it at the dinner table. Any action or activity, whether serious or silly, that educates children about the governmental process is time well spent.

I believe registering to vote should be a rite of passage. Casting one’s first vote at age 18 should be celebrated with a dinner, cake or, at the very least, five bucks worth of party favor noisemakers so the family can have a goofy, yet heartfelt, celebration at home. Many families don’t blink at shelling out hundreds of dollars for prom dresses, hosiery, hair, shoes, jewelry, tuxedos, corsages and dinner, yet the incredibly significant task of casting a first vote is, too often, barely acknowledged.

I believe there are families who do emphasize the importance of understanding the political system and voting to their children. Kids who grow up in homes where the word democracy is a part of everyday language have an significant advantage over their peers. They know who’s running the show, and the vital process of placing people who share their beliefs in policy-making positions.

I believe being a Democrat, Republican or Independent is secondary to teaching youngsters about the importance of a democratic society. If a teen respectfully disagrees with a parent about a particular candidate, it is a confirmation of America’s wonderful way of life and indicates a job well done by parents.

I believe “yes men” can be as detrimental in the home as the workplace. Parents who have taught youngsters to think for themselves have empowered their children and provided a priceless service to our country. Our nation has no need for more parrots. But an individual with the capacity and courage to think and act outside of society’s self-imposed bounds will be an invaluable asset to our nation’s future.

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I believe, at some point, we must all make a commitment to learning about our country’s problems at home and abroad. Studying these topics may feel like homework and will certainly cut into time spent doing other things. But, as Americans, it is a commitment we must make.

I believe we must all make a resolution to better our nation. The Constitution does not have to be memorized in a weekend, but we can pick one topic to slowly, and consistently, study. If we share our new knowledge with family — especially children and teens — we are at least attempting to rekindle the spark that burned so brightly in our forefathers in 1776.

I believe, in the grand scheme of this nation built on freedom, we can once again embody the core principles on which America was founded.

And I believe if we carelessly shrug off this responsibility we are not only performing a disservice to ourselves, we are chipping away at the foundation on which this country was founded.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.