The presidential campaign erupts into debates and town meetings. We hear people saying that maybe this presidential election will be the one that will ignite the younger generation and inspire them to get involved. Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain have opposing ideologies and philosophies. Their common denominator is that they love our nation and want to make a difference.
Both candidates have a deep sense of civic pride. They possess their own understanding of government, patriotism and what it means to be a good citizen. Those values were nurtured by the way they were raised. Unfortunately, today's generation has been cheated of such an upbringing.
During the 1970's, many courses that dealt with civics explained the nuts and bolts of how the US government functions and is organized, as well as the responsibility of citizens. These courses were eliminated from many secondary schools. In large measure, this occurred due to the divisiveness and cynicism created by the Viet Nam War and its' aftermath.
Due to those circumstances, there are few venues that expose and educate young people to the positive values of patriotism, common civic duty and service to our country and community. Most young people, if asked about local, state or federal government, don't have a clue about how it works or functions. Even more troubling is that so many young people are cynical and even at a young age feel participation in government at any level is a waste of time.
Too often, patriotism is associated with military service and is only spoken of in times of national crisis. A true patriot is a citizen who is committed to the ideals of his or her nation, which are best expressed in the nation's constitution. He or she is also the person willing to commit themselves to public service.
Unfortunately, the present generation seems more self-absorbed with material success and individualism rather than strengthening the quality of life for the common good. We possess so much technology that could advance the common good. Too often, we get distracted by so much nonsense that blocks us from doing and seeing the right thing.
After the tragic events of 9/11, for a brief time we saw a renewed commitment to nationalism and patriotism. People were willing to stand up, reach out and support one another. For months after September 11th, churches, synagogues and mosques were crowded. People were coming together and praying for peace. Countless people volunteered and sacrificed their valuable time to help the 9/11 victims and their families.
Much has happened in our nation since 9/11. We are a nation at war. Thousands of young men and women have lost their lives in that armed conflict. Our economy is suffering, gas prices are surging and a record number of home owners are in danger of losing their homes.
We need to reclaim an American patriotism that is grounded in sacrifice, public service and community service. We must educate the present generation as to the value and the need for committed public servants who are committed to the common good. We need to encourage the present generation to sacrifice some of their own ambitions for the sake of serving our nation. We must raise their awareness to the value of their contribution and to the fact that their involvement can make a difference that will help to make a better America.
Why are so few young Americans interested in public service, running for public office or being involved in our political process? Not being exposed to the value of public service and not understanding the full working of our governmental system is part of the problem. However, the greatest factor for why young people have no interest in public service and the political process is the rampant corruption and
dishonesty within the system and the way the media exploits and destroys people in public life.
We are probably the richest and most prosperous nation in the world. We value our freedom and opportunities. In principle, we believe that everyone has the right to become whatever he or she wishes to be. Education is a priority. With all that being said, are the two leading candidates for president the best we have to offer?
Every state in the union has countless men and women who are brilliant, powerful, dynamic and capable of leading the people of our nation, but we never hear about them. The two men running for president are bright and very talented, but are they the best of the best?
Why don't the best of the best choose public service and government as a career? If you choose a life of public service, you run the risk that everything you have done since birth will be under the microscope and available to the scrutiny of the world. If you made poor choices as an adolescent or young adult or if you battled any kind of emotional or mental illness, whether serious or not so serious, all of that is for public consumption.
In addition to your own life being dissected, your spouse, significant other, children, extended family and friends are also fodder for the press and the media. A growing number of very talented Americans are asking the question: "Is it worth destroying your family and/or someone you love for the sake of the nation?"
Many former politicians have been under the media microscope and have had their careers and families' reputations blemished unfairly. Thomas Eagleton, former senator and vice presidential candidate was crucified in the press because he acknowledged that he battled depression and sought counseling and medication. Geraldine Ferraro, former congresswoman and vice presidential candidate, was also crucified by the media because her college age son had a problem with drug use. The media attempted to make her look like an irresponsible and neglectful mother. Senator Hillary Clinton continues to deal with unfair exploitation because of her marriage to former President Bill Clinton. The list of dynamic public servants who have been unfairly scrutinized around issues and circumstances that are no one's business is endless. They clearly have nothing to do with a person's capacity to effectively lead our nation.
In recent times, disturbing data has surfaced about President John F. Kennedy, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in regards to how they managed their private and personal lives. An interesting note: allegedly, the press was very aware of these dynamic leaders' private lives and made the decision, for the sake of the nation and their families, not to exploit them.
The press and the media have clearly lost respect for the dignity of the human person. We must challenge them to renegotiate those boundaries and parameters. If new lines are drawn and respected, more and more of America's finest would probably be open to government service. People choosing public service should be prepared to suffer, but not be martyred - that seems to go against the fundamental principles of our Constitution!