Change revisited

With Barack Obama's victory in Iowa, some of the presidential candidates had a belated epiphany: the voter's want change. Something Obama and John Edwards had been signaling for months. Suddenly, both the Republicans and the Democrats breathlessly insisted that to a person they were agents of change. In fact, change was the word du jour for both Iowa and New Hampshire.

And in the context of change, it was impossible to watch the recent back to back, Democratic-Republican debates in New Hampshire and not realize that indeed the party of FDR and JFK had fielded a group of candidates that mirrors America as it is becoming. There, seated before the moderator, was a woman, an African-American, a Latino and a Southern Anglo. The contrast to the Republicans was remarkable.

This is change personified.

For so many reasons, this election is historic. A crossroads. Born of seven years of bitterness and war, of divisiveness and scandal, and an economy sliding into recession, there is a palatable hunger across the country for a new politic, for new solutions that call forth the best in all of us. And if the world is watching, for all of the damage the current administration has done to the reputation of the U.S. internationally, well, it would be hard not to conclude thus far that America is still a crucible of democracy where an individual with a story such as Obama's &

a father from Kenya, raised in Indonesia and Hawaii &

can step forward and aspire to the presidency. Ditto Edwards, Clinton and Richardson (who recently withdrew from the contest).

Regarding change: Though abstract and begging for specificity, it is one of those single syllable words that glides ever so easily off the tongue. "The time has come for change." But it is also true that given this singular moment it doesn't have to be defined. All who hear it used by Democrats on the stump and in town hall meetings know exactly what it means and what must happen beginning in January, 2009. Those to whom the torch will be passed (it is unimaginable that a Romney or Giuliani will be chosen as president) must begin the immensely difficult task of unwinding what has been a long and dark tenure by an administration that has done far more damage than we can even begin to imagine.

The list for change is long and now infamous. It is domestic and it is international. And if our legislators love our country more than they love their ideology, then there is a great deal that can and must be accomplished in relatively short order.

The winter of 2009 can be a new beginning, and, in the words of Obama, the moment when we say, collectively, "Yes, we can." We can assemble the best and brightest from across the nation and around the world and begin the hard work of solving global warming. We can engineer and build and invent our way to a world that is fashioned on sustainability. We already have the technology to start. That which is not available we can create. For this generation and the next and those that follow this challenge could be one of the most remarkable undertakings of mankind. Think of what is at stake. Consider the challenge. It takes your breath away. All that we need is the commitment and the international will. We can do this. And we must try.

We can completely re-frame the worldwide conflict with Islam, beginning with Iraq. This civil war is doing incalculable harm to the Middle East and to America. The resources so necessary to the U.S. and the world community are being squandered at a stunning rate, as are the countless lives of our troops and Iraqis. Any candidate who says that the surge has been a success should be resoundingly defeated, for it is a three-legged chair being offered up. The only measurement of the success of the surge should be its impact on the civilian government of Iraq: are the Shias and the Sunnis able to find common ground? Thus far they have not, and so our national nightmare continues. Iraqis must want peace for themselves; we cannot want it for them. And so must the Arab world. Meanwhile, our young troops sacrifice and die while progress is measured in how many soldiers and civilians were killed in any given month. Note that 2007 was the deadliest year since the invasion.

We can solve the issue of health care. Not by creating ever more intricate and for profit private sector scaffolding which props up the insurance and pharmaceutical companies as the Republicans call for. But by bringing together once and for all our best and brightest from all sectors of the health care industry and creating a system that leaves no one behind. Not our children, not the elderly and not the poor. We can do this. And we must try. It would be an astonishing gift to Americans. And what else is service to one's nation about if not making such change?

We can abandon in all haste No Child Left Behind and call for a national dialogue by all those involved in educating our children with the intention of revamping public education while asking ourselves what we could possibly love more than our children. To lose even one generation is morally bankrupt. Testing alone is a canard that has been sold as a panacea. There is a definition of solid accountability that transcends such reductionistic thinking and it resides with classroom teachers and their students. We need to ask them.

We can once again turn to our Constitution and away from "rendition" and torture and operating black sites and a place called Guantanamo. We can once again be a country where the rule of law trumps cronyism and habeas corpus is revered. Where we never wiretap the citizenry without warrants. We can rebuild the lives of those citizens leveled by Katrina and thereby say to all Americans that should disaster visit, you will not be forgotten. This we promise. We can rebuild our infrastructure and put hundreds of thousands to work in the process. We can reexamine NAFTA and rethink those tax incentives that encourage off-shoring millions of manufacturing jobs.

This is what is meant by change. It is time to be bold. To be courageous. To give voice to our ideals once again. We can do this. Yes, we can.

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