On Nov. 4, Americans from all walks of life will partake in a sacred civic tradition that began more than 200 years ago with the election of George Washington as the first democratically elected leader of the free world. Much has changed since 1789 but what continues to unite Americans of all colors and creeds are the same values that led a band of patriots to stand up to the mightiest empire tin existence and declare that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
These values were to be tested as we sought to perfect our union over the years and freedom lived on because time and again, Americans rose up and met the challenges that faced them. That is the genius of this nation: every election, the people have the opportunity to renew their government and elect leaders that can rise up and meet the challenges with them.
Today, we meet at one of those pivotal points when history calls upon us once again. We meet at a time when our economy is in trouble, our country is at war on two fronts, when Main Street is hurting and Wall Street is in the middle of the worst crises since the Great Depression. We meet at a time when our soldiers are dying in a war that should have never been fought, when Americans are working harder for less, when 47 million of us have no health insurance and more than 2 million are facing foreclosures. We meet at a time when the world is yearning for American leadership to meet the common challenges of the 21st century -- of climate change and global warming, of poverty and disease, and terrorism and nuclear proliferation. We meet at a time when America's image abroad has been tarnished by an administration that has little regard for the values of the United States or the Constitution that binds the country together.
A time when a deficit of leadership has led to record deficits and debt, at a time for solutions, Washington has only given us more of the same old politics of division and partisanship. At a time for diplomacy, Washington pursued a "with us or against us" approach to international relations. At a time for a new direction Washington is looking back and playing the blame game, Washington has let us down and the Bush Administration has failed us -- not once but over and over again for nearly a decade. It is time for Change.
On Nov. 4, we will be faced with a choice for the next president of the United States of America: two patriots who have served this nation and who are running for the highest office in land because they believe that America's better days are yet to come.
But it is a clear choice: on one hand, we have a senior senator from Arizona who has served this nation heroically in uniform, but who is offering little in terms of taking this country in a new direction. John McCain himself has said that, "on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I've been totally in agreement and support of President Bush." On the other hand, we have a young Senator from Illinois who is offering a different kind of politics and a new approach -- a politics of hope and of real, meaningful change in how business is conducted in Washington.
"We love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight," he has said.
And on issue after issue there is an every apparent contrast between the two.
On the economy, Barack Obama is offering a new stimulus package -- something the McCain camp once mocked, but which has now been proposed by the Fed and Treasury as well as the Bush White House. Obama is proposing tax cuts for the 95 percent of American families at a time when they need it most. John McCain wants to continue the Bush-tax policies for the richest corporations and people in America, which, by the time of their expiration, will have cost us $1.3 trillion. Apart from that, it is also a matter of judgment when it comes to dealing with the financial crisis. On Sept. 15, the same day the Dow Jones industrial average plunged more than 500 points, John McCain said, "the fundamentals of our economy are strong."
On Sept. 24, he "suspended" his campaign because America was facing "a historic crisis in our financial system" and "we must pass legislation to address this crisis." Obama showed leadership, temperament and good judgment -- as he has with other issues -- and laid out a six-point plan to deal with the economic crisis.
On the war in Iraq, Obama showed the right judgment in 2002 before we went into Iraq in opposing a war that he said would "require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences ... that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world and strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda."
McCain, by contrast, argued that "we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time" and that "there's no doubt in my mind that once these people (the Saddam Hussein regime) are gone that we will be welcomed as liberators." Obama's proposal for timetable for withdrawal and calls for diplomacy -- long dismissed and mocked by the Republicans -- are now being pursued by the Bush Administration. How about electing someone who gets it right the first time?
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On education, Obama offers $4,000 toward college tuition for students and will in return ask our young people to volunteer to serve their communities. He wants to make sure that every young man and woman who wants to go to college can do so, regardless of his or her ability to pay. He also wants to invest in early childhood education and improve teaching science and math. McCain seeks to improve the No Child Left Behind Act, but offers no tax credit toward tuition costs.
On health care, Obama believes it is the right of every American to have access to affordable and accessible health care, which is why he is proposing $50-65 billion to help lower premiums for all families and save American taxpayers, on average, $2,500 per year. John McCain's plan is to give $5,000 for use toward health care costs -- which will be taxed -- while the average cost is $12,000 annually.
On the environment, both Obama and Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware acknowledge the existence of global warming as a man-made phenomenon and believe we must take action to fight it. Obama plans to invest in cleaner, renewable energy sources and new technologies that would eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern and Venezuelan oil in ten years. His energy plan will lead to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. McCain's plan is similar in some aspects, but does not contain the 10-year goal of eliminating our dependence on foreign oil. Instead, it aims at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2050. The McCain camp's slogan and solution for dealing with high gas prices has been "drill here, drill now." However, currently there are about 70 million acres of leased areas -- both offshore and on land -- that the oil companies are not even drilling in. Further, drilling would not affect gas prices in the near future as the oil could take a decade to make it into the market -- not to mention it could destroy wildlife preserves, such as the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Obama is not opposed to all drilling, but insists that because "we cannot drill our way out of the problem," we must pursue a more cohesive and comprehensive plan to achieve energy independence and fight global warming.
The above-mentioned are only some of the main issues and the different approaches the candidates have taken in addressing them. When it comes down to it, we have two candidates who are offering two distinct directions for the future of our economy and our country. Obama's plan is the more progressive and forward looking one -- albeit ambitious. But since when has ambition and hope become negative things? It is hope, ambition and the search for new frontiers that has made this country the greatest nation on Earth.
Whether we agree with a certain candidate's proposals, the important thing to keep in mind is that they are just that: proposals. It is going take what Obama has called a "working majority," a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, to get the job done. It is going to take a president who is willing and able to reach across the aisle, to encourage and inspire not just members of his own party but of the other one as well, to accomplish the solutions that we so desperately need. We also need a president who will restore America's image abroad through tough diplomacy and through working in concert with our allies to meet the common challenges we face. The partisan politics of the last eight years and the "with us or against us" mentality have not worked and will not work. It is time for a new course, a new direction. It is time for Change.
I am voting for Obama because he has inspired me to believe that "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America" and that "the men and women who serve in our battlefields ... have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag." That "they have not served a Red America or a Blue America -- they have served the United States of America." He has inspired me to believe in the common decency of every person, a belief in the American promise and the common hopes and dreams that unite us all. My experiences as a grassroots volunteer have only reaffirmed my belief in those principles -- in a Republican neighborhood in Ohio and in the projects on the East side of Richmond, in small towns like Scranton and in big cities like Philadelphia, alike.
Barack Obama does not just offer change as a slogan, he has lived it -- as a community organizer and later as a civil rights lawyer at a time when he had other, more lucrative alternatives. That says a lot about a person's character. He does not preach hope with blind optimism, but rather with the belief that "together ordinary people can do extraordinary things" and that "nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices for change."
We have seen much of the same old fear-mongering and dirty politics of the past in this election and we will continue to see more. But "in the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?"
I have chosen the politics of hope, and I hope you will join me in voting for Barack Obama as our next president.
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