Tag Archives: Election 2008

My Big Question for the politicians out there

Awestruck in Mt. Rainier National Park

Awestruck in Mt. Rainier National Park

There are all kinds of things people point to when they talk about the roots of our very blessed and fortunate country: our “melting pot” foundation which levarages the desire of every human being to live in safety and happiness; our constitution which is a brilliantly vague and lasting declaration and definition of freedom; our tripartite form of government (which has taken a real beating in the last few decades and may be poised to turn a new corner into something better).

To me, one of the shining examples of just how good we can be–how forwarding thinking, how able to act on idealism–is our National Parks, and our complementary State Parks.

I grew up in a family that was really taken by the generosity of our National Park System–my grandfather thought our parks were the best marker of our civility; my dad was wild about the western parks and every summer we headed out for a new camping adventure: Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Death Valley. In between we camped in our beautiful California parks: Joshua Tree, Big Sur, Carpinteria, el Capitan, the Redwoods parks, Los Osos, on and on.

The first National Park in the world was Yellowstone, and it was designated such in the 1870s by Ulysses S. Grant–imagine the times: we had just come out of a bloody and devestating civil war. General Grant had the expansive vision to recognize our better self, to see beauty and hold it dear.

From that point, successive presidents, governors, activists, and visionaries have worked to set aside areas for our common good, common use, as places that would raise our collective consciousness toward beauty and majesty.

Recently some friends and I stayed at the renovated lodge at Mt. Rainier. The original lodge was built in 1916–imagine that: the world is heading into war and still we’re able to see beyond our calamities to imagine a loftier future. It’s a beautiful old lodge with a lot of original features that were put in place through PWA projects in the 30’s–and imagine that: gov sponsored art allotments during a global and domestic depression.

The thing that kept striking me as we hiked the well-maintained trails and enjoyed the massive gift of this park that is maintained through our collective desire to make such a thing possible was this: we enjoy a country that was envisioned by hard working dreamers, true visionaries. Our love of beauty, our shared taxes, and our collective willingness as a country made this possible under the guidance of leaders willing to dream really really big.

When I consider this, I get sort of sick when I hear candidates focus on less taxes, less government, less and less and less of the very things that have made the country they now take for granted. Those same individuals stand on the shoulders of giants. People who put muscle into their dreams–who talked less and did more.

Founder of the National Park System

Founder of the National Park System

Here’s one: Stephen Mather. Mather was an business man, an industrialist, conservationist, and a guy who recognized that our parks were a crown jewel of the nation. He left the business world after a string of successes and focused his energies on creating the network we now know as the National Parks System. Imagine: here’s a brilliant and wildly successful entrepreneur who, in 1916, a period of great turmoil, uses his skills and talents to enrich all of us, not just himself. His goal: to make the entire park system accessible to all so that they might experience the natural beauty of our country.

That’s vision. That’s patriotism. That’s determination. We have never been at our best when we think small. We have always been at our best when we think big.

So here’s My Big Question for the candidates out there, at every level: 100 years from now, what would the plaque that memorializes YOU say? What do YOU want to put in place that will last well into the next century, that will lift enough hearts up that we want to remember YOU?

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A side-by-side view of Acceptance Night Speeches: Promises Made

McCain Obama
Taxes
• Keep taxes low and cut them where he could.
• Double the child tax exemption from $3,500 to $7,000.
• Cut the business tax rate to help American companies compete and keep jobs from moving overseas.
Taxes
• Cut taxes “for 95 percent of all working families.”
• “Eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses” and start-ups “that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.”
• Advocate “a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.”
• “Stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas” and “start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.”
Energy
• Produce more energy at home.
• Drill new wells offshore.
• Build more nuclear power plants.
• Develop clean coal technology.
• Increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas.
• Encourage the development and use of flex fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles.
Energy
• Set a goal that “in 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.”
• “Tap natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.”
• “Help our auto companies retool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America.” Video Watch Obama’s acceptance speech »
• Make it easier for Americans to afford U.S.-built, fuel-efficient cars.
• Have the federal government “invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy — wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels.” Doing so, he said, would “lead to new industries and 5 million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced.”
Education
• Make schools answer to parents and students.
Education
• “Finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education.
• Find more money for early childhood education and recruit teachers with better pay while also pushing “higher standards and more accountability.
• Make sure young Americans can afford college if they serve their community or country.td>
Health care
• Make it easier for more Americans to find and keep good health care insurance.
Health care
• “Finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American.”
• Lower premiums for those who have health care and let those without coverage “get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves.”
• Make sure insurance companies “stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.”
Labor Law
(Did not discuss)
Labor law
• Provide paid sick days and “better family leave” for workers.
• Close the pay gap between the sexes.
Unemployment assistance
• Help workers who’ve lost a job that won’t come back and find a new one that won’t go away.
• Use community colleges to help train people for new opportunities in their communities.
• Retrain workers in industries that have been hard hit and cover the pay difference during retraining.
Unemployment assistance
(Did not discuss)
Bankruptcy Law
(Did not discuss)
Bankruptcy Law
• Change bankruptcy law “so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses.”
Federal spending
• Reduce government spending and get rid of failed programs to “let you keep more of your own money to save, spend and invest as you see fit.”
Federal spending
• Pay for “every dime” of his plans’ costs “by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don’t help America grow.”
• Cut federal programs that don’t work and improve those that do while reducing their costs.
National Defense
(Did not discuss specifics other than assert the Surge was Successful)
National defense
• “End this war in Iraq responsibly and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
• “Only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.”
• “Rebuild our military to meet future conflicts.”
Foreign relations
• A serious blow has been dealt to al Qaeda, but the terror network has not been defeated and will strike again if able.
• Iran is the chief state sponsor of terrorism and on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons.
• Russia’s leaders have rejected democratic ideals, invaded a small, democratic neighbor, Georgia, to gain more control over the world’s oil supply, intimidated other neighbors and have ambitions of reassembling the Russian empire.
Foreign relations
• “Restore our moral standing” in the world.
• Provide “tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.”
• “Build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation, poverty and genocide, climate change and disease.”
Foreign trade
• Open new markets to American goods and services.
• Prepare workers to compete in the world economy.
Foreign trade
(Did not discuss specifics)
Abortion
(Did not discuss specifics)
Abortion
• Work with people on all sides of the issue to reduce unwanted pregnancies.
Gun control
(Did not discuss specifics)
Gun control
• Uphold the Second Amendment but also keep “AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.”
Gay Rights
(Did not discuss)
Gay Rights
• Help ensure that gays and lesbians have the right “to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.”
Illegal Immigration
(Did not discuss specifics)
Illegal Immigration
• Pursue policies that don’t result in separated families.
• Discourage companies from undercutting American wages by hiring illegal workers.
Economy
• Create millions of new jobs, “jobs that will be there when your children enter the work force.”
Economy
(Did not discuss specifics, see Federal Spending above)