As one of you pointed out, '"I'm the candidate of change" [is] one of those obligatory statements that all candidates make.' That's true--when the incumbent isn't running. I suppose what annoys me is the country's-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket tone.
The day after Iowa all the talk was about change. And fear. I heard NPR's two Davids opine about middle class malaise. How everyone's afraid they're going to lose their house. Or their job. Or their health insurance. Or all three in one fell swoop. At first I wanted to slap all the whiny middle class crybabies. Then I got to thinking: They only repeat what they hear on the campaign trail. And what they hear is gloom and doom.
OK, you can't run an effective campaign whose theme is "It's not that bad." Bush I tried it to counter the Clintonian double whammy of "It's the economy, stupid" and what I like to call Health Insurance Scare I. But the truth is that it isn't that bad. And even if it were, who would trust any of these change artists to actually fix it?
They're all running against something. But they're not for anything.
Obama's big claim to fame is that he didn't vote for the war. That he wasn't in any position to vote for the war, having not yet been elected, is beside the point. Edwards, the filthy rich ambulance chaser, is against the rich. Hillary is for ... Huckabee is against Mormons.
I'm not talking about so-called negative campaigning. I'm all for attacking the other guy's record. Or his rhetoric. An individual's words and actions are fair game. I'm talking about rallying people to reach for better things rather than treating them like victims.
But I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier. My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age--to all who respond to the Scriptural call: "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed."
For courage--not complacency--is our need today--leadership--not salesmanship. And the only valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously. A tired nation, said David Lloyd George, is a Tory nation--and the United States today cannot afford to be either tired or Tory.
Who calls upon the American people's courage today? Or believes in that courage? Or in the country?
I've seen America from the stadium press box as a sportscaster, as an actor, officer of my labor union, soldier, officeholder and as both a Democrat and Republican. I've lived in America where those who often had too little to eat outnumbered those who had enough. There have been four wars in my lifetime and I've seen our country face financial ruin in the Depression. I have also seen the great strength of this nation as it pulled itself up from that ruin to become the dominant force in the world.
To me our country is a living, breathing presence, unimpressed by what others say is impossible, proud of its own success, generous, yes and naive, sometimes wrong, never mean and always impatient to provide a better life for its people in a framework of a basic fairness and freedom.
Someone once said that the difference between an American and any other kind of person is that an American lives in anticipation of the future because he knows it will be a great place. Other people fear the future as just a repetition of past failures. There's a lot of truth in that. If there is one thing we are sure of it is that history need not be relived; that nothing is impossible, and that man is capable of improving his circumstances beyond what we are told is fact.