Friday, July 29, 2011

Where's the President?

Where’s our President? Maybe, if he dressed up in a red-striped shirt, big black glasses, and a floppy beanie we could find him. He seems to have disappeared, checked out, gone missing in action. After storming off when debt discussions didn’t go well, we haven’t seen much of him. Well, maybe he’s put himself in time-out. I hope he figures out how his actions effect his siblings, I mean the nation, pretty soon so he can try to figure out how to lead. Fortunately for him, he’s got the prayers of some pretty faithful kids behind him.

Last night, my eight-year-old’s prayers were very thoughtful, thorough, and telling , as usual. Here’s an excerpt:

Please, bless our country.

Bless our government,

Especially so that the bad stuff won’t happen again (referring to the Great Depression).

Bless our country.

Bless President Obama to do a better job.

Protect us from spiders.

I think he said it all. May we be spared from bad stuff, may our President lead us well, and may all the spiders stay away. God bless America.

No Apology--Well, Maybe Some

In his book, No Apology, Mitt Romney stresses the importance of maintaining our position as the greatest nation on earth, and never apologizing for it. Never apologize for prosperity. Never apologize for security. And never apologize for liberty.

He’s right. On the point of never backing down from our greatness. But I think some might take “no apology” too far and apply it to everything in life.

I too believe we are the “brightest hope of the world.” Yet can you imagine what our world would be if everyone learned to say those two simple words, “I’m sorry.” Even better, “I was wrong. I’m sorry. Can you forgive me?”

While on a family trip recently, my eight-year-old son was driving my sister’s golf cart and accidentally ran into her fence, breaking several of the boards. After running upstairs crying, locking himself in the room, and vowing he would never drive again, he finally let me in to discuss what had happened. He felt just terrible. He felt so sorry. But he was afraid to tell his uncle and apologize. “He’ll be so mad. He’ll never let me visit again. He’ll kick me out!”

When I assured him that his uncle would understand—many others actually had run into the fence, too, including each of his cousins, a few of their friends, and even myself and his uncle—he felt a little more reassured. I promised him we’d be able to fix it and make everything better. My son finally felt enough courage to go apologize to his uncle and get started fixing the fence. My brother-in-law, of course, wasn’t mad at all, didn’t kick anyone out, and was very appreciative of the apology.

The next day, after a quick trip to the hardware store and a few hours of prying, painting, hammering, and only one bruised finger, the fence was as good as new.

If only all fence-mending were that simple. If only all our problems could be fixed with a few nails, a paintbrush, and a little hard work. But one thing is for certain, any decent repair job begins with a decent apology.

Substance in my Sundae

I’m all for bed-side manners, but when it comes down to it, if my child were having life-saving surgery I would rather have a distant, boring, even down-right rude surgeon who is experienced and competent than one who is understanding and compassionate but has little experience and a less than stellar track record.

I realize my vote isn’t a life-or-death decision, but I feel the same way about my presidential candidates. Take some of our presidential candidates for instance (not mentioning any names, but they may rhyme with Lachman or Lomama)—these are people with charm, wit, fresh voices, and great speech writers. But why would we put them in control of the greatest nation in the world—its military, its economy, its social issues, everything, when they have so little experience or track record to prove what sort of leader they’d be? It’s like sending my five-year-old daughter in to repair a nuclear power plant just because she is so ridiculously adorable and says the most endearing things to all who will listen. Or putting my fourteen-year-old son in charge of the Pentagon because he can tell you anything and everything about military history (actually, he is wise beyond his years and his experience, but setting up battles with miniature army men and deciding strategy for real live soldiers are two very different things).

I just can’t understand how people can so easily give away their votes based on a lovely speech or moving address with few ideas and even less experience to back it up. I do think our President needs to be a strong speaker and confident leader, but also so much more than that. Leadership without substance and experience is like a sundae without ice-cream or chocolate sauce—just a really bad idea—and all we’re left with is a pretty, glass dish that will break if it drops.

We Americans should be smarter than to fall for someone who tells us only what we want to hear or promises us something that is too good to be true. We’re not teen-agers who fall for the first pretty face or flattering words that come our way. We should be smarter than that, but are we? Because if not, I know a pretty charming five-year-old, and an awfully bright 14 year-old who have some interesting ideas about democracy. How old do you have to be to run for President?

Friday, July 8, 2011

No Ordinary American, Please

Some people complain about Mitt Romney not really being warm and fuzzy—I’ve actually seen him with his grandchildren, when no cameras were snapping shots, no reporters were jotting notes, and he seemed to me like a wonderful, kind, loving, grandpa with his grandkids fighting over who would get to sit on his lap and play games with him.

But, as “normal” as he is with his family, I don’t want him to be an “ordinary guy.” We have plenty of ordinary guys running the show. I want someone “extraordinary” heading our country. So, when I hear complaints about how he can’t relate to the average American, I say “Good.” He isn’t the average American. And the President of the United States should not be average. He should be so far beyond average that the rest of the world will look at him and know he means business. They will know he represents the greatest country in the world in a manner befitting the greatest country in the world.

I wouldn’t want the average American running our country. Does the average American know much about the national deficit? Looking at the amount of credit card debt most Americans have, I’d say probably not. Does the average American know much about turning around the economy? Looking at the number of people in foreclosure or bankruptcy, I’d say probably not. Does the average American even know much about America’s government and history? When a recent Newsweek poll showed many Americans can’t name the Vice-President, or don’t know what the US fought against in the Cold War, I’d say, probably not.

Our nation is made up of so many wonderful people with varied backgrounds and skill sets and knowledge—it’s part of what makes our nation so outstanding. And our nation is just that—outstanding. But we need an outstanding leader as our President. We need someone who understands our nation and its people, not because he’s one of the “average” citizens, but because he has studied our history and the history of the world and knows what makes a country great, he has practiced good business skills and become monetarily successful himself, he has lead organizations, congregations, his state and turned troubles into triumphs. He has personally tried to become the best he can be and can take our nation in the same direction.

None of us can relate to everything about every person in this country. Most of us hardly know our neighbors beyond the streets on which we live. But we can read about the things that are effecting people all over the U.S. We can research the issues that are challenging our society. We can get involved in our communities. We can write letters to our political leaders to voice our opinions. We can vote. And we can choose an extraordinary leader for our extraordinary nation.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Celebrating Freedom

Only in America

Nothing says “America” like a good old-fashioned 4th of July parade. Is there anything more patriotic, not to mention amazing, than being on a street with crowds of thousands of people who rise to their feet and actually stand in silence, hand over hearts, as our military representatives march by carrying our nation’s beautiful flag?

There are few things in summer I love like the Freedom Festival parade in Provo, Utah. We try to visit there every year to enjoy the festivities. From the first sound of the motorcycle police brigade doing their drill formations at the head of the parade, to the firing of the George Q. Cannon from the BYU ROTC at the end of the parade, I feel like I am in patriotic paradise.

Every high school marching band that shuffles by playing military marches and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” every Star Wars costume-clad storm trooper each holding one of our 50 states’ flags, every convertible carrying Congressmen and Council members, and every glittery float with “scholarship contest” beauties from surrounding towns, all remind me of the many freedoms and joys we celebrate as a nation, especially this time of year.

But maybe the most surprisingly moving part of the whole parade is the crowd of what seems like hundreds of Mormon missionaries walking together down the parade route dressed in their white shirts and ties and their little black name tags. The hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the sidewalks give the greatest cheers to these young men and women out representing their church and serving their Lord. Children rush into the road to give high-five’s to every passing missionary they can possibly reach. Whistles, shouts, cheers, and wild clapping echo all the way up the street as they approach and follow them like waves as they pass.

Perhaps they’re the favorites of the crowd not only because of their Mormon heritage in a Mormon town, but because these young men and women represent everything this great nation was founded upon—hard work, sacrifice, freedom of religion, and faith in God. It’s no wonder children are screaming for them like they’re rock stars and mothers are watching them with tears in their eyes while fathers are swallowing the lumps in their throats. This is patriotism at its finest, and what blessings of liberty we have to celebrate in this great nation! May we all do our part to preserve them.