On an anxious night in July of 1979, Jimmy Carter addressed the American people. “Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy,” he said to a country beleaguered by the injustices of Vietnam, embittered by dishonesty of Watergate, and uneasy from the murders of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.
As he took his seat in the oval office he faced a nation not only losing faith, but losing hope in their cold struggle against a mysterious and feared enemy cloaked by an iron curtain in the Far East. “For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years.”
As March 19th was checked off on our calendars, so too was our fourth full year in Iraq as George W. Bush turned to speak to a nation akin to that of 1979. A nation of people that, more than ever before in the history of our government, has grown detached from Washington. For four years we have pointed fingers from a distance. The cries of New Orleans agitated us as we listened from the banks of the Mississippi; the blood in Iraq angered us as we sat by our televisions, flipping to the news only during commercials. We see Afghanistan, a nuclear Iran, a guarded North Korea, student loan increases, global warming, a failed health care system and we have bowed our heads to our flag, disgraced to be American.
We blame the Bush administration, the misguided politics, the inflated egos and personal agendas. Yet it is imperative that we realize the ineptitudes of our government in no way give us, the people of this country, an excuse for our problems. Our declining faith in their ability should be our fuel to become more involved, to stand up, and restore hope to this country.
If you believe New Orleans should sing again, go help a father build his home. Help him pick his seven-year-old daughter’s life out of Katrina’s dirt. If you suffer for the widowed wives and empty dinner tables of our troops in Iraq, then raise your voice. Sit up to walk the streets of Washington, lay down before a tank in Tiananmen Square, write to change the world, fight for our generation, take the reigns of this country and the passion of your heart in your own hands and change a nation.
Yes, it is true that in a democracy it is an inevitability that we look towards our elected officials to run this county. And yes, they have failed in creating a stronger and better America. Yet, our failure looms even larger than theirs. For as the generations have past and the dust has built upon our constitution, we have failed to admit that although our elected officials hold the power to run our country, they do not have the power to define our country. We must embrace the power we have to restore our decency, pride and love for America. We have seen this strength before. In one of our country’s darkest moments it was not our president, Gerald Ford, who delivered us from the evil of Vietnam; it was our fathers and mothers, then students who vehemently railed to restore righteousness to our home.
Jimmy Carter acknowledged this power of the American will as his speech continued, “We know the strength of America. We are strong. We can regain our unity. We can regain our confidence.” After six years, it is time to stop looking at President Bush for answers, and start searching within ourselves. For if we do, we will join the thus far seamless chain of American generations whose next five years will be better than the past five years.
Corey Ciorciari is a sophomore majoring in creative writing and international studies. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.