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Davis, California

Sunday, April 21, 2024

The Defining Moments

Dear Americans,

You have a tremendous stake in this election. Our nation has reached a pivotal moment, a time that should not and must not be ignored, in her history. We face an imminent choice, and we have to make a decision – soundly, carefully, deliberately and with haste.

The challenges our nation faces are manifold. At home, we confront a recessing economy, dysfunctional administration, gridlocked legislature, tarnished reputation and declining values. Abroad, regimes with skewed interests are proliferating, petro-authoritarian governments are gaining influence, democracy is under assault. These are not trivial.

Most of all, the confidence and energy that once characterized our national character seems to be ebbing away, displaced by a sense of insecurity and hesitation. The world’s trust in America has been shaken. But it seems that ours has been too.

Those are the problems, and Washington is where the problem starts. The problem with Washington is not just excess. It is irrelevance. Take the most recent financial meltdown. At the moment when American financial markets – as well as credit, the lifeblood of capitalism – stumbled and froze, the conspicuous missing element was not only confidence, but leadership. Washington couldn’t exercise authority or influence, hampered by a staggering distrust in the president and exacerbated by a deadlocked legislature.

Why is this? Because some leaders we elected primed politics over mutual resolutions, favored certain special interests, ignored global problems and missed new opportunities for growth and unity. As a nation, we lost collectively.

How do we confront, even resolve, this problem? By taking action. There are certain times when the costs and calculus of inaction outweighs action, and inaction is a luxury we cannot afford and a theme we should not subscribe to right now. To succeed is the need to maintain a keen vigilance. At both an individual and collective level, we must participate and engage actively in the public discourse and the electoral process.

And this begins by demanding Washington start paying attention to the most pressing issues in the country, including health care reform, stricter corporate oversight, alternative energy exploration and immigration review. At a community level, we also can play our respective roles – in classrooms, in schools, in churches, all for the betterment of our nation.

Our roads and buildings are similarly in serious need of repair and upgrades. But investing capital into our infrastructure isn’t enough; our strongest asset, the capacity for innovation, needs to be reprioritized. Exploration of the next scientific frontier – biotechnology – is crucial, as well as our refocus and re-emphasis of math. Education – and a good fundamental education, at that – has to take ultimate precedence over short-term gains. These are the primary arenas that define the new world order, a field we must master to compete in the global economy.

2008 will be remembered as the precise moment when America confronted her cathartic moment, when the very ideals that made her great – an unyielding belief in the power of ideas, a firm commitment to democratic virtues, an undoubted dedication to inspire – came under threat. Will 2008 go down in the annals of history as the moment when a nation regressed and faltered, lost in hubris, or the moment when she reinvented herself and rediscovered her capacity for leadership? Will this moment define her, or will she define this moment?

That choice is yours.

Yours concerned.

Same place, same time, same person, same e-mail! ZACH HAN waits again for your e-mail at zklhan@ucdavis.edu 


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