For two weeks, I watched the Olympics, in which hard work, dedication and sacrifice were rewarded. Then I watched the Democratic National Convention as Sen. Barack Obama's life story unfolded and his plans for the future were put forth. Again, I heard the themes of hard work, dedication and sacrifice emphasized. I was inspired. He and Joe Biden share my values, my priorities. Family. Personal responsibility. A promise to leave the world a better place than we found it. Hope.
This is an historic election. Our nation is at a crossroads and we can't afford to be sidetracked by flag pins or the number of houses a candidate owns.
After eight years of Republican leadership, Americans struggle with fewer jobs, lower incomes and plummeting home values alongside higher healthcare costs, sky-high fuel prices and a soaring national debt. Nevertheless, John McCain still believes that "the fundamentals of our economy are sound." From where I sit, the only "fundamental" that is sound is that it still takes money to buy stuff.
As Harry Reid points out, for the past 28 years " except eight years of President Clinton " we have had oilmen running the country. Look where it's gotten us. Sen. McCain wants to give even more money to big oil in the form of tax breaks for even more drilling.
Senator Obama's plan is to give the tax breaks to the middle class and small businesses " working people who are suffering right now " instead of to the oil companies. He will push for a tax code that will cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. As for Sen. McCain rewarding hard work, he voted against raising the minimum wage 19 times.
What about support for our veterans? Sen. McCain " a war hero and POW of the last generation, voted against expanding the GI Bill for the wounded warriors of this generation. Sen. Obama led a bipartisan effort to improve outpatient facilities, slash red tape, reform the disability process and fully fund the VA.
I find it ironic that spending $10 billion a month in Iraq is considered patriotic, but spending it here at home " to rebuild our economy, our schools, our roads, bridges, and levees " is not.
Furthermore, while some paint fuel-efficiency as naïve, most intelligent people recognize that establishing our energy independence will improve national security. Freedom begins at 40 mpg. In the next 10 years, we can conserve energy while rebuilding our economy with new technologies and new jobs " but only if we are led by people who recognize the finite nature of fossil fuels. People who can envision a clean, green and energy independent future for generations to come.
When it comes to education, it's not surprising that since 2003 McCain has consistently voted against fully funding No Child Left Behind, although he says he is for full funding now. This unfunded mandate has strapped state and local education already hurting in this economic downturn. Sen. Obama promises to fix and fully fund NCLB while expanding college opportunities for our children in exchange for public service. He also asks parents to bear some responsibility by turning off the TV and reading with their children. Amen.
Sen. McCain is not much better when it comes to women's issues, in spite of his patronizing choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as vice president. Women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Yet McCain skipped the vote earlier this year that would have provided equal pay for equal work. When stating his opposition to equal pay, he said that what women really need is more "education and training." Women already graduate from college at a higher rate than their male peers do. They need more?
Moreover, Senator McCain voted against legislation that would have required health insurance companies to cover contraception for women if they covered Viagra for men. He doesn't seem to grasp what women want and need.
Still not convinced? Because of his long experience, judgment is supposed to be McCain's strong suit. However, in his first major decision, he chooses someone he met once, who has no foreign policy experience, favors big oil and doesn't believe humans are the cause of global warming. She sued the Bush administration for listing polar bears as an endangered species because it would interfere with more oil drilling in Alaska.
Finally, 80 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track while John McCain continues to vote with George Bush's policies 90 percent of the time.
America needs a leader who sees the interconnection of the critical issues facing us in the 21st century. America needs a leader who not only embodies the American dream but offers it to others. No guarantees, just opportunities that with hard work, dedication and sacrifice anyone " even the most unlikely of us " can achieve a good life for ourselves and a better future for our children. My choice is clear. I choose hope.
Fresh Ideas: Starting conversations by sharing personal perspectives on issues both timely and timeless. Lorie Schaefer of Carson City is retired.