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Pick your issues before you pick your candidates

Lorie Schaefer

“Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why’?

I dream of things that never were and say, ‘Why not’?”

Robert Kennedy, 1968

Last Tuesday night, after watching way too much MSNBC coverage of the Democratic primaries, my husband and I made a friendly wager about Senator Clinton conceding after Senator Obama went over the top with delegates. I was hopeful that she would step aside in the interest of party unity. He was convinced she’d drag it out. I lost, but at least we had a few lively discussions.

That’s democracy. We get to choose, but in the end, we have to accept that one person wins and another loses. So how do we choose? Let’s hope it’s not by age, race, gender or even party affiliation. Let’s hope we choose the candidate who most closely matches our feelings about issues, our values. We vote our hopes for a brighter future.

In political races at all levels ” national, state or local ” our choices are limited to the people who choose to run. And they may not be quite our cup of tea. One candidate may seem either too old or too young, too liberal or too conservative, an insider or lacking in experience, a good old boy or still wet behind the ears. Make your excuses. It’s not about you. Or me. It’s about all of us. Together.

The issues before us this year are critical. The candidates we vote into office will make a difference in our lives and the lives of others here and across the country. For better or worse. Perhaps you agree with me and can identify with one or more of these statements. Perhaps not.

– You are saddened when you hear that 47 million Americans have to choose between seeking medical care and buying groceries because they don’t have health insurance.

– You believe we should honor the service and sacrifice of our returning veterans by providing quality healthcare as well as expanded opportunities for a college education and home ownership. You know that although some service members might leave to go to school, others will join and serve in order to have a chance at college.

– You believe guns and bombs have not won the hearts and minds of our enemies ” or made us safer. And just perhaps diplomacy, food, books and medicine might have been a more reasonable path to a lasting peace.

– You are angry with the media presenting issues in the simplest bumper sticker terms ” either/or, black/white. You believe Americans can handle both nuance and complexity in the interest of truth and fairness.

– You feel anxious about a faltering U.S. economy with its growing unemployment rate (5.5 percent in May), skyrocketing gas prices, a mortgage crisis, not to mention a national debt of $9 trillion that saps the government’s ability to provide necessary services and maintain infrastructure.

– You are outraged by the abysmal graduation rates in Nevada’s high schools. This year’s graduating class at Carson High was only 60 percent of those who started as freshmen.

– You think that Carson High School, with an enrollment of 2,500, is simply too big to be either safe or effective. Research on effective schools supports keeping high school enrollments between 1,000 and 1,500. Smaller schools end up being more cost effective because more students actually graduate.

– You are aggravated that Nevada ranks 49th when compared on an index that includes graduation rates, daily attendance, teacher salaries, and teacher/student ratios. You are embarrassed and angry that Nevada ranks 46th in per pupil funding.

– You have concluded ” with a little nudge from high gas prices – that the idea of a sprawling Carson City with limited public transit may need to be rethought. Moreover, with the completion of the bypass to Fairview next March, you can even begin to envision a vibrant downtown where people can work, live, shop, eat and play.

– You are tired of feeling angry and want to feel hopeful again.

As the campaigns progress we have a chance to educate ourselves on the issues that will affect our lives. We must resist the urge to change the channel, stop reading, stop listening. The future of our community, our state, our country is at stake. This is new territory. We can’t move forward with our eyes always on the rearview mirror. We must imagine the future we want and make the choices that will get us there. It’s up to us to vote our hopes.

– Fresh Ideas: Starting conversations by sharing personal perspectives on issues both timely and timeless. Lorie Schaefer has lived in Carson City for over 30 years. She is retired.