Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Best Of America

There is enough disagreement in the United States; our country was founded on an argument with England and that spirit has enlivened our political and social discourse for over 200 years. At the end of the day, however, it would be nice to think that those with whom we disagree only have different methods but the same intentions, making our country a better place. The genius of America is that we are, and continue to be, a work in progress.

I recall a very moving moment on September 11th, 2001. A news conference was taking place on The Hill and almost all Members were there. After the Congressional Leadership spoke, they broke into "America The Beautiful". As I sat there watching, still benumbed from the day's events, I realized Majority Leader Dick Armey was singing next to Maxine Waters. This is the political equivalent of oil and water moving in together. Seeing that, I knew whoever was responsible for the attacks was in big trouble. For almost all of us, what unites us is stronger than our differences.

There is a humanitarian crisis in the Gulf Coast right now of almost unimaginable proportion that calls us, once again, to the vocation of citizenship. In some way or another, from the responsibility of a Cabinet Secretary to the prayer of a little child, all of us can help. It will take time: time to mourn and time to rebuild; it is fitting and proper to do both. We are bloodied, but unbowed.

We will return to the at times contentious America with which we are familiar. When I was in Manhattan a couple of years ago a New Yorker said to me he knew the city was back to normal when the cabdrivers started being rude again. There will be time for disagreement and I plan to be one of its practitioners. But for now, on this issue, let's pull together.

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