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The United States has a big agenda. We need big ideas and broad-based action to address the critical issues facing us.

The United States has a big agenda. We need big ideas and broad-based action to address the critical issues facing us. The federal deficit. Immigration reform. Unbalanced federal entitlement spending. Global warming. The brewing trade war. Massive deferred maintenance for our freeways, bridges, harbors and dams. Affordable health care.

We’ve always been a fractious lot. We fought a vicious and deadly civil war. Yet, the erstwhile enemies, North and South, healed the country’s wounds and patched the nation back together. We settled and politically and culturally absorbed the massive lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican Cession, the acquisition of the Oregon Territory, Seward’s purchase of Alaska and by independent Texas joining the Union.

We radically remodeled our whole country to embrace and accommodate revolutionary technology like the automobile, airplane, telephone and electricity. It took only a single generation for this country to conceive and build a remarkable network of freeways serving every major city. In less than a decade, we accepted the presidential challenge to go to the moon and then accomplished it.

We created our federal park system to preserve for everyone our nation’s natural wonders such as Yellowstone and Yosemite.

When we saw the compounded effects of decades of disposing of our toxic waste into rivers, lakes, fields, landfills and leaving hazardous material at old factory sites, we passed landmark legislation to clean up our water, air and land. We dealt with the no less toxic Watergate crisis. It was ugly and divisive, but a bipartisan Congress, a gutty federal judge and determined special counsel punished the guilty and forced a sitting president, who had been re-elected by one of the greatest landslides ever, to resign in dishonor.

We abolished government-enforced racial segregation in every element of our society.

We have stepped up wonderfully, even miraculously, to the challenges of war — to gain independence from the British, abolish slavery, stop German aggression and imperialism in World War I, destroy the Nazi Germany and Japanese juggernauts seeking world domination and expose and punish the murder of millions of innocents in the Holocaust. We fought and won the Cold War over the Soviet colossus also bent on world domination.

Our responses to our crises haven’t always been pretty or timely or organized. Neither have our solutions always been ideal. But with vision and leadership, through finding common ground and shared sacrifice, Americans did the big things, the things the country needed to flourish.

We face such a time. Our national problems require this great nation to grasp and address these pressing issues. They are of such a scale and importance that they will determine our national success or failure. The federal deficit alone could swamp the future of this great country and deprive millions of the chance to flourish in a strong and free society. Russia, Brazil, Greece, Spain and Turkey provide cautionary examples for countries who refuse to pay the mortgages they took out on their future. Who knows what dire consequences await us if we fail to address global warming.

We need leaders who will put aside tribal identities and re-election ambitions long enough to talk with their constituents and with each other. We need practical, politically palatable solutions and leaders willing to sponsor them. We need our president to convene and consult with our best and brightest thinkers and leaders on both sides of the aisle and to hammer out bipartisan compromises and put forward sound legislative proposals to address our looming problems.

We need a media more interested in facilitating a national conversation on policy ideas than obsessing over Twitter spats. We need far less name-calling, demonizing, cultural warmongering and tribalism.

14 comments on this story

Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison came on the scene just when America needed them. Lincoln appeared almost out of nowhere. Churchill and FDR were brought forward literally to save Western democracy from fascist monsters.

Somewhere among our elected leaders and in our citizenry at large breathe those intrepid souls, high-minded and intelligent leaders with good and workable ideas who articulate the problems before us and move us to adopt solutions for solving them.

May God give us these women and men and the wisdom to recognize and support them.