At Your Service: July 1, 2009

On the 233rd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence the state of the union continues to evolve. The union that was forged among the 13 original colonies was not perfect. It was an exclusive arrangement between men of privilege. Yet, it also contained the seeds of a powerful vision that would expand to embrace the participation of the originally disenfranchised.
Last week the U.S. Congress officially apologized for slavery. It was an acknowledgement that the cruel practices that served as the economic base for many states was sanctioned by the nation’s early laws. Today, a black man sits in the nation’s highest office and women hold almost 25 percent of elected positions nationwide.
Among the rights originally conceived for this nation, the importance of a free press was deemed paramount. Events surrounding Iran’s recent elections stand as evidence of the value of an active dissenting voice. Elsewhere two governments were overturned by violent coups this week, threatening our nation’s standing on two continents. Our free press has kept us fully briefed on the death of Michael Jackson and the disposition of his estate.
Six years after the war on terrorism moved into Iraq, our troops withdrew Tuesday from Iraqi cities. It is the first milestone in an agreement with the Iraqi government for a “responsible withdrawal of our troops,” according to the Secretary of State. The occasion was celebrated like a holiday in the streets of Baghdad. Troops remain in the rural areas and will only be deployed in cities at Iraqi request. While four American servicemen gave their lives on the same day, it still represents an overall reduction in general violence in the region.
Closer to home, our state senate has been unable to reach a civil agreement that would get the people’s work done. While important legislation waits for action, representatives from both parties posture the importance of their need to dominate in order to lead. They could learn much from those who sat long hours in a hot Philadelphia hall and worked out a compromise they could all live with and work through.
The belief in the free market, on which much legislation has hinged, has been unhinged by recent trends. The Wall/Main street conundrum has left many suffering from the effects of bad management practices. This week Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for bilking people of billions of dollars and robbing them of a secure future. He is but one of several people currently in the legal pipeline for similar crimes. It will be years before the economy recovers from the combined effects of mismanagement and greed.
There is much that would lead one to discouragement in these troubled times. Over 200 years of hard work has led us to this. Still, perspective gives us reason to continue to believe in the American dream. Like other aspects of life, our nation’s history is a series of two steps forward one step backward. We may have a long road ahead, but the road we have trod is one marked by milestones that testify to the strength of a powerful vision.
The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness still makes us a unique and powerful entity in the world. It is a responsibility and a duty for each of us to follow that which we believe and, at the same time, find ways to work together toward a future that is brighter than today.