A return to core values in 2012?

September 11, 2012

Now that the national conventions have run their course it might be a good time to just sit back, take a deep breath and, as we prepare to select our nation's leaders, consider who and what we are. A good place to begin would be what are often called our "core values," a phrase that strikes a discordant note with many Americans and is trumpeted by others as a clarion call for a return to the past.

Both of the major party candidates for president have said what was expected of them by their supporters with enough left over for those who haven't yet decided for whom they will vote come November. President Barack Obama wants another four years to complete what he has started and continue the pursuit of his vision for America. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has made clear that he believes the nation needs a change from the change that was promised when the incumbent first won the highest office in the land almost four years ago. Each has his own ideas about how to bring America back to its position as the world's preeminent social and economic superpower, what has been called "the last great hope of humankind." Which brings me back to core values.

We can't go back to the way things were, nor should we want to. The future is ahead, not behind. The changes in the geopolitical structure of the planet present new challenges virtually every day, and those challenges must be met by moving forward, not back. And the point is the "core values" that will allow us to meet those challenges effectively are still in place. We're just not paying enough attention to them anymore.

Some are clearly codified in the documents crafted when the nation was born. But most spring from the humanity with which we have been gifted — home, family, faith, honor, honesty, truth, compassion, justice, and the belief that all human beings are born to breathe freely; to pursue their lives free of the grinding oppression, social and political, that, down through the millennia, has left countless millions without hope and stripped of the wonder of life.

This country was built on a foundation of values that remain as important today as they were when the United States took it's first unsure stumble-steps toward nationhood. Many came to us from scripture. Others were suggested by philosophers including Hammurabi, Aristotle, Maimonides, Locke and Montesquieu. None were brought to us in the platform of a political party or in the statements made by a candidate for public office. And those candidates who claim them are only telling us what, deep inside, in places we may rarely plumb, we already know, cherish and believe.

We are an extraordinary people, we Americans. All of us. If only we would recall just how extraordinary, and act on that recollection, the future might seem much brighter, and the challenges that face us much less daunting.

Alan Walden, Baltimore

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