Personal Column: Forget gender, race, creed; vote on ability to

The presidential election of 2008 looms on the horizon. To me, it feels as if we’ve listened to political pundits rehash this yet unfinished race for the better part of this century. CNN, network news—they’ve diligently provided viewers with detailed, minute-by-minute minutia. At this point, I’ve grown weary of perfect-pitch commentators debating what Hillary wore or whether she cried. I don’t care. It’s not important.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that this particular presidential election is pivotal. Its outcome possesses the power to forever alter the landscape of this country. (Or, at least, I hope so.) But I wonder if this 24-hour coverage focuses on the right issues?

Yes, I want to live in a nation that embraces its people, all of them. That’s why I hope that voters elect the best possible person, regardless of whether they are a man, a woman, a Mormon, a Baptist or an African-American. My vote is not going to be based on the sex of the candidate nor the color of his or her skin. I will not cast my vote based on how politicians privately worship.  

Please don’t write letters. It’s not that I don’t care about breaking barriers or seeking divine guidance. I do. But what I want is simple in its complexity. To be concise, I desire a leader who can identify key issues, carefully consider prudent alternatives, and skillfully implement the best solutions. (Note: By my definition, “skillfully implement” suggests action untarnished by personal ego or bipartisan agenda.) That’s it.  

I want a leader who remembers that it is a distinct privilege to represent the people of the United States. Because that’s what it is… a privilege. And somehow, over the years, more than a few folks in Washington D.C. have lost sight of that. I matter. So do you!

The president is charged with being a good steward of our people and our resources, all of them. We deserve someone who understands that we don’t want to give away our hard-earned freedoms, or our jobs, to other countries. We deserve someone who recognizes that diversity makes this country’s tapestry richer and stronger even as he or she acknowledges the need for procedures that safeguard our borders.  

I want a leader who surrounds himself or herself with good people. Seriously. Fortune 500 leaders hire employees who challenge them, who are often smarter than themselves. Sometimes employees even question current policy or traditional protocol. Confident, successful CEOs welcome constructive exchanges. Why? Because they aren’t threatened by good ideas.

How can we want anything less in our president? Isn’t the White House the biggest board room in the world? Don’t we want this president to fill it with the best and the brightest, those who have earned the right to work in the highest levels of government, not because of who they know but, rather, what they’ve accomplished and bring to the table?

I want a leader who understands the gravity of this country’s current situation. Homeowners are returning home in record numbers to find foreclosure signs in their front yard. Economists also see these signs and many more. They hesitate to incite panic but those of us schooled during the Iowa Test of Basis Skills-era aren’t dumb.  Paychecks are getting smaller, expenses are getting higher. It’s basic math. If it walks like a duck…

And whatever your stance on the war, I think most Americans desire a leader who can build global alliances. I am proud of my father, as well as the many other military personnel, who’ve served this country with distinction. It is a debt that you and I owe.  And we must pay it forward to future generations, extending peace, wherever possible, and preventing bloodshed, whenever possible.  

I honestly don’t know how I’ll vote in the 2008 election, not yet. But I do know this: Republican or Democrat, this nation’s true strength is its people—you and me. We must each serve as leaders in our own schools, neighborhoods and communities. Only with our support can any man or woman lead the free world.

Cindy Kazalia is a staff writer for the Messenger newspapers.

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