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The common good


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This year's elections were not like what we've seen in most other years. There were sharper differences between candidates than there usually are. There were also higher stakes when it came to issues and initiatives. And, there was a much more strident -- and not infrequently caustic -- tone about everything. Most of us will be happy to have the whole thing over, even if we are disheartened by some of the results. We will all try to move on, but there is something that, unfortunately, will linger.

As a nation, we are more divided than we have been in a very long time, perhaps more divided than one nation can be and remain one nation. But it is how we are divided that concerns me. Things that used to be our common ground not so long ago are now the fault lines along which we become adversaries.

Faith, volunteerism, patriotism, civic duty, personal responsibility, pride in honest work: these were values shared by everyone. Free speech, free exercise of religion, and yes, the American dream were what we knew we could count on as we looked to the future. We also knew that even if we didn't agree on politics, we could count on each other. That is now no longer the case.

Our society has changed because we have changed. The upward mobility we have relied on for our children and theirs no longer exists. And by upward mobility I don't just mean economic prosperity. I mean educational opportunity, time for family, friends, and interests, the freedom to pursue a passion or dream. In short, I mean everything that makes each of us more of who we were created to be, and more able to express who we are.

Sure, there have always been inspiring stories of people who beat the odds and overcome a host of obstacles to achieve something wonderful. But when I see a majority of children growing up in unstable and often fatherless families, when drug and alcohol abuse are epidemic, when schools get more and more money only to produce worse and worse results, and average seven year old girls think they're fat and worry about not having a "boyfriend," I wonder just how many disadvantages have to stack up before people conclude that there isn't any real hope of surmounting them. What happens to the human spirit then?

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