Backbone, mind, and heart

Author: Gary Hart

career_paths_smThough the last thing President Obama needs right now is more advice from more people, all of it differing, concerned Americans find it difficult not to try to find a key to governing in this new age–not for his sake, but for ours.  Metaphors are great tools for teaching and stimulating thinking.  And one of the metaphors for America right now is the human body.

It is fashionable in the political realm to talk about “investing in America’s future.”  That is the key to our nation’s progress and our children’s hope.  But as individuals we rarely talk about investing in ourselves.  For our physical ailments we use health terms.  Think of present day America in those terms.  We need to heal our backbone, our mind, and our heart.

Our backbone, the spine of the nation, is our transportation system, our energy systems, our financial systems, and our communications systems.  They represent our critical infrastructure and all need to be transformed. Some of that is underway.  But much more repair needs to be made on railroads and highways.  Energy has to be made greener and more sustainable.  Finance has to be brought back under fair rules.  High speed communications have to spread throughout every part of the nation.

Our nation’s mind includes its education systems, K-through life, our laboratories, our libraries, and every facility, private and public, that helps people to learn.  Jefferson said we couldn’t separate democracy from education and, of course, he was right.  A strong national backbone won’t help much unless the nation’s mind is working creatively.

The nation’s heart is the physical and mental health of its people.  Regardless of party, we simply have to create a health system that is inclusive, affordable, and accessible.  We all know that preventive health, exercise, diet, and check ups, saves enormous amount of money and human resources and makes us all more productive.

But our heart is also our spirit.  Repair, maintain, and constantly modernize our backbone structures.  Expand the human mind in every way we can.  Build up healthy Americans.  But somehow, Mr. President, we pray that you will find a way to heal our national spirit, to help us live together better, to lift up the spirit of our national community once again.  Help us recapture the better angels of our nature.

10 Responses to “Backbone, mind, and heart”

  1. Gary Hart: Backbone, mind, and heart | Twitmerlin - News, Celebs Gossip, Social Media Says:

    [...] To comment, please visit Senator Hart’s blog at http://www.mattersofprinciple.com/. [...]

  2. Michael Califra Says:

    The key to governing isn’t a secret. It’s called leadership, and President Obama hasn’t shown any. All the things Senator Hart listed here are imperatives if the quality of life for all Americans is to continue to rise as it has over the last century. But always splitting the difference, ceding every issue to what is politically expedient and throwing major legislation in the lap of congress with no direction doesn’t get the job done. People elected Obama in a landslide precisely because they wanted Progressive leadership in a country where corporatism and a deregulation fetish nearly led to disaster. But, instead of taking to the Bully Pulpit and explaining to people why investing in all these things is more necessary now – during a consumption crisis – than ever before, Obama initiates a spending freeze because of some political whining on the Right. That’s not leadership. That’s political cowardice.

  3. Akira Bergman Says:

    USA have been captured by its debt, and the political system paralyzed into dictatorial methods imposed by the corporate cabal. Given the worsening democratic circumstances, an explicit dictatorship is a strong probability.

  4. Robert Crump Says:

    I too, would like to believe that we could find in ourselves, and our leaders, a path that leads us all to the better angels of our nature. But sadly, I fear the time for such “antiquated” thinking may have passed us by. The President announced cuts in over 120 programs in the proposed 2011 budget, but defense spending expectedly increased by 2%. We allocate 45% of the entire federal budget on military spending, for every dollar the world combined spends on defense matters, we spend six.

    The unmistakable truth is that the political courage to slash the defense budget by 5, 10, or gasp, 25%, while re-investing that money into rebuilding our communities after two generations of theft and neglect is lacking along the Potomac. We are bankrupting ourselves in the illusory pursuit of security.

    And we will never solve any of our national ailments until we get serious about restoring fiscal sanity in the federal budget, and by that I mean, a wholesale re-evaluation of our excessive military expenditures and the 700+ overseas bases needed to perpetuate the dying institution that has become the American Empire.

    We could slash defense spending in half tomorrow and still maintain a 3 to 1 ratio versus the rest of the world. In ten years we could half the national debt, balance the budget, put Americans back to work rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, and have a little change left over to fix health care. And yes, still maintain our global military hegemony, if we so desire to pursuit that as well. In the final analysis, it really is a matter of principle, a question of what we value in our hearts, as well as our minds.

  5. Neal Taslitz, Esq. Says:

    I agree with your wise statements, and would only add the phrase Al Pacino made at the end of the film, Scent of a Woman: “There is no prosthetic for an amputated spirit.”

    In my comment to your last “blog” post, I neglected to elaborate because of your request to keep our statements short. Most likely my point was lost between the lines.

    I wanted to expound on the opportunity we have to revive our spirit and the spirit of others, much like America did after rebuilding Europe at the end of W.W.II.

    President Obama needs to push a volunteer government service program that will teach young people important skills and give them experience for jobs all over the world as well as in the U.S. as our economic engine gets going in the next few years. A government service program would also increase the demand for heavy equipment and other goods and services from the U.S., which will speed up our economy and could get Haiti back on track. It could be the spark that ignites the fire to once again inspire people to: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

    President Obama just finished his first year of leadership in what is going to be a very long century. Any person who knows anything about leadership and history surely knows that it takes more than one year for a new leader to get to the “promised land.” (Moses took 40 years.)

    One way that will help Americans get to where we once were, is to support a strong public service program which needs to begin in 2010. The question is: Are we are bold enough to accept the challenge that demands our involvement and the sacrifices we all need to make?

    If a billionaire bent on destroying the “infidels” is willing to live in a cave for 9 years, without running water or other personal “luxuries” which most Americans now demand on a daily basis, our young people ought to be willing to spend at least six months helping their country, even if that means not having the “luxuries” which we have placed too much value on as a people. Other people in other nations including Haiti, know how hard life can be, and know that principles give us our strength.

    A strong public service program would also likely send a very strong message to
    those who see us as weak impatient people, who find it difficult to survive without modern personal technologies & “luxuries” that do little in teaching us the principles that made us shine and gave us our real strength.

  6. Charles Stuart Says:

    We need a uniter not a divider. George W. Bush said he would deliver that but of course we knew he never meant it. I remember an interview you gave once about our moral values. I wish you would remind us again what are real American moral values.

  7. Gary Hart Says:

    Interesting and thoughtful comments. Thanks to all.

  8. Kevin W. Says:

    Thanks to Mr. Hart for another insightful and thoughtful piece. Regarding our national “mind,” there is no investment that would return a higher long-term payoff to the future strength of our nation than Universal Preschool. Currently, federal spending on a child’s education tops out at age 17, yet the peak year for brain development is age 3. Anyone who’s been to an inner-city classroom can see that even as early as first and second grade, a gap in cognitive abilities has already opened up between children who have access to resources, and those who don’t. Without expensive and extensive interventions, this gap will NEVER close. Pay now or pay exponentially more later.

  9. Gary Hart Says:

    Kevin is spot on.

  10. Angela Wheelock Says:

    Thank you for your inspiring words. I believe that President Obama is trying to appeal to the “better angels of our spirits,” but, sadly, Rush Limbaugh and others of his like will twist this message into something more demonic than angelic. I truly fear for our country when, apparently, so many Americans enjoy listening to people like Rush Limbaugh. We have profoundly serious problems to solve in this country and inciting hate cannot help build anyone’s backbone, spirit, or heart.

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