I breathe a sign of relief and ask, "Now is it all over?" The national media spent nearly a year focusing on politics, campaigning and elections to such a degree that it certainly seems out of proportion with reality.
Coverage of political bickering has quieted with the inauguration of President George W. Bush and a transition to a new presidency. Now that our public duty is over, we can all go back to our lives here in the Brainerd lakes area and mind our own business.
For our family and many people around me the business of real life is raising our children, earning a living, developing relationships with our neighbors, participating in our schools and churches. Whether we want to or not, we can't mind our own business. Our business overlaps your business. I would call that overlap our community and our loyal participation in that overlap good citizenship.
I applaud the words in President Bush's inaugural address concerning citizenship. His speech certainly didn't receive the attention that many campaign speeches did, but in this one I heard leadership. The relevance of his presidential leadership comes as he inspires us to be citizens and contribute to our communities.
"Sometimes in life we are called to do great things," President Bush said. "But as a saint of our times has said, every day we are called to do small things with great love. The most important tasks of a democracy are done by everyone."
When we do our best work close to home we make the most difference. Citizenship is about us applying the ideals of our democracy right here. It is about being more concerned about how we are going to help build this town than what we are going to get from this President.
"What you do is as important as anything government does," President Bush said. "I ask you to seek a common good beyond your comfort; to defend needed reforms against easy attacks; to serve your nation, beginning with your neighbor. I ask you to be citizens: citizens, not spectators; citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character."
The examples we, as members of this community, set should go beyond answering the question of "Why should I vote?" Our examples of citizenship come when we fight apathy with a passion to participate in the process. That participation is growing in our schools, in city and county government, in independent groups like Brainerd Restoration and The Crossing Arts Alliance, and in many other ways.
Likewise, I commend The Brainerd Daily Dispatch for its role in our community. In a time of information overload the local, daily newspaper still has a unique function and deserves to become a regular part of our lives. As a newcomer to Brainerd, I discovered that reading the newspaper was the quickest way to feel involved.
When columnist Jodie Tweed tells those human interest stories, she recognizes the spirit of the community. Her articles show the value of effort and commitment. When we read about these particular acts of courage and compassion around us we are encouraged to be more human in our own interactions.
Senior Reporter Renee Richardson's reporting reveals that she has an eye for the information and news of Brainerd. Whether or not we like what we hear, when we are informed we make better assessments and can act without ignorance.
The editorial page is truly the forum of this community. It is the public square where we can listen to debate or join the discussion of ideas, discovering those that have merit for us individually and as a group. On that ideal we can give room to columnists or fellow citizens who don't share our viewpoint. That dialogue serves us well in developing and expanding our own beliefs and perspectives.
A good local newspaper keeps us from stagnancy, apathy and mediocrity, but only if we take the presidential challenge to become "citizens, not spectators." When we use this paper every day as a catalyst, we are the writers of this community story.
(The author, a Brainerd resident, is a member of The Brainerd Dispatch Advisory Board.)
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