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In a CNN interview last week, Dr. Alvin Poussaint talked about the positive power of the images of Barack Obama serving as president of the United States of America.

Poussaint, a professor of psychiatry, studies the effects of images of black people in the media on black people. He said Obama’s images on TV could offset negative images black children see of blacks in the media. He added black parents will feel pride and bring back discussions about the importance of the two-parent family.

Obama’s positive effects aren’t limited to blacks. Whether you agree politically, the Obamas provide a focus on the family for everyone. Then, the Obama win underscores what he and most Americans have been taught. We can achieve anything if we are willing to work hard enough for it. He also opened doors for other blacks and minorities to follow.

Positive news can be drowned out by the stream of bad news Americans face on the economy, bailouts, unemployment and more. If we are not careful, we may forget the right and good in America.

This week I talked with Jannet Downs, of Broomfield, and Scott Starin, of Lafayette, the Republican candidate for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District in the last election.

I asked them both, “What’s right with America?”

Downs responded with a long list. At the top was her church, the Constitution, free enterprise, her vote and the sacrifice of those who serve our country.

The people’s voice through elections matters. Government is of, by and for the people. American ingenuity, creativity, individuality and determination help us take hold of the American dream of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Downs said.

Downs’ list continued with the generosity of the American people and inventions that make our lives better, including computers and washing machines. She said America has the cleanest water, the best doctors and food, fun sports and the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and amber waves of grain.

Starin responded: “Absolutely, we need to focus on what’s right with America because there are so many things right. America is the land of opportunities,” with its “mantra,” the Constitution.

Starin noted most of Downs’ list fit nicely in his four legs of American greatness — freedom, opportunity, national security and morals. He quickly added morals can be secular like America’s drive to rescue people in WWI and WWII and to liberate more people in history than any other nation.

Downs’ reference to America’s beauty didn’t exactly fit in Starin’s “four legs.” Talk turned to America’s diversity in its people and natural resources. That’s when Starin realized he was going to need a new analogy as a fifth table leg didn’t work. For now, he said, diversity is the central post.

America is a melting pot of peoples. Starin and Downs are examples of that. Starin’s mother’s parents immigrated in 1904 from Lebanon. His father’s parents’ family has been here since 1685 from the Netherlands. Family members on his father’s side fought in the Revolutionary War in the Battle of Herkimer and Saratoga, the Civil War and WWI. His father fought in WWII in the South Pacific.

Like Starin, Downs was born in the United States. Her parents were first-generation. Her grandmother on her dad’s side came from Australia. Her paternal grandfather’s family has been in the U.S. since the 1600s. Downs’ mother’s parents married in Italy and came over together.

Whether we immigrated or were born in the United States, our turn is now. As we work through our nation’s difficulties, let us remember what is right with America. Then to our hope and determination, let us always add gratitude.


Source: Daily Camera Nov. 16, 2008, under “What we get right”


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