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Holiday Blessings to You

At our last council meeting of the year, there were 3 new people in the audience. 2 purchased a Victorian house and moved here 3 weeks ago. One gentleman moved 3 days ago with his family. Both were enamored with our community, and despite being knee-deep in boxes, they were at Council learning about our community.

Asking why they had selected Placerville for their new home, both groups valued our charm, our connectedness, our vibrancy and they hungered for our sense of community. Both had been struck by our unique sense of place that had embraced them genuine, hometown hospitality and they were eager to get involved.

It was gratifying to see this place through their eyes, wide with wonder and delight, and it took me back to my childhood.

I can still remember the giddy anticipation I felt when we rounded the corner each year at Christmas and saw the lit trees on the back of Main Street.  Familiar memories of cherished moments with the people I loved most washed over me, enveloping me in joy.  I recognized a comforting sense of belonging settling in…the pull of family, linked in that hallowed space of shared history and lineage. The hunger for tradition. The earnest longing for connectedness. The anticipation of familiarity and the comfort of sameness, untouched and unravaged by time. While I was only 5, there was a sense about this place that was special, sacred, blessed. There still is.

It is my assumption that Murray, Jerry and Ted have also recognized this ethereal pull that calls them to a real hometown…to a place that can sustain them. Welcome to Placerville.

May we all continue to cherish, protect and preserve that genuine warmth and connectedness that comes from caring for each other as a community. And if we ever lose our way, may the Christmas trees along the highway serve as a beacon to light our way back home.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Placerville…you are deeply loved and cherished.

Looking Down The Drain

The City is in the middle of a process to establish our water and sewer rates for the next 5 years which includes analyzing our rates to make sure that what you pay equals what it costs to get clean water to you and to take sewage safely away from you. Nothing more, nothing less.

I realize this is not my usual blog. However, because water and sewer rates are really important to our residents and business owners, I have wrestled mightily with this issue, making sure I understand it and grappling with the recommendations presented. All the supporting charts, tables and presentations can be found on the City website (87811.pdf) and I won’t try to present them all here. What I’d like to offer is my perspective on what information I have found critically important.

  1.  Operating costs are different from projects. Your water and sewer rates have to cover operating costs. They cover the people, the supplies (including wholesale water from EID), the equipment, insurance and the debt payments that go into your water and sewer service. The proposed rates do not cover water and sewer projects, although they would have to if we didn’t have additional funding.

2.  Measure H/L: People say, “We approved Measure H and L so our rates wouldn’t go up! Why are you looking at raising rates?!” (I know it’s confusing!) Here is the bottom line:  Measure H/L money is for critical repair and maintenance projects for water/sewer lines and roads. If we had not approved this funding, we would have to make those repairs to our water and sewer lines anyway. Those project costs would need to be covered by your water/sewer rates, and would equate to a bi-monthly rate increase of $55.54 on top of any rate increase needed to cover operating costs. Measure H/L is saving you $55.54 on each bill!

3. Implementing preventative maintenance will save you money in the long term. The proposed rates will cover many proactive maintenance strategies that are important to finally implement, not just talk about!

4. We need 2 additional Public Works employees and 1 extra person at the sewer plant. To put this in perspective, before the Recession in 2006/2007, we had 15.22 people working in water and sewer. Even with the proposed additions, we will have 9.69. We are still operating with 5 less people even though we have more work and more regulations to comply with. Bottom line: We are operating with efficiency and fiscal restraint. 

5.  Currently, we are not fully funding our loan on the wastewater treatment plant, and we need to. You remember…around 2009 when rates skyrocketed because the State mandated a $42 million upgrade to our sewer plant, we looked at all the possible ways to lower your bill during the Great Recession. We negotiated a phased payment plan on our state loan for the first 5 years and we banked the difference to help stabilize your rates. We are now at the point when we are making the full payment and the reserves are gone, so is the ability to negotiate anymore with the State.

6.  Sewer Discount: Currently you get a discount of $15 off your bi-monthly sewer bill, that’s a $7.50 per month discount. The recommendation is to eliminate that, freeing up roughly $500,000 to go toward the repair and maintenance of our system. If we keep the discount in place, sewer rates would go up 13% in 2018 rather than the 5.75% proposed.

So how bad is it, you ask? What are we talking about in terms of rates? Here is the proposal:

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WATER RATES: There’s some good news here. We are lowering the base rate you pay on water by 30%. This will benefit those of you who use water wisely AND will help lower future rate increases that are based on the base rate. We are then moving from a tiered usage fee to a flat usage fee. We pay a flat rate for our water from EID so legally we need to charge you a flat rate. Once again, if you use less, you may pay less under this new model.

CURRENT RATE:                     2018:               2019:               2020:               2021:               2022:

Base Charge $27.56              $20.75             $22.21             $23.44             $24.62             $25.73

Usage Rates: $2.94-$3.81    $4.15               $4.45               $4.70               $4.94               $5.17

LIFELINE CUSTOMERS: Those who are on a strict, fixed income and qualify will still receive discounted rates that equate to a 25% discount.

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SEWER RATES: Here is what we are looking at. Remember, this is a bi-monthly bill and the charge is for 2 months. You always have the option to pay ½ your bill each month. (I know I do!)

CURRENT RATE:                     2018:               2019:               2020:               2021:               2022:

Base Charge $162.11               $171.43           $183.86           $192.13           $199.82           $205.81

Usage Rates: $7.51 cf              $7.94               $8.52               $8.90               $9.26               $9.53

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These rates are being proposed for the next 5 years, and they represent a slow and steady increase that will allow us to keep up with increasing costs while repairing and properly maintaining our system.

Here’s an interesting fact to put things in perspective: In 2009, under Proposition 218, the City approved a maximum sewer rate of $199.43. That rate was never implemented. Technically, the rate in 2009 should have been $199.43 with a cost of living increase every year since then. In 2018, our proposed sewer rate, based on an average usage, will be $195.26. That is still less than the rate that was approved in 2009.

To me this issue boils down to deciding what our goal is?

  • To keep prices static and stable? If so, that is one course of action that has consequences

OR

  • To ensure that our water resources are conserved (water pipes aren’t leaking), that our water is safe (sewage isn’t leaking into our water), that our systems are maintained (so the sewer doesn’t back up into your home or business), that our city is compliant (so we don’t waste money on paying fines), that we cover our debts and that all this is accomplished at the price of what it costs our city, without excess and with efficiency?

To me, it’s the latter if we know, to the best of our ability, that these rates will accomplish a safe, efficient water and sewer system in the most fiscally, restrained manner possible.

Put Tuesday, February 13, 2018 on your calendar for a public hearing on these proposed rates, and thanks for being informed and engaged on this issue.

A Full Plate

Our grandson came home this week with a Thanksgiving homework assignment.

It was a simple white paper plate with the word “thankful” written across it. The assignment was to fill it with things you were grateful for.

As I was dashing around between errands and meetings, I thought about that white plate. It was still beckoning to be filled with gratitude, and it struck me how ironic that was.

We often refer to our “plate being full”. What we mean is that we have too much to do. Too many demands, not enough time. To many problems, not enough answers. Too many obligations, tasks and responsibilities. A full plate is often a burdensome badge of honor that means we are overwhelmed.

What a refreshing thought to have your plate full of gratitude.

I suppose it’s like you’re in line at an amazing buffet. You reach for an empty plate and begin to search for all your favorite things to eat. One by one, you pile them on. The more you have, the more you see. Soon, delectable delights are piled high and spilling over.

I suppose gratitude is like that. As you begin to reach for a state of thankfulness, the greater number of blessings you recognize in your life. The more you identify, the more you have to be thankful for.  I like that.

May your plate continue to be full.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Red Fridays

As a rule, I don’t do “forwards” on email.  This one (from my Dad), is worthy of spreading the word.  Join Dennis and I for Red Fridays in support of those defending our Great Nation…

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WILL YOU GIVE THIS TO MY DADDY?

As a Company, Southwest Airlines is going to support ‘Red Fridays’.

Last week I was in Atlanta, Georgia attending a conference. While I was in the airport returning home, I heard several people behind me beginning to clap and cheer. I immediately turned around and witnessed one of the greatest acts of patriotism I have ever seen.

Moving through the terminal was a group of soldiers in their camos. As they began heading to their gate, everyone (well almost everyone) was abruptly to their feet with their hands waving and cheering. 

When I saw the soldiers, probably 30-40 of them, being applauded and cheered for, it hit me. I’m not alone. I’m not the only red-blooded American who still loves this country and supports our troops and their families.  Of course, I immediately stopped and began clapping for these young unsung heroes who are putting their lives on the line everyday for us so we can go to school, work and home without fear or reprisal.

Just when I thought I could not be more proud of my country or of our service men and women, a young girl, not more than 6 or 7 years old, ran up to one of the male soldiers. He kneeled down and said ‘hi.’

The little girl then asked him if he would give something to her daddy for her. 

The young soldier, who didn’t look any older than maybe 22 himself, said he would try and what did she want to give to her Daddy. Then suddenly the little girl grabbed the neck of this soldier, gave him the biggest hug she could muster and then kissed him on the cheek.

The mother of the little girl, who said her daughter’s name was Courtney, told the young soldier that her husband was a Marine and had been in Iraq for 11 months now. As the mom was explaining how much her daughter Courtney missed her father, the young soldier began to tear up.

When this temporarily single mom was done explaining her situation, all of the soldiers huddled together for a brief second. Then one of the other servicemen pulled out a military-looking walkie-talkie. They started playing with the device and talking back and forth on it..

After about 10-15 seconds of this, the young soldier walked back over to Courtney, bent down and said this to her, ‘I spoke to your daddy and he told me to give this to you.’ He then hugged this little girl that he had just met and gave her a kiss on the cheek. He finished by saying ‘your daddy told me to tell you that he loves you more than anything and he is coming home very soon.’

 The mom at this point was crying almost uncontrollably and as the young soldier stood to his feet, he saluted Courtney and her mom. I was standing no more than 6 feet away from this entire event.

As the soldiers began to leave, heading towards their gate, people resumed their applause. As I stood there applauding and looked around, there were very few dry eyes, including my own. That young soldier in one last act of selflessness, turned around and blew a kiss to Courtney with a tear rolling down his cheek.

We need to remember everyday all of our soldiers and their families and thank God for them and their sacrifices. At the end of the day, it’s good to be an American.

RED FRIDAYS —– Very soon, you will see a great many people wearing Red every Friday. The reason? Americans who support our troops used to be called the ‘silent majority’. We are no longer silent, and are voicing our love for God, country and home in record breaking numbers.   We are not organized, boisterous or over-bearing. We get no media coverage on TV, to reflect our message or our opinions. Many American, like you, me and all our friends, simply want to recognize that the vast majority of Americans supports our troops.

Our idea of showing solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect starts this Friday -and continues each and every Friday until the troops all come home, sending a deafening message that every red-blooded American who supports our men and women afar will wear something red.

By word of mouth, press, TV — let’s make the United States on every Friday a sea of red much like a homecoming football game in the bleachers.

If every one of us who loves this country will share this with acquaintances, co-workers, friends, and family. It will not be long before the USA is covered in RED and it will let our troops know the once ‘silent’ majority is on their side more than ever; certainly more than the media lets on.

The first thing a soldier says when asked ‘What can we do to make things better for you?’ is…We need your support and your prayers.

Let’s get the word out and lead with class and dignity, by example; and wear something red every Friday.

IF YOU AGREE — THEN SEND THIS ON.

IF YOU COULDN’T CARE LESS THEN HIT THE DELETE BUTTON — IT IS YOUR CHOICE.

WE LIVE IN THE LAND OF THE FREE, ONLY BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE. THEIR BLOOD RUNS RED—- SO WEAR RED! — MAY GOD HELP AMERICA TO BECOME ONE NATION, UNDER GOD.

Claiming our joy…for good

We’ve had a lot of joy in our family this past week…precious, lifetime moments…and last night, as we watched the news, there was great conflict within me. The devastation from the California fires was beyond heartbreaking, and that was right on the heels of the hurricane destruction. I realized there was numbness in me that I couldn’t reconcile. I recognized I felt guilty. I felt guilty for my joy. I was uncomfortable knowing there were exciting developments for many members of our family when the tragedy of others was raining down in the form of ashes from devastation we could not see.

How do you make sense of that?

On a walk this morning, the sun broke through the early chill and it struck me as a metaphor for my internal conflict.

Life is not black and white. Everything is not all right or all wrong. There is joy and there is sorrow, and the joy exists to break through the darkness.   The joy is there to remind us that we give of our fullness, not of our lack. If there is need, we need to give more generously. If there is distress, it is up to us to find ways to ease the burden. Guilt is a useless reaction. On the other hand, gratitude for the goodness at hand is a call to action to be kinder, to be more generous, to be more aware of how we can meet another’s great need.

I keep going back to Lincoln’s example. In the middle of our nation’s most devastating history, when suffering was unimaginable and rampant, when Americans destroyed Americans, Lincoln established a day of Thanksgiving. In the middle of conflict, he gave thanks.

In the middlethere’s something to be said for that.

In the middle of recent destruction, we can claim our gratitude for the goodness that is at hand, and be joyful about using that to be of assistance where we can. It’s kind of like the days in the Old West. Gold couldn’t be a benefit if it was left buried in the ground…if it was left underneath layers of dirt. However, when it was recognized, uncovered and claimed, it could be used.

We need to use our joy for good…there certainly is great need for that right now.

 

 

Wake Up!

We need to wake up.

Today, there was a bombing in a London subway. Again. The 5th terror attack this year.

Yesterday, North Korea launched a missile capable of destroying our Allies and our fellow countrymen.  Again. The 13th missile launch this year.

Our response?  We’re fighting each other. Today it’s St. Louis. Last night, it was Berkeley. There’s a civil war in this country with Americans fighting Americans as the war on democracy, on freedom, on all we hold dear nears ever closer to our shores.

We have common ground if we’re willing to look for it.  We can agree to open the door wide to anyone that wants to EMBRACE democracy, is willing to WORK for the American dream and is willing to SACRIFICE anything to UPHOLD what America stands for. That’s our fight. Let’s fight for that. Does the pathway to citizenship need to be reformed? Yes. Do we welcome, with open arms, those that want to work for and embody the American Dream? Yes. Absolutely!

But that’s not everyone.   And we can no longer afford to be naïve to that fact.

Europe is paying the price for naiveté.

The American Dream is too precious, too sought after, too hard earned by Main Street America AND the tired, “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to be so disregarded by the naïve thought that thinks anyone who makes it to our shores wants to embrace our Country and its values.

We have to wake up, stop fighting each other and start fighting for all that America stands for.

America is too precious to destroy it from the outside.  She is FAR too precious to destroy it from within.

Time is ticking.  We have to wake up.

Parking in Placerville

PARKING in Downtown Placerville…It’s a new system with increased hours and cost, and it is sparking heated debate and angry concern among merchants and the community.

We acknowledge there are challenges.  We’d like you to know we’re working on them.

Staff will provide the City Council with an update on the Parking Program on Tuesday, August 8th although we are fully aware of the conversation and concerns of the community. In addition, the Parking Committee has been interfacing with Staff on this issue and they will be working with the merchant community to fully understand the problems while they collaborate on potential solutions. I have no doubt that we are in a period of transition and that the current parking program can be tweaked successfully.  We can figure this out!

As I have been challenged to think critically about this issue, here are some ideas I’ve found helpful:

ACCEPT “WHAT IS”.  We have a new parking program. It’s totally different. People are confused about it. There are problems with it. There are also critically important reasons for some of the changes. The task before us is to acknowledge all of this, without extreme emotion, so we can employ rational thought to the challenge.  We can’t go back to where we were, so the next step is to accept “what is” at this moment in time so we can move forward productively.

Then what?

OBSERVE AND DECIDE.  (I think we’re right in the middle of this course of action.)  We are observing how the current Parking Program is working and are understanding what the exact problems are that need to be addressed.  I also found it helpful to realize that just because a program isn’t perfect right off the bat doesn’t mean it should be immediately discarded. Life is full of trial and error. Action and redirection. It’s kind of like parenting. No one does it perfectly from the get-go. You make mistakes. You try something new, see how that works. You get better as you go. It’s as simple as that. As for parking, we’ll talk to each other and understand what exactly isn’t working for the customer, the merchant, the employee, the taxpayer, and then we’ll decide on potential solutions.

EMBRACE CHANGE.  (This is an area we tend to struggle with as a community). It is important to understand we had to change the old parking program. Did you know that the old meters were broken?  Did you know they were so old that parts were not available and that the company was no longer servicing them? Did you know that the $1 per hour fee for parking had stayed the same for over 10 years? Did you know that the old Parking Program wasn’t paying for itself and that NO money was being set aside for the repair and maintenance of our parking garage and parking lots? We had to make a change…it would have been irresponsible not too.

So here we are.

The Parking Program has some challenges. What initial effort doesn’t? We don’t need to be completely undone by this fact. Our response doesn’t have to be a knee jerk reaction like “I’m never shopping in Placerville again!”.  We can make productive changes to the Parking Program which ensure that our customers have adequate parking, that our merchants and the taxpayers are not unduly burdened, and that we have the resources we need to maintain our parking facilities.

My goodness, if we can tame the Wild West, we can tweak our parking program!

I’ll see you on Main Street.

 

 

 

 

Reflections from Main Street

There was a time I was really productive.

Dennis and I had committed to getting up early and spending an hour or so, everyday, doing something that moved us forward.    Several days a week, I moved my body (I exercised). The other days, I moved my mind, seeking inspiration to push entrenched thought patterns off dead center. I felt alive. I felt excited. I felt flexible. Good things began to happen.

Then one day, I slept in.

You know how it is… life got really busy. There were a lot of wonderful things going on in our life and I needed to be rested up! I knew I’d get back to my schedule tomorrow.

“Tomorrow” became “next week”.  “Next week” became “never”.

This weekend I had the opportunity to “man the sidewalk sale” in front of the pharmacy.  From 9-5, I sat out on the sidewalk. It was about 103. It was hot. It was uncomfortable. My feet got sunburned. And… there was a lot going on in the heart of Main Street. Merchandise moved. Sales were robust. Interesting activity buzzed all around. Engaging conversations were had.

  • There was a film crew from Australia shooting a segment for HGTV.
  • The stagecoach rides ferried people about.
  • I ran into the person I’ve been meaning to have an important chat with.
  • Another person ran into me that had been carrying a burden and we were able to lift that from him.

Then I got too hot. I went inside for lunch.

It felt good to retreat to an air conditioned office with some yummy pad thai and a good magazine. I relaxed. I cooled down. I settled in. It would have been all too easy to stay there the rest of the day, and yet, the action was on Main Street. I needed to move myself out there to be a part of it.

Today, it hit me that mental and physical progress is much like the sidewalk sale. If we want to progress, we have to be engaged. To be engaged takes sacrifice…it takes the giving up of comfort, ease, relaxation, distraction and entertainment so we can be in the middle of activity…In the middle of new ideas, fresh inspirations, superior reflections so we can think better.  In the middle of stretching our body, elevating our heart rate, practicing our balance so we can move better. 

When we think better, move better, we are better.

I guess that means tomorrow I need to get up early and do something better than indulge in another hour of sleep. I’m looking forward to it.

Sacred Moments

This is a monumental week.

Brooke, my first-born, is becoming a wife on Saturday.   Her groom is an amazing man that we can’t wait to welcome as a son.

I don’t know about you, but as I have gotten older, I find that my emotions have evened out. Unfortunately, the highs are not quite as high, but the lows are not nearly as low. I guess that’s good, because living on an emotional roller coaster is exhausting and not very productive. However, I like to feel deeply, and today I awoke with a deep sense of profound joy and anticipation.

Life is incredibly busy, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up…you just want to slow down and catch your breath. Other times, after years and months planning, a major life event is suddenly here and you’re so afraid that this precious time is going to go way too fast, you want to savor every sacred moment.

In life there are many celebrations. So many timeless life moments. So many transitions in this fluid progression called life.

My daughter, Brie, reminded me that celebrations are like seasons. When you’re in the middle of them, they seem to last forever. Then, suddenly, they transition quickly into something else.

The stormy sleep of winter paves the way for the rebirth and rejuvenation of spring, in all it’s vast expressions.

Out of the colorful explosions of spring, comes the intensity of summer….the chance to slow down, heat up, reconnect, savor.

And when the heat of summer gives way to the coolness of autumn, we breath a sigh of relief. We anticipate the bounty of the harvest and the joys of the holidays.

Then all too soon, the holidays are gone and we find ourselves relieved to welcome a quiet blanket of snow.

Maybe that’s what makes life’s seasons so sweet…they are here and gone before you know it, and yet they pave the way for something fresh, something unexpected, something new.

The trick is to thoroughly savor the season you’re in.

Ours in wedding season, and in this final week before Brooke and Justin become man and wife, I’m going to treasure every single sacred moment, knowing it’s the beginning of another wonderful transition.

And that fills me with joy.

 

 

 

Proud to be an American

On Monday, we will celebrate Memorial Day honoring the men and women who have died protecting our right to be Americans.

It breaks my heart that, somehow, it has become controversial to be proud of our Country….to be pro-America and all that She stands for. It breaks my heart that, somehow, being a proud American is being equated with being anti-immigrant. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Since the birth of our nation, immigrants have been a vital part of who we are as Americans. Our cities honor and reflect the flavor of different cultures and customs, and we’re proud of that. We enjoy that. But we have to ask ourselves these critical questions:

  1.  Are we AMERICANS that enjoy the diversity of different homelands?  OR
  2. Do we believe that we should be sovereign cultures that just happen to reside on American soil?

There is a tremendous distinction between those two philosophies, and the future of our Nation will be determined by what we fight for.

Our Founding Documents, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, protect the freedom that has called people to our shores for generations. And if it’s true that people all over the world have literally sacrificed everything to get to America, there must be something incredible precious about who we are and what we stand for. Let’s take a look at what we stand for…at the foundation on which we were built.

Our Constitution is inspired and there is genius in its simplicity and in the sacredness of its content.  The Preamble clearly states the goals for our Founding Document…

First and foremost, it articulates that the government is US…”We the People”. The power and privilege established in the Constitution, and the responsibility that entails, is granted to our citizens.

And WHY is power given to the people? For what purpose?

  1. To Form a Better Government than the tyranny we came from or see in other parts of the world.
  2. To Establish Justice. Now it doesn’t say “lay down the law”. The goal is to build the government of our nation on a foundation of fairness, equity and objectivity in how we deal with one another.
  3. To Ensure Domestic Tranquility. To have peace at home, in our own nation, for a people cannot forever survive a divided country.
  4. To Provide for the Common Defense. To make provisions to safeguard and protect our Country and its people.
  5. To Promote the General Welfare. To actively encourage and affect the health, happiness and prosperity of everyone in our nation
  6. To Secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity: To make sure that we are able to enjoy these freedoms along with our children.

These goals are further supported by the Bill of Rights granting immense freedom to the people of America under the protection of law.

Under the BILL OF RIGHTS, you have a right to…

  1. Worship the way you want. Say what you want. Gather information. You can peacefully get together wherever and whenever you want. You can complain to the government, ask for assistance or communicate with the Government without being afraid. And the Press is can report what it wants.
  2. You have a right to your guns and to defend yourself and resist oppression.
  3. You don’t have to house the military in peacetime. (Granted, this is not a hot topic but a good idea, nonetheless)
  4. You are protected from unlawful search and seizure and arrest.
  5. You don’t have to incriminate yourself or be tried twice for the same offense ever. You have the right to due process of law, regardless of circumstance, and your property can’t be taken without being paid fairly for it.
  6. The Bill of Rights further lays out what “due process” looks like.
  7. Finally, under the 9th Amendments, it acknowledges that you are born with more rights than any constitution could ever list or specify.

PROTECTING THESE RIGHTS, WHICH YOU SO FULLY ENJOY, IS WHAT THE MEN AND WOMEN OF OUR MILITARY HAVE DIED FOR.

This Constitution, this Supreme Law of the Land, IS the beacon of hope and freedom that calls hungering people to our shores. It’s worth defending. It’s worth working for.  It’s worth protecting.  And it’s worth asking those that come here to honor.

And while the majority of us aren’t called to military service, we have the explicit duty to claim our allegiance to these great Ideals, for if we don’t claim and protect them, we can’t be a beacon of hope for anyone.

I am awed by the depth of personal respect that is framed within our guiding document.  Our Country’s foundation, on which we stand, live, breath and build our lives, deserves the same depth of respect.  Let us not contort, pollute or convolute what it truly means to be a proud American.  Let us make the conscious choice to not see ourselves as Republicans and Democrats violently divided… let us choose to be AMERICANS who are unified by the sacred freedoms we enjoy.  And let us work our differences out from that standpoint.

If the men and women in our military have died protecting those rights, let us honor their sacrifice and live in a manner that embodies all that is good and just and right about what it is to be an American.

Their sacrifice deserves nothing less.