John Laird: Ignore the doom-slingers; America's best days are ahead

By John Laird, Columbian Editorial Page Editor

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When you're talkin' about your kids' accomplishments, it ain't braggin'. It's timely reporting of critical news that everyone needs to hear.

No, this column is not about anything our family's two kids have done recently. Suffice it to say that -- at 28 and 34 -- they aren't exactly kids anymore. But I am continually reminded by the actions of young people -- especially here in Clark County -- that America's best days are ahead of us, no matter what the seething doom-slingers insist.

Last week a friend posted on Facebook that her daughter has been accepted at an honors program in a local high school and will need to transfer from another high school. Even knowing the trauma that teens must face when changing schools, this mother was so proud, she almost seemed to jump off the computer screen, grab me by the shoulders and chirp, "Aren't kids just the greatest?"

Indeed they are.

That's why many people find parenting to be the most rewarding of life's endeavors. I'm not sure when my worst day at work might have been, only that it was long ago in a far-away place. But even that worst day ended with a few reminders at home about how young people do more than just decorate our lives. They keep America advancing beyond the worst of times.

Their precocious refusal to buy into the gloom might signal a cute naiveté to you, but I see it as the glorious gift of innocence.

Triumphant teens become adult leaders. That's why I'll never buy into the latest round of doomsday whimpering. With the stamina of a cockroach, this grumpiness has stretched through the millennia.

'We step up'

In September 2011, Keith Ellison wrote on his blog: "During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln (and Congress) approved the First Transcontinental Railroad to connect Americans from coast to coast. After World War II, America's national debt was higher as a percentage of GDP than now, yet Dwight D. Eisenhower knew we needed an Interstate Highway System. And of course, our social safety net was born during the Great Depression. Because of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's leadership during a time of crisis, millions of Americans can now count on Social Security to protect them during retirement."

The moral of Ellison's story is that "before anyone mourns the decline of America, they should look at our history. We're Americans -- in times of crisis, we step up."

I know, the mere mention of Keith Ellison, a Minnesotan, infuriates many of you because he is (1) a demon Democrat and (2) the first Muslim elected to Congress. So let me submit the following words from President Ronald Reagan in his 1984 State of the Union address: "I've never felt more strongly that America's best days and democracy's best days lie ahead. We're a powerful force for good. … We will carry on the tradition of a good and worthy people who have brought light where there was darkness, warmth where there was cold, medicine where there was disease, food where there was hunger, and peace where there was only bloodshed."

In that same speech, Reagan invoked these words from Carl Sandburg, spoken in a 1953 interview, long before Keith Ellison spoke with the same optimism: "I see America not in the setting sun of a black night of despair. I see America in the crimson light of a rising sun, fresh from the burning, creative hand of God."

Maybe for you the world seems dark and cold. You can find plenty of news stories to confirm your fears. Legions of nitpicking Chicken Littles deem it their calling in life to point out the shadow of every cloud. You'll find these folks in just about every public debate.

But listening to a bragging parent will bring light and warmth into your world. Admittedly, life can be challenging for, say, the father of a 13-year-old boy. Trust me on that. But I also know better days are ahead even for them!

As Ellison advised, just take a look at our history.