01/02/11 — A new year, a new America

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A new year, a new America

The Times Square ball has fallen, the champagne corks have popped and the confetti has been put away for another year.

And now, it is 2011.

And with the dawning of any new year comes the need to look ahead, to make plans and to decide what we want to change in the year ahead.

And there is a lot for Americans to think about in 2011.

This is the year we do something about the economy and jobs. We are going to need to hold every Congressman, senator and presidential appointee's feet to the fire and refuse to accept easy answers and temporary solutions.

We need meaningful decisions and brave actions. We need thoughtful analysis and leadership.

This is also the year that we shore up the shaggy details of our Middle East policy. We need to make a commitment right now that we are going to finish what we started in Afghanistan and Iraq and that we are going to be tough on anyone who aligns themselves with our enemies. We are going to need to give our troops the support and supplies they need -- and we are going to need to let those who harbor terrorists know, we are strong and we mean business.

No more touchy, feely diplomacy. The strong, confident and principled United States is back -- and ready to get the job of protecting this country done right. At least, that should be our goal for 2011.

This is the year that our image around the world should be less important than the message we send to those who have put a target on our back. We should still try to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan and Iraqi people, but we should no longer accept the derision of a world that does not have the gumption to protect anyone, but sure is able to critique our efforts to do so.

No more apologies, not in 2011.

And then there are the domestic issues.

We need to talk about health care in 2011 -- and to repeal the law that was passed this past year. Then, we need to sit down and come up with meaningful health care reform. And this time, we absolutely must insist that anyone who votes on the measure has read it.

And that is another resolution for the newly dawned new year. We need to rid ourselves of anyone who has decided that public office is a cash cow that does not require serious effort or interest. We need to make longtime, career politicians earn their salaries this year -- and get rid of anyone who is taking advantage of the system for his or her own gain.

We do not need hangers-on in 2011. We need leaders. And that holds true for the new crop of representatives and senators, too. We need to make sure that those who are given the honor of serving their constituents do the job they were hired to do.

Education should be a priority in 2011, too. We need to thin out the federal bureaucracy that thrives in this department and put those who remain on a strict mission -- get more American children in the top tier of the world in math and reading and cut the national dropout rate.

No more unfunded mandates that do nothing except cloud the issue, and no more ridiculous policies that do not address the real challenges that schools face. No more sugar-coated, college classroom theories of what it will take to get America's children the education they need. Address the hard issues, like parental responsibility, social promotion and supporting the efforts of children who do not receive any reinforcement of the importance of education at home. We should put money into programs for the gifted, too, and create special schools for those with other talents, so that as many young people as possible can have a chance at the American dream.

This is the year, too, that we should stop expecting teachers to be parents and to demand that parents do their share.

And that leads us to the final, most important goal for this country in 2011.

This should be the year we make personal responsibility our new watchword.

We need to ferret out the cheats, the liars and those who have figured out how to beat the system. This s the year that we demand accountability from those who receive federal assistance and that we make sure that those who need help and deserve help, get it.

It should be the year when we reward those who make the effort to help themselves, and demand the same performance from everyone who receives a check.

This should be the year that we take the first step toward the day when disability and government programs are no longer career goals but become the safety nets they were intended to be.

This is the year we stop the nanny state and create the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" generation.

The year ahead is going to be full of challenges and possibilities. What kind of year we review in 2012 is really up to us.

This should be the year we demand more and expect more, and set the agenda for the nation we want and deserve.

And this is the year when we should remind ourselves every day that we, the people, control our future.

If we stick to that belief, good times are definitely ahead.

Published in Editorials on January 2, 2011 12:58 AM