INTRODUCTION

I am serious when I say I’m not trying to tell anyone what to think. With this book, I am simply writing as an American who works to understand what’s going on. I write from my experiences—as a former teacher and administrator, a former small business owner, as a city councilmember, as a member of a faith community, as a dedicated father and grandfather. I write as a fellow American interested in improving the quality and outcomes of dialogue about the state of the country. My goal, in essence, is to promote good conversation.

The idea for this book began several years ago. Like most Americans, I was tired of all the partisan bickering that had dominated Congress for years. Americans were polarizing. I decided to do something about it. I decided to seek a seat in the United States House of Representatives.

Although I didn’t really expect to win the election, and I didn’t, I did hope to encourage better dialogue—conversation about America, about democracy, core values, leadership, and where we are going. Over the course of my campaign, I was encouraged by the conversation at the hundreds of doors where I was able to engage residents, expressing my concerns and listening to theirs. My belief in Americans was buoyed—we’re good people.

I felt better during and immediately after the election. I was less anxious, and the only explanation I came up with was that I was doing something, not just griping. But the ideas and conversations I’d had along the way kept surfacing in my mind. I couldn’t think about my grandchildren without wondering, worrying, what their future would be. I decided I needed to try another strategy to move the national dialog in a better direction. The result is the book you hold in your hands.

I write from what I have learned in my lifetime. The chapters that follow cover a sampling of the topics that describe America. They glimpse into the soul of who we are and what we stand for. Some are subtle looks; some are dynamics of America that are loud and in our faces. All require sorting through and taking apart, peeling back of the onion, so to speak, so we can see what’s at the core.

Who do I want to read this book? Anyone who wants to

•     step away from the hectic pace of life in America to reflect about life and what’s most important,

•     step away from the confusing, often disturbing way America “does politics,” and

•    participate in shaping America’s future.

The stories that launch most chapters are in this book because they have helped me get my head and heart around issues and the people dynamics that affect America’s ability to understand how we best govern our nation, how we make interactions between us more effective, more productive. My stories and my processing how they relate to America help me understand all this. They’re my perceptions, my takeaways. I offer them fully expecting that readers will be in sync with some chapters, dismayed or repulsed by some, bored by others. My hope is that this book will provoke interesting and helpful thinking and dialog. It is my expectation that you will resolve to increase your engagement in America’s future, deciding that you can make a difference. It is my hope that you will do your part to stop the squabbling we hear every day, that you will actively support good problem solving and good future planning.

This book puts thoughts on the table for you to consider. To ponder. To stir up your creative thinking. To do some self-examination. It is my hope that you will do your own analysis of what America values and who we want to be as a nation, as a world leader. It is my firm belief that we share similar thoughts about what we want the American experience to be for our kids and grandkids.

Continue to Chapter 1