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Weekly Column - Believing in America


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America has endured times of great challenge and great triumph. At a time when doubt is growing about the prospects of a bright future for America, we must remember that the road to prosperity has never been an easy one. And our success has always been because we, as a people, are greater than the challenges we face.

Without a doubt, years of economic recession have taken a significant toll on our country. During this period, unemployment climbed to 10 percent, remaining alarmingly high in January, at 7.9 percent. The financial markets have been on an unpredictable rollercoaster ride, reacting to economic and political turbulence abroad and ongoing uncertainty at home.

And now, some fear this environment may be "the new normal."

A recent study conducted by Rutgers University revealed that 61 percent of respondents believe America will never fully recover from what is now being called the "Great Recession." It's certainly easy to understand why people are discouraged about the prospects for our future. Nearly three quarters of Americans have either lost jobs or know somebody out of work as a result of the economy, according to the study. Generation Y, the nation's next leaders, has come of age in a time fraught with war, divided government and economic hardships.

We must not lose sight of the strength and resiliency that have always been a part of the American spirit. When a spate of wildfires raged across Nebraska's fields and prairies threatening farm and ranch land, folks from near and far came to lend a hand. While not everyone could pick up a hose and battle the blaze, they were all committed to helping in the effort. In the end, this display of neighbor helping neighbor spared untold acres needed to help feed and fuel the world.

This courage and selflessness is evident throughout our history. So is the entrepreneurial spirit witnessed in Nebraska through everything from Kool-Aid to CliffsNotes to mass production of center-pivot irrigation systems. America has always been the cradle of innovation. We not only design new and revolutionary products and processes, our country is the birthplace of ingenious ideas, like our Constitution and modern democracy.

America is not just the result of a few words on a paper or lines on a map. It is the product of those hard working and enterprising people who devised the genius of our founding documents, and dared to explore a new frontier. Today is no different. Our country is not defined by rules handed down by government, but rather common principles upheld by those who believe in her future.

Make no mistake; the trials that face us today are not insignificant. They will require innovative thinking and bold resolve. They will require civic engagement across the country and political courage in Washington to make the difficult yet necessary decisions. But these are the characteristics that built America.

I continue to be encouraged by the innovative and determined spirit of folks in Nebraska and across America. A country is only as strong as its people. Our collective American spirit--our drive to achieve and rise above--is what make America great. So long as we as individuals maintain that spirit, I truly believe our brightest days are still on the horizon.

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