Steamboat Springs I write this in the afterglow of a joyful and heart-warming Inauguration Day. Americans of all races and religions stood in the cold for hours to greet our new president; many shared their emotional stories with us as they spoke to reporters covering the scene. At the inauguration breakfast here in Steamboat, we watched and cheered as if we were standing with the masses in the cold on the National Mall. Messages of congratulations poured in from around the world, cheering this bright new day. It truly was remarkable.
However, I am mindful of the somber expression on President Barack Obama's face as he strode to the microphone for his inaugural address. In the first few moments he made it clear that we do indeed have serious challenges. Our economy is in crisis; two wars sap our strength daily; our health and education systems fail many of our citizens; and our gluttonous energy use sustains our enemies and endangers our world. He also made it clear that he cannot solve these problems alone; we must do our part. I appreciate his candor and his confidence that we can handle the truth. I especially appreciate being called upon to be part of the solution.
Despite the seriousness of our situation, I have hope because of the way these problems will be approached: with an emphasis on finding common ground and working together. In President Obama, we have a leader who values openness and honesty, who surrounds himself with expert advisors of every background and viewpoint and who sits down to talk with and listen to those who disagree with him. This approach will lay a foundation of trust and willingness to work through seemingly insolvable conundrums to find solutions that may not be perfect for anyone but will be satisfactory for all. This is the art of collaboration, and it will be our salvation.
What does this collaborative approach mean in other aspects of our lives? We can let our senators and representatives know that we expect them to work together, from both sides of the aisle, to solve our problems with open and honest debate. We can demand that partisanship and ideology take a back seat to practicality. As Obama said, "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, it's whether or not it works."
This approach also asks us to work cooperatively on a local level. In Obama's approach, disagreement is a healthy and productive component to decision making. We must create an atmosphere where all the decision-makers on any given issue put their old bitter thoughts in a box by the door and then sit down to the table with the sole intention of solving the problem. We need to listen to each other, as Obama listens to the conservative columnists who vigorously opposed him during the campaign. We must find common ground with each other and identify what we can agree on. Then we can tackle our disagreements with a respectful and brainstorming attitude, where all ideas are accepted and examined purely with the intention of finding a solution. Once that solution is found, all parties must commit to working hard toward its success. It is not acceptable to subscribe to a compromise and then spend the next years sabotaging it just to prove a point.
So now, after a joyful and hopeful Inauguration Day, we all are energized to go right to work, just as Barack and Michelle have done. No sleeping in. Our president has called upon us all to work with him in any way we can, collaborating to find the best ways to reduce carbon footprints, to help the disadvantaged, to volunteer for financially-strapped nonprofits and to solve local problems. We'll do this with joy in our hearts and our children in mind. As President Obama said Tuesday, "Let it be said by our children's children that : we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."
Yes. We. Can.
Lynn Abbott is a fourth generation Routt County native who believes this moment is a turning point for us, for the nation and for the world.