America must return to its former glory quickly

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Whoever wins the presidential election, it is clear that unless the White House and Congress work together, the country will continue on the disastrous path of the past eight years. People in Queens and throughout the nation and world will be affected by what happens in Washington.

We must return to a robust policy of diplomatic engagement with the rest of the world. Guns and boots on the ground should not be the first reaction to possible danger. We should, in former President Teddy Roosevelt's words, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." We seem incapable of doing either now.

On the home front, we need to coordinate cities' active support, as they deal with multiple problems, including maintaining infrastructure. We should not have to wait for a bridge or public building to collapse in Queens because of a lack in proper maintenance.

Land and water use are becoming increasingly important matters. A policy which encourages and supports sustainable growth is vital. The natural areas of this country that have been preserved should not be put in danger.

Public places, like the Queens Botanical Garden, can set examples for the rest of the country. The garden is the only public institution in the city awarded the highest prize from the U.S. Green Building Council, which has been given to fewer than 50 new buildings worldwide.

We can and must figure out a way to keep Social Security the important program it has been for 70 years. Surely there is enough intelligence in this country to work out how this can be done. Privatization should become an archaic word.

Globalization and its effect on Americans must be a constant concern to our elected officials. It is here to stay. We cannot return to the past. We must learn how to live with the future.

Immigration reform should be returned to the legislative agenda. A good bipartisan plan was worked out but defeated a few years back. Unfortunately, in the heat of campaigning, some of its supporters have turned tail on this issue. There are 12 million or more people and their families waiting for positive action. Thousands of them are our neighbors.

We should have a sensible and achievable transportation policy, which will emphasize public transportation. Our dependence on cars has become an economic oil noose around our necks. We can and should do better. Certainly the cars we drive can be made more efficient.

Recent elections in many parts of the country have shown a distressing failure to ensure every eligible voter can vote and that every vote will be counted. Let us stop paying lip service to the notion that our politicians want to hear "the voice of the people" when they lack the guts to make the voting system work.

Queens representatives in the state Assembly and state Senate can work for an independent commission to set election boundary lines and support other electoral reforms.

In all things we do to protect our country, we must make certain that we protect the basic premises of our Constitution. We should not fight enemies with weapons or torture. The rights of our citizens are paramount. They are not a "quaint notion," as one Bush administration official noted a few years ago. They are the rock on which the United States stands.

Like many Americans, I have frequently found "The Star-Spangled Banner" less than the ideal national anthem. I have always considered "America the Beautiful" to be a better choice, especially because of, among other things, these words from the second stanza: "God mend thine every flaw,/Confirm thy soul in self-control,/Thy liberty in law."

Finally, I applaud what columnist David Brooks wrote last month: "Democracy is not average people selecting average leaders. It is average people with the wisdom to select the best prepared."

Please vote Nov. 4. It is the least we can do for our country.

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