I began running 23 years ago, during a summer when I was living in Washington, D.C.
Since then, during visits to the nation's capital, I run the same six-mile route I ran then: from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and back. Some years I am faster than others, but my goal is always to finish -- time does not matter. Last week, I ran that same route.
My favorite part of the run occurs midway through, when I run up the stairs to the Lincoln Memorial and pause to read the inscriptions in the memorial -- the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. The Gettysburg Address, delivered on Nov. 19, 1863, closes with the phrase, "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865, after almost four years of internal bloody conflict. It includes the powerful phrase, "with malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in."
It reminds me of the work we are now in. This week, Newt Gingrich launched a new book, "To Save America." This is the work in which we are now engaged. Candidate Barack Obama ran on the theme of "hope and change" during the 2008 presidential election. Since then, as president, he has moved forward with his idea of change by bailing out companies, passing stimulus bills and passing health care reform. His underlying belief: Those in control of the government are smarter than the average person. Since government officials are smarter, they should step in and help those who are not smart enough to help themselves. Confronted with this underlying message, the American voters might be expected to give up hope and let the government control their lives.
But hope springs eternal.
According to 51 percent of voters nationwide, the United States is "the last, best hope of mankind," according to a Rasmussen Report poll released Sunday. The telephone survey included 1,000 likely U.S. voters and had a sampling error of 3 percent.
On Tuesday, while Americans went to the polls to vote, the U.S. House of Representatives was busy. Were they trying to solve our budget problems? After all, the House is the legislative body where all budget appropriations must start. The Treasury Department announced on May 12 that the government has now run budget deficits for 19 consecutive months -- a new record. Additionally, the forecast for this fiscal year is a $1.5 trillion deficit. This is $100 million higher than last year's $1.4 trillion deficit.
It turns out the House was otherwise engaged on Tuesday, voting instead for a resolution about beer. Sponsored by Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo., House Resolution 1297 supports "the goals and ideals of American Craft Beer Week." When asked why anyone would vote against this resolution, Markey replied, "It does seem like a no-brainer."
While the House voted on suds, Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Penn., had his clock cleaned by losing the Democratic primary, Rand Paul beat an establishment opponent in the Kentucky Senate Republican primary and Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., was forced into a runoff in her state's Democratic primary.
Earlier this month, Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.V., was beaten in the Democratic primary and Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, lost the Republican nomination during the party convention.
The pundits in Washington are declaring an anti-establishment, anti-incumbent wave. It may be simpler than that.
Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark., who resoundingly beat seven primary opponents in the Republican primary for Senate, might have figured out what voters are looking for in a candidate. His "victory represents someone who was in Washington three or four days a week," Boozman noted, "but was home two or three days a week."
Boozman's comments reflect a candidate who understands that the job of an elected official is to serve the voters. As would-be politicians run their races "to save America," as Dad would say, they might do well to jog past the Lincoln Memorial and ponder the inscriptions: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in ... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
We still have hope; now we want real change.