Hear Me Out: What makes America great?

PHOENIX - Each Sunday, ABC15.com debuts an Arizona issue - along with two opposing sides on the topic.

Don't worry, you always have the opportunity to make comments at the bottom of the page. Yeah, your opinion matters, too.

As the nation celebrates its 236th birthday this week, we asked representatives from our two major political parties, Arizona Republicans and Democrats to answer a simple question: What makes America great? Although it's an election year, we kindly asked both parties to refrain from attacking the other, and instead share their values, their accomplishments and their vision for the future.

Arizona Republican Party Chairman Tom Morrissey says America's highest achievement is the preservation of human liberty.

Arizona Democratic Party Communications Director Frank Camacho says it's because we are just ordinary people, living ordinary lives, in an extraordinary country which has passed on to us a legacy of greatness.

Click "next page" to read the first of two positions: "A living tapestry of America," by Arizona Democratic Party Communications Director Frank Camacho.

A Discount Tire Store may not be what you think of when searching for an example of America's greatness. But it is. I sit here and look at the faces of customers waiting and workers working and I realize this is a living tapestry of America.  Black, brown and white: Men and women: Young and old. We are just ordinary people, living ordinary lives, in an extraordinary country which has passed on to us a legacy of greatness.

The challenge before us today is can we accept that legacy and pass it along, intact, to the next generation. I believe we are up to that challenge because of the quiet spirit which I think is in our collective D-N-A.  It is a spirit that gives us confidence that no matter the demands, we will prevail because no demand is greater than our ability to unite for the greater good. After all, we are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

That is important to remember, especially in these contentious times when it seems issues are not so much discussed as they are venomously argued.  It's sometimes hard to believe we can be united when so much of the political discourse is geared at demeaning your opponent rather than focusing on ideas.  But there is reason for optimism.

Fifty years ago, in a speech at American University, President John F. Kennedy discussed the need for nuclear disarmament with the Russians.  He said, "In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal. "

I hope we, as Americans, can remember that our most common link is that we are Americans. We all inhabit this country and share its sometimes flawed but still wonderful history.  I know what can be accomplished when people of good intentions gather together to effect positive change.

When I was born, high schools in Phoenix were segregated. African-American students were forced to attend Carver High.  Today, Carver High exists only as a museum. My first memory of television was the riot at Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas when nine black students de-segregated the school.  Less than a decade later, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Bill.

When America was in the grip of the worst economic depression in its history, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told us, "There is nothing to fear but fear itself." Today it seems politics, especially in Arizona, is based on fear.  That fear is often based on the un-certainty of our future. I believe together we can use the tension of those un-certainties to overcome our fears and solve the issues facing our state. To paraphrase President Kennedy, our most common link is that we all inhabit this state, we all cherish our children's future and we are all in this together.

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Click "next page" to read the second of two positions: "We are one nation from many," by Arizona Republican Party Chairman Tom Morrissey.

What makes our nation great is our culture of constitutionalism, our self-reliance, and our passionate concern for each other.  The American Founders knew our nation would face continuous challenges, both domestic and foreign, and created a republic that built checks and balances into our institutions so that the people of the country would be served by responsive leaders and well-considered legislation.  Our Constitution established a government led by representatives selected through frequent elections, divided power, and a decentralized government that have proven to be the best mechanism for a nation facing any threat and preserving a free society.  Each of our fifty states, every one free but holding a unique kind of sovereignty, is tightly united and bound to our Constitution, which in turn empowers a federal government with defined, limited powers.  These principles establish a carefully limited authority, and the institutions of our government that continually strive to preserve such principles are the key to the permanence of our Constitution and our nation.

The symbol or our government is our flag, made up of the thirteen stripes of the first states and the fifty separate and distinct stars representing today's states.  That is the truth behind the flag that flies over us, that it is a reminder that we are one nation -- one from many -- as the "E Pluribus Unum" embossed on many of our coins reminds us.

Abraham Lincoln, who as President experienced first-hand the violent and destructive results of a divided nation, put the preservation of our United States as a united nation above all else.  It is thanks to Lincoln, considered the father of the Republican Party, and to our many elected leaders throughout history that our country still exists and does so with such a good measure peace and universal harmony not before seen in human history.  While Lincoln presided over a war pitting state against state, it is a majestic truth of America that there are certain universal principles so hard won and now held so dearly that we are willing to fight for them and to die for them.  Liberty is one of those principles.

America's highest achievement is the preservation of human liberty, and liberty is the most important pursuit of the Republican Party.  We have succeeded on many fronts.  Republicans in our country's history have stood the tallest against dangerous enemies like communism, and fought hard against the tyranny of burdensome bureaucracies, high taxes, and meaningless regulations that can choke off the prosperity of our families and our businesses.

But we can do better, and we all must.  Our vision for the future is one of limited government, prosperity, and freedom for all.  Our message is that faith and virtue are deeply dependent on liberty, and that our party speaks to all Americans who share these values.

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