A Vote for Values

by Daniel C. Chang | 11/7/00 6:00am

Although the Clinton and Gore era has brought our nation to the height of its prosperity, it has neglected to bring our nation to the same peak of respect and honor. I thank Clinton and his masterful performance in facilitating the progress toward our economic success. And now that we're secure about that, it's time to turn to a different sense of security, one that Clinton has failed to uphold: our values.

I've been undecided for quite some time now. I was initially a McCain supporter and had worked on his campaign. His message of looking beyond our self interest as the foundation of happiness, national progress and human advancement, spoke to my conscience. He had a great influence on the students here at Dartmouth as well.

But now with McCain out of the race, and the contest mainly between Bush and Gore (although Nader is becoming a more significant factor), I've wrestled with my views and thoughts for what I would like to see in our next presidency. It has been a painful process to come to a decision, but alas, I've decided and it all comes down to the sole issue of character and values.

The only thing really at risk in this election is our values. What we need is something our prosperity can't buy. It's integrity.

No matter how it's been played out -- there's no real sense of urgency in America: the majority of people are comfortable and happy. Few Americans remember the last economic downturn. In America today, we are inured not only to low unemployment, low inflation and a strong market, but also to a whole new faith in economic immunity. Our generation can't really think of a recent serious economic downturn -- we only hear of them as stories that happened to our grandparents. A company like Napster, regardless of the result of its lawsuit, can still be considered as a success. Fears of the Cold War have disappeared. Crime rates are at an all time low where we have the added luxury of arguing over violence in movies than in the streets of real life. We are almost numb to misfortune. We live in an era of boundless choices, expanding opportunities and a peculiar complacency.

Given this, and these liberties, I stake my claim that there is nothing more important to worry about in this election than the fading values of our nation. These growing choices have spun people into all directions creating a calamity of confusion over the central vision and direction of America.

Clinton has been a poor role model. I look for a president that I can be proud of. Most would agree to at least the latter. But what do I mean by proud of? A society that ignores or neglects a set of core standards that motivates people to work, stay married, exercise self-control and be honest exhibits a poverty of spirit that no amount of money can enrich. Bush may not represent the highest moral ground, but he exudes these missing principles that are crucial.

I'm not asking that you disregard the issues such as health care and tax cuts and the environment, but I'm asking you to keep something in mind that isn't as apparent and obvious. Our values form from what we do, what we see and how we act. I want to be proud of my values and principles, because that is the one thing that politics can't take away from me.

It's tough -- I really value the environment. I was very close to voting liberal (Gore) simply because it is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed and acted upon in the immediate future. Among the 'issues' discussed, it's the top on my list. I don't necessarily agree with Bush on his environmental stance, but I have faith in a more important issue that just slightly edges out the environment in any competition. The president not only needs to be a proven leader, but also needs to inspire us to work together and live together as a community.

True, the president can have a lot of influence on the environment, but it's really up to us to create the institutions that would change how we handle the environment. And to make these real changes, it all comes back to our behavior. I believe Bush will foster an environment that will eventually make these things happen.

I read yesterday that some are voting for Gore although they despise much of his character and some potential flaws in his policies. Gore has had to shift a lot of his views and compromise much of his vision. If he were elected, I would live with the uneasiness that Gore could change his mind or make an exaggeration that could be one of the most dishonest reports in history; I could not TRUST Gore. The politics of Clinton and Gore have not changed. Gore truly has his feet planted firmly in the clouds. I more than admire his vision, but he hasn't showed the slightest interest in hearing the people's vision.

On the other hand, Bush is a man who has consistently shown that he can stand by his word -- his glories or his faults. He has shown that he can stand by his story, good or bad, and that's something we can all respect. Bush knows that he's human, and that we're all in the same fight for a better nation, Republican or Democrat. He's proven that he can reach across party lines and bring in a sense of unity, a sense of community for our nation.

Integrity and responsibility are the two principal characteristics that I look for in a leader. It's something all the prosperity in our nation cannot purchase. Today we lack leaders with these two qualities, and without integrity and responsibility, one cannot lead effectively. In fact, we tend to admire people who are fair and honest to us -- we look for character and integrity in our leaders. We still need to put morality ahead of politics, science, and economics. The only genuine backbone of our actions -- if they are to be moral -- is integrity and responsibility. Responsibility is something higher than my family, my country, my wealth, my success. I believe that George W. Bush is the leader who will aim to overcome this ongoing dilemma.