What We Need to Hear

In addressing Congress on Monday evening, President Reagan once again will hold up America's glass and find it more than half-full--and possibly even brimming. Once again the President will deliver a State of the Union speech that will address only one facet of the State of the Union. The optimist's words will soar with the greatness of the nation, the vitality of the economy and the ability of the free market to lead the country into a bountiful future for all.

Still, for all the economic good news proclaimed by Reagan in the past five years, there is another side of America that needs attention. This America has not supped at the table of supply-side tax cuts, has not shared in the consumer bounty, has not flowered under the pall of air pollution, has not found educational opportunity or job training, has not been liberated from the threat of toxic poison-ing or the allied tyrannies of poverty and crime.

These Americans have not been freed from the burden of long-term illness. They have not found it easier to travel to work, if they have been fortu-nate enough to find work. They have not realized the dream of owning their own homes. Or have not got a home at all. Have not reaped the benefits of economic and social justice. Have not been spared the torment of intolerance.

The President worked to get government off the backs of the people. But too many Americans have not found government where it should be by their side.

The Reagan Administration's selective eco-nomic statistics are impressive. Some Americans clearly are better off than they were four years ago or eight years ago. But is America better off? Many Americans feel good about themselves, but not so good about others. As the gap between the rich and poor grows greater, and as more immigrants seek refuge in America, so does the tension between different segments of society.

Politically the Reagan Revolution has moved the nation beyond the days of the New Deal. Even lib-eral Democrats agree that the government cannot solve problems by throwing money at them. But the country cannot afford to stop trying to solve these problems, or to get at their roots.

America is a great nation. In a great nation there is no shame in admitting that all is not perfect. Criticism is not necessarily doom-saying. A strong nation must constantly reassess its weaknesses as well as its strengths if it is to remain strong. The quest for excellence must be relentless. Times change and problems change. Old solutions must be cast aside if they no longer work, and new ones must be tried.

Finally, Americans need to be told that they must sacrifice if they want to build a strong future--a future not just for their children and grandchildren but for the children and grandchildren of all Americans. The nation has coasted comfort-ably in recent years by refusing to make difficult choices and by squandering the legacy of future generations. Now the price must be paid.

But paying the price need not necessarily be a hardship, or the effort given grudgingly. Americans will respond with enthusiasm if they are provided with the proper leadership and inspiration. The reward could be a stronger, united, purposeful America eager to meet the challenges of an exciting new century.

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