By Gayle Plato
Gallup Poll gives a clear snapshot of the country, we are a center-right nation, and accordingly, we see a trending toward more conservative values. Not since the mid 1990s, has the power in Washington presented such a paradox. We have a liberal Congress and White House, but we the people are not leaning left (Gallup Poll: http://tinyurl.com/loaftf).
The Contract With America, of the Republican revolution in Congress,1994, gets mentioned regularly in political circles. Yet the reality of it, what it was, and how it created a framework of service-oriented representation has not been paralleled. It made the careers of the creators and household names of some legislators. The Contract With America was a modern day Gettysburg Address in the truest sense of each document. Both were concise addresses to the people, timely, and deep with meaning
On April 15, 2009, I spoke for three small minutes, freezing from an odd Arizona cold front, confronted with protesters yelling in front of me. My Tea Party moment was not stellar: a bit nervous, and lost in the shuffle of being the inadvertent opening act to Arizona Representative John Shadegg, I stood there next to him, seeing former representative, JD Hayworth a few yards away on the radio; I felt odd. What a difference 15 years makes.
In late 1994, I was making a presentation at a workshop for educators about 'Resiliency.' It's basically the opposite of at-risk programming, with a focus on implementing protective factors, creating an environment of respect and mentorship with people, and a deep desire to achieve personal best. At-risk is about victimization of the soul, and funneling money at crisis intervention of victims. Victims are real and need help, but in order to stop building victims we need to foster social success. We need intrinsic, inalienable understanding of self-worth: resiliency.
At the presentation, I was asked to offer a document or professional article that exhibited resilient language and fostering of personal accountability. Most went to educational jargon; I went to current events. To a group of liberal educators, in a nice hotel ballroom in sight of the Space Needle, with roasty aroma of brewing espresso wafting in, I handed out a copy of the Contract With America.
You'd have thought I asked the folks to drink my Grandma's lukewarm Sanka decaf. I was literally a lead balloon bottoming out in front of my peers. I heard a colleague, I felt a friend, leaning in to another saying, "She's from Arizona so well, y'know..."
All I could do is move forward. I was younger than today and a bit better on my game. Yet, by the time I finished, the teachers could not deny that resiliency is apparent when expertly written. The Contract With America is the quintessential document of resiliency and I knew it. Fostering respect, limitations, concise defined parameters, and focus on the positive qualities of the citizen being courted, 'The Contract' is a brilliant piece of work.
On April 15th, I stood there next to two men who had come in to Washington D.C., under the Contract I valued, now here in Arizona at this 'Tea Party' with me, very distant from that eye I once had of the Needle. What happened to the Contract?
It seems to me, that we now have leaders who worry about themselves, their power, ongoing growth of government, and an oppressive angst about families, average Joes, just one pay check from being at-risk; all angry about disenfranchisement. We are smart enough to know when we had something and now see what we are losing. But the day was closing and sun setting on the Tea Party. I got up there and said, "It seems to me that these fifteen years later, our leaders are taking a contract out on America and I am not okay with that."
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is a true example of modern understanding of the audience, the issues, and the beat of the day. Lincoln’s words were brief and the speech cogent. As was the Contract With America, direct, offering heavy concepts in tight clips of modernity: it was it’s own paradigm shift. It stood alone.
Lincoln’s great speech didn’t wow anyone at the time read, and only now do we see the greatness of the brevity and grace in the simplicity. Jump to today and we see a need to rock the voters, wow the citizens, and rally the individual spirit. If the Tea Party movement is any indication, we are seeing a new wave of desire. The People want their country back and no more shell game political grifters of freedom.
Here is an excerpt of the Contract:
"As Republican Members of the House of Representatives and as citizens seeking to join that body we propose not just to change its policies, but even more important, to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives.
That is why, in this era of official evasion and posturing, we offer instead a detailed agenda for national renewal, a written commitment with no fine print.
This year's election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.
Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act 'with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.' To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves."
From the The Contract With America, 1994, Republican Congressional Promise to the Voters.
Gayle Plato, 44, is a certified social studies teacher, and counselor with over 25 years experience working with children and families. Her experience includes work in higher education, local school districts, private practice, and a secondary level teacher of U.S. Government, Economics, and History. Gayle's writing has been featured at Arizona state blogs, parcbench.com, and at townhall.com. Gayle lives in Scottsdale, AZ, with her son; she can be reached at Twitter:@rightwoman, or firstname.lastname@example.org