During my high school career, I was honored to be chosen to represent the United States as a foreign exchange student in the American Field Service program. My arrival in Lima, Peru, was awesome. People cheered for our group of American students. They smiled and waved to us as we disembarked and I felt very special, very loved.
They sought to show their excitement and acceptance by trying to speak English. Amazingly, all of them could speak fairly well, since English was taught to every Peruvian student. Americans were respected and our nation was considered to be made of fine, upstanding people, ruled by a democratic and forward-thinking government. We were noted as global peacemakers.
I was proud to be American and although I learned to love Lima and all of the kind and generous people I had met there, I was, nonetheless, thrilled to return home months later. I remember tears rolling down my cheeks at the first school assembly of my senior year, as the band played "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the entire audience stood in respect.
However, times have changed. Only months ago, a business associate told me of a trip that she and her husband had just made to Germany. She said the atmosphere of hostility toward the American government was intimidating.
She and her husband were so uncomfortable that they actually began lying about where they were from. How sad. They chose to say that they were Canadians and not reveal anything of their actual affiliation with the United States. The ill will of other nations toward our aggressive and arrogant government image is becoming more prevalent and more alarming.
It is time for us to rethink the direction that our government has chosen as domineering world rulers and strive to return to being civilized world leaders. Americans are intelligent and gifted enough to lead peacefully, with a great conscience, a philanthropic mind-set and a humble and respectful attitude.
The United States consists of a number of individuals living a "we" philosophy, as in "we the people of these United States," but I would love to boast that my country, as a whole, exemplifies this elevated attitude of caring for one another.
Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." I take that statement to heart and endeavor to apply the concept to my everyday life.
When I stand in line at the grocery store, rather than being on guard to see who is cheating at the "7 items or less" line, I look around for who I can be assisting. What elderly person could use a hand? Rather than questioning what this store can do for me or how these employees can make my life easier, I make the effort to be a warm and courteous customer.
It's a small start, but all change has to begin somewhere. If we each endeavor to live a gracious life, respecting other human beings, if we start from the bottom up, so to speak, perhaps "we the people" can take back our global reputation. The only way to encourage our government to reflect our civility and humility is to make use of our vote.
So I will make sure that I am taking time to consider each candidate carefully. Those politicians who are working toward a more global attitude of cooperation will be the levers I will be tugging on. I am thrilled to be living in a country where I am allowed to vote and voice my opinion. So, I will do just that.