There’s the old adage that people should steer clear of discussing religion and politics with friends and family. I enjoy a good discussion as long as the other person is willing to be open-minded and hear my thoughts and vice versa. The discussions that I run the other direction from are those when I know that the other person will try to convince me that my views are wrong and theirs are clearly correct. The media seems to bring to light so many scandals, endless arguments, back-stabbing amongst politicians, and behavior that in other professions might cause a person to lose their job. My nature is to approach all aspects of my life with a “glass half full mentality” and so it’s strange for me to start a blog with some seemingly negative sentiments. There’s negativity in politics, and there’s also incredible opportunities to be hopeful and optimistic.

Locally, the media bombards us with the federal racketeering trial of former Cuyahoga County commissioner Jimmy Dimora, and the trial continues to bring forth information full of accusations of bribery, conspiracy, and gambling to name a few. Nationally, the Republican presidential debates and campaigns seem to bring out the worst in many of the candidates. It seems the candidates spend more time attacking each others viewpoints than they spend on talking to their target audience-the American people. What happened to the concept of having a civil debate in which the people watching really learned about what each individual felt? Congress seems to to disagree so much that any sort of decision-making is stalled from happening for both the Republicans and the Democrats.

In spite of these negative examples (which, again, I’m not comfortable pointing out) if you look around there are examples of positive civil and transparent politics out there. Whew, my “glass half full mentality” isn’t lost all together in this blog. The new Cuyahoga County Office of the Executive Ed FitzGerald’s website states: “It’s time to build one Cuyahoga County, united towards trusting county government that strengthens our economy and delivers excellent services with unparalleled efficiency.” The new County government has a number of initiatives that support transparency and community involvement such as: Open Government-Transparency Initiative, Next Generation Youth Council, and Cuyahoga CountyStat, and a County-wide Community Policing Initiative. I’m not suggesting our new local government is perfect, but they are striving towards the two of the very principles the Civic Commons has based our work upon civility and transparency. The Civic Commons has worked with City Councilman Joe Cimperman on a project called Flats Forward, and through that work I can say that I have found him to be committed and passionate about the redevelopment of the Flats, while also being transparent and civil. The support, passion, and dedication Councilman Cimperman has shown towards the redevelopment of the Flats neighborhood is another reason to be optimistic about local government. My guess is that there are a lot more Councilmen out there with the same ideals and practices.

This week Congress will lose a true example of civility, transparency, and a person wholeheartedly committed to her constituents, yet at the same time we gained a national hero. The attack last January on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and other innocent civilians left six people dead, and the nation wondering if she would survive this horrific attack. She did survive and her story is one of full of love and determination and dedication that went against all odds. She’s healing remarkably, and teaching people across the country what it means to be brave, to keep on fighting, and to never give up. I remember seeing Diane Sawyer’s interview with Gabby Giffords with tears streaming down my face as I watched her fighting to recover, to get back to the person she was. On January 9, 2012 Gabby led a huge crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance at a candlelight vigil to mark the one year anniversary since the shootings. Across the nation we read in countless news outlets that it was a bittersweet day on Sunday for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as she spent her last day in Tuscon, AZ as the cities U.S. Representative. She’s decided to resign from the House this week so that she can focus on her recovery. Watch her resignation video entitled “A Message from Gabby”. She spent Sunday morning finishing the community meeting she started before she was shot and saying goodbye to constituents who supported her through her long recovery. She told folks gathered: “I will return”, and on another message sent on Twitter she said: “I will return & we will work together for Arizona & this great country." She visited one of her favorite charities that day, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, as her last act as a Congresswoman. The foodbank established the Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center with monies received following the shooting. I learned a great deal about Gabby Giffords over the past year, and the stories of her endless compassion, unfettered commitment, and her contagious personality inspired me. I wish that Gabby could have returned to office this year, but I have this feeling that she will return with even greater compassion for the work that’s still to be done for her state and for her country. She will always be a hero in my mind.

Tonight is the State of the Union Address, and I’ll watch knowing that I am lucky to have the right and privilege to live in a country with a democratic government even if our government isn’t perfect. I’m lucky to be able to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Gabby Giffords will be in Washington D.C. for the State of the Union address tonight. I’ll be watching with hope for Gabby's full recovery, and as always with hope for our country.

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Copyright © 2012 Emily Cole; available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

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