Old speeches, new reasons for optimism

When you turn the calendar like America just did with politicians in Washington, D.C., clawing at each other's throats, it's hard to retain a legitimate sense of optimism - not the glib end-of-the-year kind, but the kind that recognizes the hard realities of the moment yet still holds hope that goodness will prevail.

Despite the F-bombs, name-calling, and other uncivil behavior coming to light in the post-mortem reporting of the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations, I still have that sense of optimism.

I believe beneath the wrangling that is often lifted up by the 24-hour cable news cycle, there remains an abiding sense of destiny in America, shared by both major parties.

I choose to start the year out with genuine excitement, remembering that we are still a righteous country filled with leaders in both parties who understand the greatness of the American experiment.

Therefore, I draw your attention to the following selected quotes as a reminder that beneath the partisan bickering of the day there does exist a foundation of American common ground.

Each of the following quotes come from the inaugural addresses of our past 10 elected presidents: Eisenhower to Obama. (That leaves President Ford out, for those who are counting.) Unless you are a remarkable student of history, you won't be able to guess who said which, and I bet you won't even be able to distinguish between the Republicans and the Democrats.

Don't tell me we still don't have common ground. We do, if we want it. Enjoy. And Happy New Year.

- "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."

- "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."

- "We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it."

- "Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

- "They came here - the exile and the stranger, brave but frightened - to find a place where a man could be his own man. They made a covenant with this land. Conceived in justice, written in liberty, bound in union, it was meant one day to inspire the hopes of all mankind. And it binds us still. If we keep its terms we shall flourish."

- It is the American story - a story of flawed and fallible people, united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals. The grandest of these ideas is an unfolding American promise that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, that no insignificant person was ever born."

- "This administration's objective will be a healthy, vigorous, growing economy that provides equal opportunity for all Americans, with no barriers born of bigotry or discrimination."

- "We will be ever vigilant and never vulnerable, and we will fight our wars against poverty, ignorance, and injustice - for those are the enemies against which our forces can be honorably marshaled."

- "Let us take as our goal: where peace is unknown, make it welcome; where peace is fragile, make it strong; where peace is temporary, make it permanent."

- "The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe - the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God."

Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at www.lvrj.com/blogs/sherm.