As part of my college tour, I am in Sacramento about to speak at Sacramento City College. Given the timing of this event, I've decided to start my presentation with a moment of silence and some thoughts about how have we squandered the opportunity to build on the incredible sense of unity and community forged in the days following September 11, 2001.
Here is what I am planning to say:
Today, all across the country, Americans will mark the second anniversary of Sept. 11.
As we do, we'll think back to where we were when we first heard that the unthinkable had happened and remember the fear, the horror, and the outrage.
But let's also take the time to remember that as the shock began to wear off and the full dimensions of the tragedy began to become clear, the American people responded with a generosity of spirit that was profound and magnificent.
Blood banks overflowed, such a throng of people showed up to help at Ground Zero that many had to be turned away, and tens of millions of dollars poured in to charities.
The media abandoned their obsession with shark attacks and Gary Condit and did an exemplary job keeping the public up to date and informed. And our political leaders set aside party squabbles and put the national interest first.
It was the best of times amidst the worst of times. But it sure hasn't lasted.
Our politicians are back to bickering. Our security remains a grave concern. Our media is back to 24-hour coverage of salacious stories like those about Scott Peterson and Kobe Bryant, and the war on terror has been superceded by the quagmire in Iraq.
Who would have thought that two years after the attacks, Osama bin Laden would still be alive and putting out a video tape threatening America while the Bush administration would be pouring billion of dollars we don't have down the drain in pursuit of its neoconservative delusions of democracy in Iraq?
I mean, how disgraceful and disgusting is it to have the Bush administration asking for another $87 billion dollars to fight the war in Iraq while refusing to pay the tens of millions of dollars Washington owes California?
That $87 billion is more than it would take to balance the budget of all 50 states. And it's more than the money the president is earmarking next year for homeland security and the State Department combined.
I don't know about you, but I certainly don't feel more safe and secure knowing that we are spending more in Iraq than on protecting us here at home.
This administration has truly squandered the storehouse of goodwill that came forth on Sept. 11 two years ago. It squandered it by asking so little of us.
In the days and weeks following 9/11 our leaders did everything in their power to convince us that the best way to do our part in the fight against terrorism was to return as quickly as possible to our normal lives. And regrettably they've gotten their wish.
After the initial outpouring of generosity, volunteerism in America has returned to pre-9/11 levels and charitable giving has actually fallen.
Maybe we can use the occasion of this solemn anniversary to renew the values and spirit that came to the fore that day. It would be the greatest tribute we could pay to the victims of 9/11.
And it is that spirit, that sense of community that we had but which we have squandered, that I want to help rekindle here in California. That feeling of being a part of something larger than ourselves.
Together we can recapture that spirit - that community - and together we can make government work for us again. But only if we take it back from the big money special interests that are calling the tune in Sacramento.