Straight Talk

Can we not work together?

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Letter to the Editor

Believe it or not, there was a time within my life – and I’m 87 years old – that Republicans and Democrats actually spoke to each other in a civilized manner. A time when genuine accomplishments were produced by working together.

In the 1950s and ’60s, I lived in Maryland. The Potomac River was so polluted that the U.S. Public Health Service had posted signs along the river corridor warning that the river was unsafe for swimming and fish taken from those waters would “be eaten at your own risk.” Some stretches of river had no biological population whatsoever.

We – a group of local canoeists – began to take our congressmen from Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia on “get-to-know-your-river” outings by canoe to see firsthand the condition of their river. They were appalled and wanted to act.

And they did. A healthy environment was embraced as an obligation of all, not regarded as a hot-button issue. Maryland Rep. Gilbert Gude – a Republican – from one of our river trips, introduced the first National River legislation for the Potomac.

Years later, the Potomac is in relatively good health and we all are the beneficiaries of the Clean Water Act and Wild and Scenic Rivers legislation that occurred in the following decades, benefitting rivers and lakes wherever we live.

Could we not work together on other issues as we once did? Not a chance, you say? Agreed, few of us are in a position to impact our nation or the world directly. However, our day-to-day interactions with others can have an effect far beyond what we imagine.

When one of my sons was in college, he wrote to the family prior to his birthday, saying, “I want no gifts. Instead, I would like each of you to do something kind or good for someone less fortunate than yourself and it must not involve money.” Now that was stimulating for our brains. These acts multiply – the pass-it-forward syndrome. It doesn’t have to occur at Christmas. There is always someone less fortunate than yourself. And it could be someone more fortunate. Everyone, every day, needs a small act of kindness, even it’s just a door held open, a smile, or a touch on the hand. Such acts will have a far-reaching effect, perhaps all the way to our leaders and legislators.

Doug Woodward, Franklin, N.C.