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Archive | Voices and Views

A Year of Focused Commitment

_V-LevinBy Sen. Carl Levin

When I announced last March that I would not seek reelection in 2014, I said that I wanted to spend my time working on a number of serious challenges that Michigan and the nation face, rather than on reelection. As we begin the new year, I want to update you on the tests we faced in 2013 and where I believe we can move forward in the year ahead.

Among the tasks I mentioned in my announcement was my responsibility as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee to monitor and advance the end of our combat commitment to Afghanistan and to help the services, our troops and their families recover from the strains of more than a decade at war.

In two trips to Afghanistan over the last year, I have seen rapid and positive changes that are transforming security and daily life for the people of Afghanistan. Challenges remain, but our troops and our nation should feel a sense of accomplishment about what we have done there for our national security and for the people of Afghanistan.

In Syria, where severe repression has sparked a revolt against the dictator Bashar Assad, the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces against civilians shocked the world. With a strong U.S. push, international pressure pushed Assad into an unprecedented agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons capability. That agreement is an advance for the security of the region and the world.

Pressure on another outlier country—Iran—has for the first time in decades provided at least some hope of progress. Late in the year, the United States and our allies reached an interim agreement that freezes Iran’s nuclear program and could set the stage for a final agreement that ends the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. Like most Americans, I am skeptical of Iran’s leaders, but I believe this interim step should be given a chance to succeed.

As our involvement in Afghanistan recedes, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to give greater attention to tired military families and help the services rebuild military readiness that has been strained by war. But that opportunity will slip away if we do not address the continuing threat of budget sequestration.

Sequestration is the across-the-board, automatic spending cuts that slashed major funding from important domestic and national security programs in 2013. These cuts have closed Head Start classrooms; ended research programs to fight life-threatening diseases; and forced our military to ground fighter jets and cancel important training exercises. The budget agreement we reached at the end of 2013 reduces sequestration’s impact somewhat for the next two years and offers a bit of hope for an end to the cycle of crisis that has plagued Congress. But it does not touch sequestration for the following six years.

In the longer term, there is only one solution to the sequestration problem: We should replace these meat-ax cuts with a balanced deficit reduction plan. Any such plan must include additional revenue. I have introduced two bills that would close unjustified tax loopholes identified by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair. These loopholes are the source of massive tax avoidance by highly profitable multinational corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of middle-income families. I will continue searching for common ground with colleagues of both parties to work for a balanced replacement for sequestration.

We’ve made significant progress in recent years in building on Michigan’s manufacturing and technological excellence to enhance our state’s competitiveness and improve opportunities for Michigan workers. The growing strength of our auto industry as it emerges from its restructuring is just one result of these efforts. Michigan is an increasingly important hub for development of green-energy technologies in vehicles and other fields. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a groundbreaking nuclear research facility being established at Michigan State University, reached important milestones. I’ll keep working in the year ahead to strengthen our foundation of economic competitiveness.

The last year was a difficult one for our state’s largest city, Detroit. I and other members of the Michigan delegation have worked to do all we could to make sure that the city has access to all available federal resources to assist in its recovery, and I’ll continue to look for ways to help.

There is no question this year will be a challenging one. My final year in the Senate will be one of focused commitment to the job I was sent here to do.

Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan.

 

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Trust … but definitely verify

V-Lee-HamiltonBy Lee H. Hamilton

 

Of all the numbers thrown at us over the course of last year, one stands out for me. I fervently hope we can avoid repeating it this year. That number is 12. It’s the percentage of Americans in a December Quinnipiac poll who said they trust the government in Washington to do what is right most or all of the time. It’s a depressingly small number, especially compared to the 41 percent who say they “hardly ever” trust the government. On top of that, a few months ago an AP poll found that fewer than a third of Americans trust one another. The poll’s message is clear: our society is in the midst of a crisis in trust.

Trust is essential to our political system and our way of life. The belief that people and institutions will do what they say they will do is the coin of the realm in our society. It is what allows people to work together—in their daily interactions with others and in their communities, legislatures and Congress. Negotiation, compromise, collegiality, and the mechanisms our complex and diverse society depends upon are impossible without trust.

You could argue that we see all around us the results of our trust deficit. Government dysfunction, an economy performing below its potential, public officials’ scandals and misdeeds, trusted institutions’ willingness to skirt the law and standards of good conduct, our social safety net under attack because people mistrust recipients—all of these speak to a society struggling as trust weakens.

Yet here’s the question. Do the polls match your experience? In my case, they do not. Trust is still a big part of my dealings with institutions and individuals, most of whom are good people trying to live a decent life and to be helpful to others. Trust may have weakened, but most of us do not see or experience a corrupt America. A sense of community remains crucially important to make this country safe and secure for ourselves and our children. Events in recent years have given us plenty of reason to be distrustful. Clearly, healthy skepticism is warranted in the wake of the NSA revelations and other evidence of government and corporate misbehavior. In the end, however, “trust but verify” is still the golden standard. Our ability to function and move forward as a society rests on trust. Think about it.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

 

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Resolve to create a better retirement financial plan in 2014

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

Another New Year is just around the corner, offering a new opportunity to improve your life in any number of ways with a wise New Year’s resolution or two. (No doubt, for most of us the possibilities are endless.)  One good idea for many might be creating (or updating) a long-term financial plan.

According to a 2013 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, “the percentage of workers confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement is essentially unchanged from the record lows observed in 2011.” Only 13 percent are very confident of being able to afford a comfortable retirement, while 28 percent are not at all confident.

If you are among those with lower financial confidence and you haven’t started to save for retirement already, now is the time to begin—no matter what your age. If retirement is near, you’ll want to jump into the fast lane right away. If you’re younger and retirement seems a lifetime away, it’s still in your best interest to begin saving now, as compound interest will work to your advantage. Experts agree that saving when you’re young will make a world of difference when the time comes to draw on your retirement savings.

Don’t take our word for it. You can check out the numbers yourself. A great place to start figuring out how much you will need for retirement is to learn how much you could expect from Social Security. You can do that in minutes with Social Security’s online Retirement Estimator.

The Retirement Estimator offers an instant and personalized estimate of your future Social Security retirement benefits based on your earnings record. Try it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

Vonda VanTil is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp St NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov  

 

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City needs a leader with common sense

The Cedar Springs Post welcomes letters of up to 350 words. The subject should be relevant to local readers, and the editor reserves the right to reject letters or edit for clarity, length, good taste, accuracy, and liability concerns. All submissions MUST be accompanied by full name, mailing address and daytime phone number. We use this information to verify the letter’s authenticity. We do not print anonymous letters, or acknowledge letters we do not use. Email to news@cedarspringspost.com, or send to PostScripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

 

_________________________________________

Dear Editor,

I have lived around the Red Flannel Town for 80 years now, and was a resident of the city around 30 years in that time span. I have no voting power now, so maybe I can look at the machinations going on more objectively.

I do not know the council members personally and Mr. Truesdale slightly. When reading his letters to the public in prior editions of the Post, my reaction? Wow! What a great thing to keep the citizens informed, regardless!

Cedar Springs needs a leader with plain old common sense. I’m not a common sense type of person, but have enough wisdom to realize that to run a successful city, business, or anything, common sense is a requisite of great value.

Mr. Truesdale would have made a very, very good Mayor. He is honest and blessed with common sense.

Council take heed of one comment in the meeting and have no more of “underhanded dealings and slipping things in at the last minute.” This is not the most ethical way of business.

There was a comment as a reason for not voting for Mr. Truesdale. The reason came from a piece of gossip: “Mr. Truesdale didn’t believe women should be on the council.” It does give one pause. That’s a good reason?

To the mayor and council members, for the good of the city, everyone stop the pettiness. Please!

 

Alice Powell, 

Solon Township

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Congress still isn’t being responsible

 

V-Lee-HamiltonBy Lee H. Hamilton

 

Congress is winding down its historically unproductive session with a small flurry of activity. It’s a welcome change, but so long overdue that it can’t possibly make up for what should have been accomplished on Capitol Hill this year. The problem is that for too long, members of Congress have been working hard at everything except the one thing they should have been working hard at: legislating. They’ve been so unproductive that they’ve actually threatened our world standing and our domestic well-being.

To be sure, they are moving incrementally. Gridlock is breached, but not broken. The likelihood is that Congress will pass a defense bill. It reached a small-scale budget agreement that undoes a bit of the damage caused by the sequester. It is finally starting to work through a list as long as your arm of judicial and executive-branch confirmations, but only because Senate Democrats decided they had to change the rules if they wanted to fill long-unfilled government appointments.

Yet, the list of what Congress hasn’t done is sobering. There’s no food-stamp reauthorization or waterways construction bill. It passed a one-month extension to the farm bill, but that falls far short of the certainty this crucial economic sector needs. There’s no lasting solution to the debt-ceiling problem. Almost nothing has been done about the fundamental gap between taxes and spending. It has left unemployment benefits unresolved, immigration reform unresolved, tax reform unresolved, and action on climate change unresolved. This lack of productivity makes me wonder if Congress can address truly hard challenges without a crisis before it.

Mind you, some legislators take pride in how unproductive Congress has been. They argue that the less the government does, the better. But given Congress’s pathetically low standing in the polls, it’s clear that most Americans don’t agree. They don’t like incompetence, as their response to the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act suggests, and they really don’t like people who dodge their responsibilities, which is what Congress’s ineffectiveness amounts to. Unlike many members of Congress, Americans seem to understand that things that ought to be done are not getting done, and that there are real costs to inaction.

We’re in a competitive race with China for world leadership, and whether we like it or not, others around the globe are comparing our two governments. The attractiveness of the American model is under challenge, and our political dysfunction is a serious handicap. As the Wall Street Journal put it recently, a superpower that isn’t sure it can fund its government or pay its bills is not in a position to lead. And, because problems aren’t getting addressed, others are stepping into the breach at home, too—but with less transparency, less accountability, and less flexibility.

The Fed is doing the heavy lifting on the economy. The Supreme Court is essentially legislating. Executive branch agencies are trying to handle massively difficult challenges through executive orders. State and local governments have decided that even on issues they can’t truly address effectively, like immigration, they’re on their own.

When asked about all this, congressional leaders tend to blame the other house, arguing that they’ve done their best but the other side has bottled up their efforts. All I can say is, finger-pointing is not an excuse, it’s an admission of failure. A leader’s responsibility is to enact legislation, not just get a bill through the house of Congress he or she controls.

Legislating is tough, demanding work. It requires many hours of conversation about differences, commonalities, and possible solutions. It demands patience, mutual respect, persistence, collegiality, compromise, artful negotiation, and creative leadership, especially when Congress is so divided.

Yet, when Congress meets only episodically throughout the year, when it often works just three days a week and plans an even more relaxed schedule in 2014, when the House and Senate give themselves just one overlapping week this month to resolve huge questions of public policy, you can only come to one conclusion: They’re not really willing to work hard at legislating. A last-minute flurry of bills offers hope, but it’s going to take a lot more work to convince the country that Congress knows how to live up to its responsibilities.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.
On Facebook you can find information about our educational resources and programs, and you can share your thoughts about Congress, civic education, and the citizen’s role in representative democracy. “Like” us on Facebook at “Center on Congress at Indiana University.”

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Were we at the same meeting?

 

After reading Kathy Bremmer’s letter in the Cedar Springs Post (11/27/2013), it’s hard to believe we were at the same City Council meeting. I had been wondering if you were ill or moved away since I haven’t seen you at a City Council meeting in several months. You were right—a woman (me) proudly took to the podium on Thursday, November 14, 2013. That’s where your truth ended. You may criticize me and disagree with me; that is your right. Attack me with lies and that is very different. I had to leave early for medical reasons, not as you stated that I wasn’t interested in important city business. I did send my regrets to our new Mayors, for my early departure.

My statements that night: First, I thanked the current and past city council members who voted Bob Truesdale into the Mayor’s seat. I felt it was the best thing they ever did for our city (not a castigation of council members). Second, I thanked the volunteers and Red Flannel Board for their hard work and dedication for our Red Flannel Festival. I thought the 2013 Red Flannel Day Festival was awesome. It was an honor and a privilege to work with the RFF board and volunteers (I said nothing about costs, police or beer tent). Third, I also said I feel the Red Flannel is like a mascot for the Cedar Springs community, like Spartie is for Michigan State, Wolverine is for U. of Michigan, Red Hawk is for Cedar Springs Schools, etc. Some people love it, some hate it, and a few just don’t care. I did say I like the new logo and I hoped that someday it might include our Red Flannel. Fourth, I asked council to table the vote on the new logo and give our residents, voters, and taxpayers a chance to review it. Most people didn’t know about the new logo until it showed up on the front page of the Cedar Springs Post the day of the council meeting. Fifth, I asked what the plans were for the new logo? What kind of costs would be involved in applying it to our city identity? Will we have to replace patches we just purchased for the police department uniforms? We just paid over $700 for them. I asked if we have to destroy or grind off the former tagline “a great place to live, work and play” from our city signs? What was the cost to develop that new logo? As we know, last year the City of Cedar Springs spent thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to destroy and replace our people’s property. How much more will we be spending on logos and taglines? Kathy, as a concerned citizen and former city councilwoman, you should be interested in these additional expenses.

Last, but not least, I addressed a rumor I have heard from several citizens—that our Cedar Springs City Council is planning to remove the Red Flannel from our water tower. I have reassured folks that because of the enormous cost, it could never happen. (I hope not.) Kathy, you have taught me a valuable lesson. If I address City Council again, I will record my every word, put it in writing, and submit it to the City Council correspondence, for the historical record. Kathy, hateful vitriol is all yours. I am a proud Red Flannel Festival volunteer. I haven’t lost friends, our family hasn’t split. The truth is, I made and renewed many wonderful friendships this past year and our family remains united. Our friends and family are looking forward to the 75th (diamond) anniversary of Red Flannel Day, 2014.

Rose Powell, Red Flannel Town, USA

Cedar Springs, Michigan

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To the Cedar Springs City Council and its Tax Payers:

 

I have held back my thoughts for a couple of years, but recent events do not allow me to do so any longer.

Just when several of us, and what I truly believe to be a majority of the tax payers, were excited that we had a leader with innovative business ideas, as well as a goal of making the city friendlier, a majority of the council voted him out of office in what I would call a very unprofessional manner. I know Mr. Truesdale had some very big, aggressive, modern, and forward-thinking ideas that quite possibly the council was not ready for yet, but in my opinion, it is past time for big ideas for this city. He may have made some mistakes, but who doesn’t? I, personally, like big goals. I look at it if from the point of view that if you only make it half-way to your goal, you still got somewhere! But why should I be surprised when this is the same group that says you cannot run the city like a business? I find this statement ridiculous and cannot believe such a thing is said. Rather, if it’s a school, city, county or any organization, it must be run like a business and get the most out of every dollar you possibly can. Please remember in your thinking, you do serve the taxpayers. The task of the council should be about what is best for the citizen not about which side one is on or about wins or losses.

It also does not hurt to be friendly instead of arrogant. Some of the city employees are great, but it seems as you get up the ladder it ends. City Hall should be a friendly place to go, not confrontational. After all, you are working for the citizens of the community!

I know some of the council members will say I have no vote or voice, as I do not live in the city, and yes, I cannot vote but I do feel the $468,000 I have paid in property taxes to the city in the last ten years does give me a say! I pay what I consider a lot of property tax without any city services: no water, sewer, leaf pick-up or road maintenance, as our property is on a county road but in the city limits.

I have never met the new city manager who has been here over a year. If I was a council member, I would want him out meeting with the tax payers, seeing if they had any needs, complaints, and maybe even new ideas. The last couple city managers at least stopped at our place of business when they first came to town.

Our company does a lot of municipal work for several cities throughout West Michigan and I can assure you, our city is very backwards and unfriendly. I truly feel we are a joke to all of West Michigan, not just Kent County. In the construction industry, we are known to be a very unfriendly city to try and build anything for and/or with.

I remember when my uncle (Mike Holton) and I donated the heating and air-conditioning to the Kent Theater, I checked to see if we could get the city fees waived. “Oh absolutely not,” as that would set a dangerous precedent. A few months later, we donated the plumbing for a shower building at the Kent County fairgrounds in Lowell. The city waived the fees and asked us if there was anything else they could do; they even thanked us and they weren’t even the owners of the building!

I have watched this city squander away so many things in the past, one being when the new Meijer store was being built. Meijer offered to pay the entire cost to run a water main big enough for their store as well as for future use under the expressway. This included all engineering, fees, permits, fire hydrants and related items at a cost close to one million dollars, and all at no cost to the city. As the individual from the West Michigan Metro Council tried to explain to both the city and the township, he encouraged them to take this gift as this is something the two of them wouldn’t be able to afford to do together in the next 10 to 15 years.  It was still turned down. In talking to Meilogo. This is my opinion, but I feel this is such an embarrassment to all of the residents in northern Kent County. What a joke that never should have happened. The attorney fees and time that was wasted on this is totally ridiculous! I am old-school and just a plain plumber, but I feel both sides should be tarred and feathered for their actions. Some sensible people from both sides need to get involved and get this issued solved. We do not need a new logo. I truly believe the Red Flannel logo needs to be returned to the people who really own it—the citizens of Cedar Springs and surrounding area. It has been our logo for as long as I can remember.

It’s past time to return the community back to the people that pay the taxes instead of a few people, who in my opinion, are trying to feed their huge egos and it appears have no common or business sense.

In all honesty, I feel badly that I have to write a letter of this nature. I grew up in this town, graduated from the school system, I’ve ran my business here, Northwest Kent Mechanical Co., for 25 years, and my mother lives here. My dad was fire chief for several years, he was on the council for 15 years, and served as its’ mayor for 7 years. This is a city which I truly cared for in my past, care for in my present, but more importantly for the future.

I truly hope this council can go forward in a more professional manner, but I am not convinced it can.

Thank you for taking the time to allow me to share my concerns and frustrations.

Dale Larson

 

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Medicare is the best care if you are age 65 or older

 

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

If you are age 65 or older and haven’t signed up for Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance), now is the time to consider doing so. The general enrollment period for Medicare Part B runs from January 1 through March 31 each year. Before you make a decision about general enrollment, we want to share some important information.

Remember: Most people are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B when they become eligible. If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B when you first become eligible, you may have to wait until the general enrollment period, which is January 1 through March 31 of each year. At that time, you may have to pay a higher Medicare Part B premium.

Most people first become eligible at age 65, and there is a monthly premium for Medicare Part B. In 2014, the premium for most people is $104.90, the same as it was in 2013. Some high-income individuals pay more than the standard premium. Your Medicare Part B premium can be higher if you do not enroll when you are first eligible, also known as your initial enrollment period. There is a Medicare Part B deductible of $147 in 2014.

You can delay your Medicare Part B enrollment without having to pay higher premiums if you are covered under a group health plan based on your own current employment or the current employment of any family member. You can sign up for Medicare Part B without paying higher premiums.

For more information about Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D, visit www.medicare.gov or read our publication on Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Information about Medicare changes for 2014 is available at www.medicare.gov.

Vonda VanTil is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp St NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov  

 

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Time to move on

For over 70 years there was a cooperative spirit between Red Flannel Festival volunteers and city officials who worked together to promote Cedar Springs for the good of the entire community. That all changed in 2011 when the economy took a serious downturn and the city could no longer justify costs associated with the festival, as taxpayer services and staff were negatively impacted. As a result, the Festival Board threatened a lawsuit if the city didn’t pay for use of the long john logo. After almost two years, facing what would surely be a prolonged court fight and considering the subsequent costs to taxpayers, the Council voted to move forward with a new logo. During last Thursday’s council meeting, members were openly castigated for doing so by those RFF volunteers who refuse to accept the decision and who seemed determined to promote more divisiveness within our community. I found it telling that they left immediately after speaking, not caring about anything else but their own agenda.

After all the Festival’s demands for taxpayer dollars, I found it ironic that a woman took to the podium to quite proudly proclaim the Festival Board’s success in taking care of everything (costs) themselves this year, except for police support at the beer tent. (She explained that an outside security would have been used but the City charged less.) You just can’t beat that good old American can-do spirit, the concept of pulling one’s own weight! Had that been done in the first place, it would have been a win-win situation for everyone.  The city vehicles, stationary, street signs, etc. would have continued to be free advertising for the yearly festival and the citizens would have their red flannels. I found it odd that the Festival recently offered a new business free use of the Red Flannel logo when it is being held for ransom from the city.

The whole issue surrounding the logo boiled down to nothing more than pride, arrogance, and unwillingness to do what was best for Cedar Springs. There is plenty of blame to go around for all involved but, the Council, having no other viable option, has voted, with heavy hearts, to move on.  That can only happen if people will stop the rumors, gossip, and hateful vitriol that is taking place throughout the community and on social media and embrace the future.  Friendships have been lost, families divided and enough is enough! Take a step back and work to restore good relationships within our city for the good of all.

Cedar Springs will always be known as the “Red Flannel Capital Of The World”.  Google that title and you can find as many as seven websites where our city’s name shows up as just that. That isn’t going to change. It’s time to support the Chamber of Commerce, an entity that is trying to bring back a spirit of cohesiveness and community to our town. Business owners are joining in and Shawn Kiphart has worked tirelessly, and at great cost to himself personally, to improve community relations. Let’s all do our part to make that happen. We can’t change yesterday, tomorrow is a new day, let’s make it good.

 

Kathy Bremmer, Cedar Springs

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Godspeed, USS Gerald R. Ford

 

Tens of thousands of Navy supporters attend the christening ceremony of the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) at Newport News Shipbuilding. The first in class, Ford-class aircraft carrier, is scheduled to join the fleet in 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Peter D. Lawlor/Released)

Tens of thousands of Navy supporters attend the christening ceremony of the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) at Newport News Shipbuilding. The first in class, Ford-class aircraft carrier, is scheduled to join the fleet in 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Peter D. Lawlor/Released)

By Sen. Carl Levin

 

Over Veterans Day weekend, I had the honor of giving the keynote speech at the christening ceremony of the USS Gerald R. Ford, the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier.

We Michiganians are proud to call President Ford one of ours. That’s not just because he held our nation’s highest office, but because of the manner in which he held that office – with a fundamental goodness of heart and generosity of spirit that all of us in public life should try to emulate.

There is perhaps no more visible, more powerful representation of America’s military strength than the towering hull of an aircraft carrier. No other nation makes carriers like America makes them, and the USS Gerald R. Ford will be the most powerful American carrier ever to sail.

Yet for every time this ship will instill doubt in the minds of our adversaries, it will many more times give hope to our friends and the people of the world. It will be welcome support in a time of crisis, and it will bring comfort and aid in times of disaster and grief. And so it is truly fitting that it will bear the name of Gerald R. Ford.

Gerald Ford sought to replace division and doubt with unity and hope. He took office at one of the most tumultuous moments in the history of our democratic system. His task was to calm America’s stormy waters so that we could regain our self-confidence as a nation. George H.W. Bush observed as Vice President Ford prepared to take office as president, “What we need at this juncture in our history is a certain sense of morality and a certain sense of decency.” That’s the perfect description of Gerald Ford. He was the right man for the time.

He knew our true strength, the strength that would carry us through that trying time, wasn’t just in the force of our arms, but what is in our hearts. In a 1975 speech outlining his foreign policy goals, President Ford spoke of the need to build a strong military, but then said, “I would like to talk about another kind of strength, the true source of American power. … I am speaking here of our belief in ourselves and our belief in our nation.”

That is the spirit this great vessel will carry across the oceans. It embodies our military might, and much more: It carries the name of a president who showed us America at its best, an America that strives to bring hope to every corner of the planet and to do so with strength, but without bluster.

Then-Congressman Ford brought a moment of modest humor to the solemn moment he was sworn in as vice president. He told America, “I am a Ford, not a Lincoln.” He showed us that one need not take on extraordinary trappings to accomplish extraordinary things, just as the men and women of this ship, drawn from every part of this land and every segment of our society, ordinary Americans all, will accomplish the extraordinary.

In the decades to come, when the crew of the USS Gerald R. Ford helps defend our nation from danger, when they protect the innocent from harm, when they sail under freedom’s flag bringing hope in times of despair and calm in moments of crisis – at those times, they will exemplify the greatness and goodness, the steadiness and steadfastness of their vessel’s namesake, and of the nation he loved so much and served so well.

Godspeed to the USS Gerald R. Ford and to the men and women who sail her.

Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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