NOTIONS: Dear fellow citizen: What were you thinking?-WEB ONLY

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Last week, I posted a message on Twitter and Facebook. “It’s time to columnize,” I said. “What issue is ripe for enlightenment (or disparagement)?”

My microcosm erupted.

Tristan tweeted to suggest puppy-mill dogs. “More specifically, the view by their breeders that they’re simply goods to be sold.”

Randy suggested a piece on “the insanity” of legislators pushing a gay-marriage ban “when the budget crisis looms and schools are in peril in Indiana.”

My nephew, a college sophomore in Michigan, wrote to suggest a piece on the Recording Industry Association of America and its “abuse of the legal system.”

Will, a recent University of Notre Dame grad, was interested in the uprising in Iran. “Maybe this can serve as a reminder of a sacred right that we take for granted,” Will said.

Shari suggested another global dilemma: “North Korea’s irrational provocations with nuclear missiles and prison sentences for U.S. journalists.”

Several stressed front-end prevention over back-end problems.

Gene, a South Bend school administrator, suggested “investment in social infrastructure, such as education, family health, etc., instead of paying for the consequences on the other side: prisons, financial dysfunction, higher security cost, etc.”

Laura, a Florida elementary school teacher, thought I might consider “how ‘No Child Left Behind’ has managed to leave more children behind than ever before.”

Sheila and Karla suggested national health reform, with Karla adding, “There is no reform in health reform unless there is prevention. And there is no prevention without … [ensuring] that patients and clients are advised about tobacco use and secondhand smoke at each and every visit.”

Julie wanted to know whether I’m for or against the Employee Free Choice Act.

Kim, from Connecticut, suggested a piece on the loss of innocence.

Alice was concerned about the impact of our economic malaise on local arts and culture. “What are we losing and are we aware of what the loss means to us?”

John suggested a piece on “how baseball is a metaphor for the country’s ability to come out of a slump.”

Mary Ann, hoping to make me laugh, suggested “the impact of televised feuds a la Jon Stewart and Joe Scarborough, or, egad, David Letterman and that woman.”

And Nick suggested I delve into “our growing entitlement culture.”

I was contemplating all these suggestions when I opened a message from Gabriel in San Juan. He’d sent a 1968 Robert Kennedy quote.

“We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods,” Kennedy said. “We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones average, nor national achievement by the gross national product. For the gross national product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes, and ambulances to clear our highway carnage. It counts special locks for our doors, and jails for the people who break them. The gross national product includes the destruction of the redwoods, and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads. … It includes the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to sell goods to our country.

“And if the gross national product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of public officials … the gross national product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile; and it can tell us everything about America-except whether we are proud to be Americans.”

I was feeling proud not only of America, but also of my worldly American friends-with all the “bigger than me” issues weighing on their minds-when my wife arrived home. She’d been listening to the radio.

“Did you hear what Newt Gingrich said?” she asked.

I hadn’t.

“He said ‘I am not a citizen of the world.’ Can you believe that?”

I Googled “citizen of the world.”

Last July in Berlin, Barack Obama described himself as “a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.” In 1982, President Reagan told the United Nations General Assembly, “I speak today as both a citizen of the United States and of the world.”

Yet this month, former Republican congressman Newt Gingrich said, “Let me be clear. I am not a citizen of the world. I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous.”

OK, microcosm, weigh in: Is global citizenship “intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous”? Or does beyond-your-own-borders thinking make you proud to be an American? •

Hetrick is chairman and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at



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