With Halloween having struck a dramatic finale to October, my students find themselves heading into the home stretch of the semester. Research papers will be due soon, followed by a breath-taking sprint to Finals after Thanksgiving break. Studies that began in the sultry heat of Summer and greeted the arrival of Fall's vivid foliage masterpiece will at last come to fruition in the growing darkness and nipping chill of Winter's onset in December. Over the course of the semester, a few recurring themes and issues have come to dominate class discussions. In International Relations, America's waning influence in the international arena, a rising China and a declining dollar have been all the rage. This dovetails nicely with concerns over soaring budget deficits and an exploding national debt in my American Government class. In International Relations, one of my previously blissfully uninformed students admits to having become an "alarmist". Meanwhile, in American Government the prospects for our children's and grandchildren's futures are bemoaned. The American Dream of a better life for our beloved progeny are darkened by ominously gathering fiscal and economic storms on the horizon. Having been buffeted by the howling winds of what many hoped to be a finally receding recession, there is a palpable fear that the clearing skies are nothing more than the eye of a far greater and more perilous storm than we originally imagined. This unsettling realization, reverberating from my classroom across the heartland, is beginning to sink in to the nation's collective psyche with predictable results. As Peggy Noonan so astutely notes, "The biggest long-term threat is that people are becoming and have become disheartened, that this condition is reaching critical mass.....Americans are starting to think the problems we are facing cannot be solved." Yet, the objective in our discussions, both in class as well as on-line, is not to alarm or dishearten my students, or you, my faithful readers and fellow countrymen. To the contrary, the objective is to inform and enlighten. As the old aphorism goes, forewarned is forearmed. One of the principals on which our republic is built is the idea that power is derived from the people, not from government. While the Second Amendment states that "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State...", I would postulate that a well informed public is equally critical to the security of our free State. To that end, I aim to secure our free State by forearming you with knowledge and whatever illumination and insights I may bring to it. As my students are well aware, my personal motto is "Knowledge is power". Accordingly, I hope to in some small way do my part to empower them and you. At times our discussions will indeed alarm the previously blissfully unaware. On occasion, differences of opinion, interpretation and ideology will give way to impassioned and dogged debate. At times, that debate may become heated and unruly. Passions and blood pressures will run high and disparaging labels and insults will fly like poison arrows. Yet, in the heat of battle, amidst the snakes and arrows, let's take a moment to remember a few things. The road ahead will be challenging, difficult, at times despairingly daunting and potentially perilous. In order to successfully navigate it, it will take all of our energies and efforts - Conservatives, Liberals, Libertarians, Democrats, Independents, Republicans and non-registered, taxpaying Joe Sixpacks alike. We are indebted to our forebears whose labor and sacrifice paved the way for us and responsible to our posterity whose futures are rooted in our decisions and actions. These challenges we face are indeed daunting, but no more so than those faced by a small band persecuted for their faith, sailing to an uncharted wilderness in search of religious freedom hundreds of years ago; or a rag tag group of patriots facing down the greatest empire on Earth in the quest for independence; or a tortured president paying the price in the blood of hundreds of thousands of his fellow countrymen as he struggled to preserve the republic itself; or a nation beset by Depression at home and the howling dogs of war abroad that confronted the now dwindling numbers of our "Greatest Generation". As the Minutemen at the initiation of this great experiment we call American democracy responded to the alarm, the clarion now calls us to action. We must face it with a courage and will equal to that of our ancestors. To do any less would be a disservice to them, bring dishonor to ourselves and threaten the future of our cherished republic. So let alarm give way to resolve, my friends. Let us embrace candor and rigorous debate, that the course we select will lead us, our posterity and the nation to that brighter future and the promise that her best days are ahead of us in the renewal of the American Dream. Rest assured, faithful readers. It's out there on the horizon, if we have the courage, strength and discipline to seize it. Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and we see if the clouds give way to blue skies or grow darker still.