- The Washington Times - Monday, December 24, 2001

The United States, as optimistic and forward looking as ever, is on the road to recovery from the painful blow it suffered September 11 celebrating a Christmas season full of hope and renewal.
We have wept and grieved for those who died on that terrible day. But as the moving lyrics to "America the Beautiful" reminded us throughout that ordeal, our spirit remains undimmed by human tears.
To be sure, this is a somewhat melancholy Christmas for most of us, a bittersweet time of loss, remembrance and contemplation, but also of gratitude for the many blessings God has bestowed on our country.
The pundits say that the events of September 11 changed the nation forever, and I suppose in some ways it did. We are not as innocent as we once were about the dangers that can threaten us. We have a deeper understanding of our vulnerability and our mortality. We are more on our guard, more alert and more suspicious. Ronald Reagan's old admonition, "Trust, but verify" seems more appropriate now.
And yet it is still astonishing how resilient Americans are when threatened, how optimistic and hopeful we become in the aftermath of a great and deadly disaster, and how quickly we want to put it behind us and move on to rebuild, restore and replenish.
A recent survey conducted for the Democratic Leadership Council asked more than 800 Americans, "Do you think that things in the country are generally headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?"
You would think that in the wake of the terrorist and anthrax attacks, the war in Afghanistan, the recession and rising unemployment, that the right-direction number would be pretty low.
Actually, a bullish 68 percent said the country was headed in the right direction, while only 19 percent said "wrong direction." The rest said they did not know.
There is more confidence in our government. President Bush's job approval and personal approval ratings are in the 90s. Congress' ratings are higher than anyone can remember.
Before September 11, there was a widely held belief, especially in academic circles, that we Americans had become more isolated from one another, more divided, and that there was no longer a sense of community in our land.
Actually, subsequent polls and other official data showed that this was not true. Americans are more involved in community, civic, church and school activities than ever before.
The self-sacrifice, heroism and outpouring of charitable giving in response to the attacks eloquently reminded us again about America's inexhaustible goodness. About how much Americans are willing to help one another, especially when times are bad and people are in need.
September 11 has also changed our national priorities. Health care, prescription-drug benefits and Social Security were swept off the agenda. Polls now show that homeland safety, fighting terrorism and the economy are at the top of the list of the nation's concerns.
Readers of this column know how inherently optimistic I have always been about the nation's future, even when times may appear bleak.
I suppose I got this way from talking to Americans across the country in my campaign travels and door-to-door voter canvassing to find out what Americans are thinking and why.
You cannot talk with the people who make up this great land and not come away with a good feeling about the American people. No matter how terrible things may get, we are always upbeat about the future. We almost always think that things will be better tomorrow; that if we work hard enough, we can fix any problem and achieve any goal.
I have that same sense of optimism on this Christmas Eve.
Of course, this is not a time of peace and goodwill in many parts of the world, places where hatred, death and persecution are commonplace. But here in this blessed land, we have every reason to feel especially good about ourselves, our country and our leadership in the world.
We have fearlessly struck back with all our military might at the evil monsters who planned and supported the attacks on our homeland. We have freed the oppressed Afghan people from the tyranny and torture of the Taliban. We have crushed the hated al Qaeda network there. And we have begun, with our allies, to round up hundreds of their fanatic followers around the world.
Somehow the future is beginning to look a lot brighter as it did more than 2,000 years ago on that first Christmas.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent of The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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