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We Can Dream, Can’t We?

By Kenneth Kowald

This is not a list of New Year’s Resolutions or commitments or anything like that. It is a compendium of the things I suggest we all might think about as we get into 2014

First, Queens. We have a new group of elected and appointed officials running the borough. In a “I Sit and Look Out” column I suggested that those in Borough Hall and others might want to take a page or two from the rah-rah book of Marty Markowitz, who just left the Brooklyn Borough President’s office because of term limits. Marty made a case for Brooklyn in everything he did. He was the cheerleader, in the best sense of that word.

Let our public officials do the same here. Think of the wonders we have in this most diverse county in the United States. Start with the burgeoning western part of the borough. Move east and you have a marvelous new Queens Museum, a great Hall of Science, a new energetic group working on making Flushing Meadows-Corona Park even better than it is.

Trumpet those things loud and clear and often! Trumpets, too, for such organizations as Flushing Town Hall, Queens Botanical Garden, Alley Pond Environmental Center, Queens County Farm Museum and so many others that you can read about in the TimesLedger Newspapers.

Cheer for the colleges and universities that serve Queens and so many students.

Celebrate all our neighborhoods. Make all residents of Queens feel part of a great community.

Who knows? Maybe we could get Marty Markowitz to counsel us on how to do such things in a sister borough. Pro bono, of course.

But while we are sounding the trumpets, don’t forget about sounding the alarms for people who need help. Help the poor and the downtrodden in our borough. Try to keep everyone attached to some system for health care. Bring our schools into line for achievements of the highest order. Worry about the hundreds of thousands in our midst who need help to stave off hunger. Try to help them in any way you can.

Get all community groups, of every stripe, and every religious group of every stripe, to work together for the greater good.

And then look around at our great city, the center of the center of the universe. Our new mayor has pledged to help those in need to partake of the riches we have, in all ways. Let us hold him to his promises. Let us remind him and all who labor in the city government to remember what Mario Cuomo said many years ago. “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” In other words, it takes work — hard work — and competence to make things run properly.

That goes for Albany as well. We need the leadership and the determination to make our state government is as clean and transparent as possible. We need the help of all New Yorkers to work with one another. We need to make sure that our reliance on gambling in this state is not an election slogan only. I can remember when the whole lottery business was touted many years ago as the great source of income for education in New York State. Can we really believe the educational system has improved in the last three or four decades, thanks to all that gambling dough?

Let us put our power where it counts to make education a major effort in our state. Let us once and for all — at least for now! — decide on a course of action which will benefit as many children as possible. Readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmatic may be old-fashioned, but if you don’t succeed in them, forget about it.

Let us work for the conservation of our green spaces in Queens, New York City and throughout the state. Indeed, let us make them even greater and more available to all who would use them with joy and respect. For every tree we lose, let’s plant two at least and pledge to take care of them.

On the national scene, let us try — and succeed — in taking off the blinders of disrespect and demonization of the thoughts and talk of those who do not agree with us. I do not expect every politician to be the epitome of politeness and courtesy. But I believe we can expect them to care about the country they pledge to serve and to try, hard as it might be, to help all people regardless of political outlook.

In one of my columns, I pointed out that though I am proud and happy to have been born and raised in New York City, my parents always made it clear that they and we were Americans first. You helped those in need. You asked questions about where they were from or other such stuff, later.

Is it too much to ask that those in power be able to put aside their differences to help those who need help? Perhaps a sign on a pennant outside the Capitol might urge all who enter to remember “the least of these.” It should be flown every day.

Is that too much to ask? In the richest country in the history of the world?

And, is it too much to ask that, finally, we end our excursions in the Middle East? Get the troops out of Afghanistan, that sinkhole of history since Alexander the Great. But when we bring them home, make sure that they are treated as they should be. Medals and ceremonies are fine, but the proper care for those in need should be the concern of all of us. These men and women volunteered to serve us all. We should not make them one of the discards of history.

Earlier this year, in one of my columns, I pointed out the great problems in the Veterans Administration. They have been scandalous. Much was supposed to be corrected by December 2013, we were told. It is time for the VA to report on its progress. Hundreds of thousands of veterans — and all of us — deserve to know what is being done to help those in need.

In another of my columns, I quoted the remarks of a late friend of ours, a Broadway-Flushing native, who said years before the Great Recession that he and I may be members of the “last lucky generation.” Must this be so? Must the United States settle for that kind of future? Is this “the new normal”?

On Jan. 20, 1937, in his Second Inaugural Address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt noted that one-third of our nation was “ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” He said this to wake up all Americans to what the needs of the nation were. And then he worked hard to make the future better.

Today, right here in Queens, perhaps one-fifth or more of our population is in need. What are we doing about it? Must we settle for this kind of future?

Finally, at many times during this year and beyond let us all take a few minutes out of our hectic lives on occasion and think about the world we live in. Ourselves. Our families. Our friends. Our neighbors. Our borough, our city, our country. People everywhere.

Especially, “the least of these.”

We can dream, can’t we? And just maybe if we dream it, we can do it.

May 2014 be a year of joy for everyone.

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