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Voices of Reason

Andy Corty
Andy Corty, Publisher

As we slog through the primary election season and witness the fusillade of verbal bullets barraging one candidate after another, many thoughtful citizens have told me that they simply "turn it off" and don't listen anymore.

That can't be entirely true because the attack ads seem to be swaying sentiments and producing an impact at the ballot box. Nevertheless, there's a sense of disgust with the whole process.

While numerous folks decry the lack of political decorum these days, others argue that the rough-and-tumble approach is justified because the fight concerns the future of the country. As a believer in the democratic process, I admire the fervor with which politicians define their positions. Yet I grimace at the ad hominem attacks and the lack of respect for other views.

We need more voices of reason and moderation. One I find most palatable comes from Jack Levine, founder of the 4Generations Institute in Tallahassee. After spending 25 years advocating policies to benefit children, Levine is focusing his 4Gen initiative on programs that stress the common needs of children, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. One such effort is the Guardian Ad Litem program that matches senior volunteers with children who desperately need advocates.

Jack told me that he's "anti-partisan" and believes that the tone of civic discourse should be inclusive. "We don't want or need intense labeling," he says. "In fact, labeling is only good for extremists." To make his point, Jack produces an occasional e-newsletter that's full of warmth and reason. His thoughts reach thousands of people he has networked with over the past 30 years. And I'm sure he will add you to the list if you ask. Here are some of his thoughts:

On politics, he recently noted that the old "sticks and stones" of debating have become "grenades and megaton bombs." He's worried that the "gotcha" style of character assassination is keeping many good people from entering politics. And Jack notes that the unfettered political money machine provides the bullets for round-the-clock negative advertising.

Last Memorial Day, he noted the great contribution of our veterans, who defend us from oppression and terror — the atrocities that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents fled as wave after wave of immigrants sought refuge in America.
Another time Jack decried the rhetoric against public servants — the teachers and nurses, cops and counselors, librarians and health inspectors who are working to improve our lives. One month, he memorialized the Freedom Riders and the civil rights movement of 50 years ago.

While Jack focuses on the mental side, others are focusing on our physical health.
David Lewis, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Florida, came to our offices recently for a briefing on insurance and health trends. While I am impressed by what United and other major insurers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield are doing, the statistics themselves look pretty grim.

According to United, more than 4.0 million Floridians are obese compared to 2.3 million a decade ago. And 1.5 million Floridians suffer from diabetes, an increase of almost 700,000 in 10 years. Though Florida has made a few strides forward, we still rank a weak 33rd among the 50 states on health.

We have a lot of work to do — collectively — on mind and body.

Personal health report: Lo and behold, I actually dropped 6 pounds in the first month thanks to walking once weekly, seven gym workouts, forgoing French fries and skipping most desserts — especially tough for someone who loves desserts.

— Andy Corty


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