USA still faces challenges at home

As a college student I often open my wallet to find that it's empty. This of course is a result of paying off loans and whenever possible, various entertainment costs. It seems like my paychecks are already spent when I get them too. Lately, more people seem to be finding their wallets empty as well. Even corporate CEO's do not appear immune to the "missing green."

Despite budgets being tight, I made my way to Nashville, Tenn. this weekend. I bought gas for 98 cents a gallon, went on a few tours, bought souvenirs, and saw a show at The Grand Ole Opry. I was glad to see many tourists from around the country joined me at Music City. There were huge signs in front of the buildings on Second Avenue. that said, "Thanks for traveling." The streets weren't jam packed with tourists, but people were out putting money into the economy.

Consumer spending makes up two-thirds of our Gross Domestic Product. Despite slowdowns in almost every sector of business, consumers continue to spend their money and truly are keeping are economy afloat. However, since September people have taken a more cautious approach to spending. It is still to early to tell what effect this will have on the economy, but it is uplifting to know that 90 percent of Americans do not plan to change their spending habits despite everything going on. The next batch of consumer confidence data is to be released this week. We'll see then if our patriotism is enough to combat the effects of economic slowdown.

In Nashville this weekend I saw many things. I saw unwavering patriotism that continues to unite us in our fight against terrorism. Randy Travis sang his new song at the Opry dedicated to Sept. 11, which instilled a fire in everyone who listened to it. But I saw society's divisions this weekend, too. We may be a closer, friendlier America, but we still walk right past some of our biggest challenges without even noticing.

There were some sights that weren't so pleasant and uplifting. A homeless man holding his cup out for change, reminded me that no matter how great America is, we still have things to overcome. A few blocks later, outside of an upscale restaurant, a woman stood outside near the entrance to the building. She wore a torn blue jacket and shoes without laces, and clasped a Greyhound bus ticket in her hand.

We've all heard about the American Dream, and one day we would all like to share in that dream. For this woman, that bus ticket to Toledo, Ohio is a dream for a fresh start. Things may be rough right now, but they could be worse.

In closing for today, if your contemplating taking a trip but don't know if you can spare the money, I suggest trying hard to find a way to do it. I realize that at times this won't be possible, but one of the ways we can combat this terrible thing that has fallen over us, is by spending money and traveling to other parts of the country. You will find everyone across the country is truly united behind fighting terrorism. Perhaps when this battle is over, we will all stand together in facing other challenges that face America.


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