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It's a new year: Help make this a better country

By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor
  • Ruben Navarrette says new year good time to resolve to be the kind of people we want to be
  • He offers his own resolutions: confront fears, face conflict, look for common ground
  • He says Americans overall should resolve to complain and judge less, vote and read more
  • Navarrette: Take responsibility for our actions, decisions, mistakes; don't blame others

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a nationally syndicated columnist, an NPR commentator, and a regular contributor to

San Diego, California (CNN) -- The kickoff of a new year -- and, for that matter, a new decade -- is a good time to look down the road and make a pact with ourselves about the kind of people we want to be and what we're willing to do to get there. These aren't just goals, but resolutions.

I'll start.

With the intention of becoming a better person, more responsible parent, stronger writer, and more productive citizen, I resolve to do the following:

-- Confront constantly my fears, inhibitions, and insecurities instead of being controlled by them

-- Focus on being the best father I can, not be my children's best friend

-- Not be so eager to avoid conflict that I let the whims of a 2-year-old, 4-year-old, and 6-year-old run my life

-- Remember that, while there is never enough time to do everything, the best place to spend it is with family and friends

-- Decide how I feel about issues based on what's best for my country, and not just my city, neighborhood, or group

-- Give people I criticize the benefit of the doubt, and not make assumptions about what motivates them

-- Look for common ground and middle-of-the-road solutions to difficult problems

-- Think through issues from a more complete, 360-degree perspective, examining them from all sides before making up my mind

-- Challenge those on the far right and the far left to approach issues with honesty, nuance, and common sense

-- Continue to try to give a voice to the silent and defend the little guy against the excesses of the loud and powerful

As for Americans in general, we should dedicate ourselves to doing the following:

-- Complain less, vote more

-- Remember that elected officials who serve in Congress, state houses, and City Hall work for us, and not the other way around

-- Think harder, judge less, read more, think again, and keep an open mind, especially when it comes to those things about which we're most unsure

-- Worry less about how others should behave, and concentrate on what we have power over: our own behavior

-- Steer clear of the extremes on the far right and the far left, and learn to see the value in more moderate views that come from the middle

-- Take responsibility for our actions, failings, decisions, and mistakes and don't look for others to blame

-- Resist the temptation to play the victim and give others more power than they deserve

-- Take politics seriously, but parenting more seriously, since the former allows for the repealing of legislation and regular elections to set things right, but there are no "do-overs" if you mess up the latter

-- Travel more and, when we get where we're going, don't forget to talk to strangers

-- Don't be so eager to be heard that we forget to listen to others

We probably can't do all those things. We're going to fall short. But we can try to do many of them. And in the process, even when we fail, we can live better lives and help make this a better country.

And what better way is there to start the new year?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.