The United States can boast of many great things, from our form of government to our rich history to the extraordinary vistas that nature gives us, such as the Grand Canyon or Glacier National Park.
One of those great things is we get a chance for second acts in this country.
I know because I’m right in the middle of mine.
For much of my adult life I was a scientist — specifically a cardiovascular researcher — whose goal was to impart information about health and well-being to the world by studying basic facts in one little corner of the human condition.
I authored or co-authored hundreds of articles in scientific publications. Those articles had titles only a scientist could love, such as “The Role of Magnesium in Etiology of Strokes and Cerebrovasospasm” or “Identification of Benzomorphan-k-opiate Receptors in Cerebral Arteries Which Subserve Contraction.”
Yes, I know. Your Facebook friends probably would not have sent you any links. But the research behind these articles led to important discoveries and gave a richer meaning to the lives of those of us involved.
Today, I’m retired — at least mostly — and like many retirees I look to do more than sit in front of the TV or spend endless hours on a golf course. We seek new ways to use our skills or for opportunities to give back to a country that has meant so much to us.
Some people give back by volunteering in their communities. Some tutor struggling elementary school students or participate in efforts to pick up trash on a beach.
And some of us embark on our second acts. For me, that has meant trying my hand at political commentary, writing about the mood and political discord in the United States today and offering my views on what we need to do to move forward toward becoming a safer, stronger, more prosperous and less divisive nation.
I do this because I love our country so much and I worry about what its future will be if the right people don’t do the right thing — or if the wrong people are allowed to do the wrong thing.
You might wonder how someone whose first act was as a scientist would evolve in this direction. Perhaps learning a little more about my background would help explain.
I was not born in the United States. In fact, my family once lived in fear in Nazi Germany until, when I was 7 years old, my parents and I were able to escape.
Years later, as I was about to begin my final year of high school, we came to this country. When I enrolled in school, classes already had been underway for four weeks and I spoke no English.
It was a daunting situation, but I managed to pass all my courses. Then it was on to college and a life in science. As you can see, this country gave me a wonderful opportunity and I took advantage of it. And I want to see it continue to provide the same types of opportunities for the next generation and the generation after that and the one after that.
So I write about the current state of affairs in our country today in hopes that — like my scientific research — something worthwhile and important will come from the results.
Now I will grant you, I am no professional political pundit or learned historian who can speak authoritatively on the subject. But I like to think that what I do bring to the table is common sense. I see with my eyes, hear with my ears and integrate what is in front of me using reason and logic. In addition, I sense what is proper and right and can compare that with what is not.
And I am not afraid to state my opinions.
Perhaps it’s appropriate that I’ve chosen to be a political commentator as my second act at this particular time in history. Our President is in something of a second act himself. Donald Trump spent his life as a businessman, making deals and amassing wealth, but not previously venturing into the world of elected politics.
Now he’s leader of the free world.
That’s a heck of a second act.
Bella T. Altura, author of “What Difference Does It Make?” was 7 years old when she escaped Nazi Germany with her parents. Eventually, the family came to the United States and Altura became a cardiovascular researcher who has written more than 700 scientific article and papers. Now mostly retired, she has become interested in writing about politics and current events, which is the subject of her new book.
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