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Stand And Be CountedRecently, I brought my family into New York City for the day. It was one of those lovely Indian summer afternoons when the sun is warm but the hint of fall is in the air. We’d come to see an open-air art exhibit at Washington Square Park. While wandering around we came upon the marple arch commemorating the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration as president of the United States. History tells us that following the Revolutionary War, Washington returned to Mount Vernon to try and put his personal financial house back in order, but he was not satisfied with what was happening in American government. In 1787 he was persuaded by friends to preside over the Constitutional Convention and in 1788 was unanimously elected our first president by the Electoral College.

Staring up at Washington’s arch, I couldn’t help but wonder what thoughts must have passed through his mind on the eve of his inauguration. What would happen to America in the months and years ahead? Could the democracy survive? Would there be sufficient funds to allow the government to function properly? Was America truly finished with Great Britain or would other battles lie ahead. And what of this government that Lincoln would describe 75 years later as being “of the people, by the people and for the people”? Fortunately for America, Washington chose to accept the challenge and become our first president, setting a standard of dignity and restraint for all the presidents that followed. Now, once again, “we the people” have the opportunity to elect a new president. This is a freedom unequaled in much of the world today. Sadly, it is a privilege too many Americans take for granted.

In these past months, I have been heartened to see the growing number of Americans, both young and old, who have turned out in support of both Senators Obama and McCain. Convention coverage on television has attracted record audiences and I hope that is a harbinger for record turnouts at the polls this November.

As this is written, the presidential race is extremely close with neither McCain nor Obama showing a clear lead. One need look only back to the last presidential election to understand that in those states where the races are so tight, the votes of sportsmen may be enough to decide who becomes our next president. But the presidency will not be the only decision to make on this year’s ballot. A large number of Congressional seats are also up for grabs and these votes, in many ways, may be even more important in deciding who controls Congress and who may have the power to change our existing laws in ways that may greatly impact hunting and fishing.

As we’ve done in past elections, this issue we are providing our exclusive Sportsman’s Voter Guide. “Guide” is the operative word here. Outdoor Life has never endorsed candidates. We believe our readers are perfectly capable of making their own decisions in the privacy of their own voting booth. What our Voter Guide does do is highlight some of the key sportsman’s issues and show where those congressmen and women who are up for election stand. The decision of whom you choose is yours to make.

The only thing I would ask is that you exercise your freedom to participate in the election on November 4th and encourage your hunting and fishing friends do the same. George Washington would have wanted it no other way.

Todd W. Smith