On the final day of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got - a Republic or a Monarchy?"
Franklin: "A Republic, if you can keep it."
The new year is just around the corner, and with it comes a chance - perhaps a last chance - to save the republic.
Our elected leaders - Democrats and Republicans - have been taking the nation down the wrong path for a number of years, and roughly 75 percent of the American people know it now.
But on Nov. 4, 2014, we can change course. We can pick new leaders - people who respect the Constitution - and begin rebuilding our nation, our republic.
Here in West Virginia, we have two especially important races. We'll pick replacements for Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who is retiring, and for Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is running for Rockefeller's Senate seat.
It is important that we choose wisely on Election Day, so we need to get to work today. We need to:
1. Reassess our priorities. Said another way, we need to make sure we pay attention to what's important.
Lady Gaga is not important. Our favorite sports teams are not important. Just about everything coming out of the nation's capital is important. It affects our lives and our children's lives, for better or worse, forever.
2. Dig for the truth. This is harder than it seems.
For one thing, Washington, D.C., is unlike any other place on Earth. It's full of complicated relationships hidden from the rest of the world, and it has its own language that oftentimes conceals the truth.
For example, politicians often use the word "cut" when telling us how frugal they're being with our money. Trouble is, "cut," in Washington, D.C., often means spending more but not as much as planned. That explains why the nation's deficit is $17 trillion today.
Another problem: Many politicians have a nasty habit of sliding around the truth. ("If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period." Barack Obama.).
And then there are the news media. "News," today, is often "opinion" with lipstick. News organizations may be ignorant and naive. They may be careless. Or they may have hidden agendas.
So how do we get to the truth?
The best way is to go directly to the source and ask hard questions. And if that's not possible, we can search the Internet for objective and reputable sources and use what they say as a basis for our opinions.
Identifying good and bad sources is relatively easy, by the way. Take the Web site "Media Matters," for example. All we need to do is click the "About" button to stumble across red flags. The site calls itself a "progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media."
"Media Matters" has an agenda, obviously, and so it's a poor source.
3. Take action. Once we get this far, we need to support the best candidates with our money and our blood, sweat and tears. And then we need to vote.
That's an important point, because in 2012, West Virginia embarrassed itself. We were last in the nation in voter turnout, with fewer than half of the state's eligible voters going to the polls. In the 18- to 24-year-old category, fewer than 23 percent voted. That's shameful
4. Vote intelligently.
If we back candidates solely because they belong to a certain political party or solely because they promise to give us stuff - roads, subsidies, tax breaks, whatever - we'll continue down the wrong path.
But if we back candidates because they promise life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, free from government interference and coercion, then we can change direction -and preserve the republic.
It's up to us.