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Let's make 2019 matter. Let's make it a brave year of new and first steps — a year of big dreams and a year in which the good news outweighs the bad.

We have a good foundation: 2018 was the year when voters awoke and sent a 40-seat rebuke to so-called conservatives and President Donald Trump.

And no wonder. Only one recent president has come close to Trump's two-year 65 percent staff turnover: Ronald Reagan with 57 percent. And while Trump frequently brags about being a "great" jobs producer, he isn't. President Obama's average monthly job growth in his last 22 months in office was 216,000. Trump's two-year average through November was 191,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the rich got a massive tax cut, and the annual interest on the now-soaring national debt will be higher than the cost of both defense and Medicaid by 2022, according to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.

But enough of the good and bad news from Washington.

The real way we can make 2019 matter is right here. Right within us.

Let's ask ourselves: What can I do to make needed change in my life, my family, my home, my community, my country? Then let's make 2019 the year we take that first step toward this big dream.

Maybe it's by "checking out" of social media and making sure we read and watch only "real" news from trusted sources such as national public radio, real network or CNN news or real newspapers. Subscribe to the Chattanooga Times Free Press (timesfreepress.com) and other newspapers. Buy a gift subscription for a friend or family member.

Let's make this the year we really research for ourselves what's working and not working in our local and state politics. Learn who our government representatives are. Pay attention to what they do, and not just take the word of their newsletters and web sites. Read and watch the news stories about your city council, your county commission, your school board, your state legislature.

Better yet, go to their meetings.

To amp it up, make 2019 the year YOU get involved. Hamilton County Democratic Party chairwoman Khristy Wilkinson says the group's Quarterly Executive Committee meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Chattanooga Public Library downtown is open to Hamilton County Democrats. Find out more about local party politics on your party's website (www.hcdp.us for Democrats and www.hcgop.com for Republicans.)

And make this is the year to grow personally.

Take a class at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, or Chattanooga State. Seniors can take a class for free if we take it as an "audit" class, and if all the seats aren't taken by paying students.

Or maybe it's as simple as taking a non-school class to further a hobby or passion. Master Gardeners, for instance, offers a 15-week training course that begins on the evening of Jan. 7 or the morning of Jan. 8. There are still a few seats available. Learn more at www.mghc.org.

If you love more of the "natives" and natural science aspect of our outdoors, the Tennessee Valley chapter of Wild Ones (tennesseevalley.wildones.org) offers a Certificate in Native Plants at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. Reflection Riding offers plenty of its own classes, too (Reflectionriding.org).

Let's make it the year we learn about our neighborhoods. Drive to work a different way at least once a week. Better still, just go driving around town to look at the new development in Southside, behind Cameron Hill on the river, Ooltewah where there once was only farmland. Don't forget to drive through the still poor but hopeful areas of East Chattanooga like Glass Street and the neighborhoods off Holtzclaw and Roanoke avenues. It's important to understand that Chattanooga still has poverty — too much poverty.

In your own neck of the woods, check out your neighborhood organizations and watch groups. They have to plenty to show you, and many have online newsletters.

Most importantly, let's make 2019 the year we come out of our shell-shocked cocoons and spread hope by giving of ourselves.

Let's find our passions and show up. Whether it's delivering our extra homegrown produce to the Food Bank, ladling out plates to the homeless, passing out bouquets at a nursing home, volunteering to paint school classrooms or spending a day on a Habitat for Humanity house raising, let's give of ourselves.

The antidote for hate and indifference is love and hope.

Let's make 2019 the year we dreamed big and followed through.

Happy New Year!

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