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Some prominent people spent considerable time during 1992 trying to convince America they can lead. Some of those people now have the chance. We hope 1993 is the type of year where tangible action is applied to grandiose words. Our direction for those who have sought the public's trust is this: You've spoken ... now lead.

America's appetite for change during the last 12 months seemed insatiable. This desire assumed in large measure that change is good solely because it replaces the status quo. The argument holds little water with us, but a great many Americans bought in for a great many reasons. Democracy depends on popular acceptance, however, and the call for change must now transcend talk and become deed. This is the tricky part.

Bill Clinton takes the oath of office as president in 17 days. Maintaining his agenda for change, while learning on the job (and addressing health care, urban problems, a budget deficit and numerous other domestic dilemmas, as well as putting out assorted global fires), he will have his platter full. Mel Carnahan assumes the Missouri governorship with the promise of taking a lead in solving the funding problems of the state's public schools. He will do so with a tax proposal that closely resembles one Missouri voters rejected overwhelmingly 14 months ago.

Residents of this area have a voice in Washington and Jefferson City, and their views are disseminated to the extent elected representation will do so. These citizens have more direct input on issues in their collective backyard, and there are plenty of those to ponder. Cape Girardeans voted in November to alter the way city council members are elected; members of the community, many who supported this change, are now called upon to make this aspiration square with the law. Coordinated planning and zoning work, 20 years in formation, was rejected by voters in Cape Girardeau County last year; in the coming months, we'll see where that decision leads.

Citizens in this city will get the opportunity to directly decide a couple of issues that can dramatically alter life in this community. Voter approval will be sought this year on a $22 million bond issue that will fund the construction of new school facilities in Cape Girardeau. Voters likely will also face a ballot question about whether riverboat gambling is desirable for the city. Certainly, the outcome of these issues will say a lot about the desires of people here.

Other things are in motion. The city will see the beginning stages of park work made possible by excess tourism revenue. At Southeast Missouri State University, efforts will continue toward the goals of bolstering academic standards and attaining funding for a new business building. The problem of drug abuse will gain increased attention ... and hopefully encourage a movement to impede this blight on our community.

We view the coming year with optimism and expectation. Part of this confidence is bred by people who have visited the area recently after some time away, those who unfailingly comment on how things have changed, how things have grown. Seeing our community through the eyes of others, apart from the negligible controversies that so often distract the locals, reassures us that our hope is not misplaced.

The Southeast Missourian, as it has throughout its history, will use this editorial space as a means of attaching facts, reason and perspective to the events and issues that affect our lives. To the extent this voice provides leadership for the community and region, we hope to live up to this commitment and heritage. We challenge others, as well, to step forward and lend their input to the betterment of Cape Girardeau and its environs. If that happens, if the resources of the people of this area can be harnessed, 1993 will be a terrific year.