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We Portlanders are lucky for many reasons: easy access to mountain, sea and desert; a vibrant downtown; a lively arts community.

We are fortunate enough to be in a city and in a region of the country where people have not fallen prey to the deep cynicism that affects so much of our nation, a place where progressive thinkers gather.

Because we are willing to take risks, to try new ways, people from all over the United States come to Portland to learn all kinds of innovative practices, from the historic bottle bill to our universal medical care to our brand new streetcars.

I believe that being in the Northwest, and specifically in Portland, gives us a special responsibility. Could we say, 'As goes the Northwest, so goes the nation?' In some important ways, yes.

I hope that we might more fully accept this mantle of leadership and that we would act with vision in areas that need attention in our state: education, hunger relief, low-income housing, suspension of the death penalty.

We could pass a radical campaign-finance reform bill, so that many voices and perspectives could be heard, bringing our nation one step closer to democracy instead of the current oligarchy.

My deep and heartfelt wish for Portland in the new year is that we would step out and lead, as we can and should, in progressive reform in this nation.

The Rev. Marilyn Sewell is senior minister at First Unitarian Church in downtown Portland.