With the Republican and Democratic national conventions behind us, the fall campaigns for the White House, Congress and state legislatures are fully underway. The messages, themes, and visions presented by each party present voters with clear choices in the most important election cycle in recent history.
But after the campaigning is done and all the votes are cast, the time will come for the victors to govern. Everyone - from the president to the newest member of the Texas House - will need to put their differences aside and focus on what can be done together.
That will be particularly true in Texas, where the next session of the Legislature will address a number of issues critical to our future - public education, health and human services, public safety, and the environment, with a focus on water.
As a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, I watched in pride as Mayor Julian Castro told his story to the nation. It was a moving tribute to his family and an American system that rewards hard work and sacrifice. "The American dream," he said, "is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay."
The mayor's broader theme - a theme that echoed throughout the convention - was about opportunity. It's impossible to win any race if you're denied a spot at the starting line.
There were inspiring stories at the Republican Convention as well. In fact, I was struck by the similarities of some the Republican and Democratic themes - patriotism, hard work, self-reliance, love of freedom, the importance of the family, and America's unique status as the best nation to pursue your dreams.
But as Mayor Castro pointed out, the American dream can't just be reserved for those who are already living it, for those who can borrow money from their parents to start a business.
That is why the overarching theme of the convention, and the core of President Obama's acceptance speech, was about opportunity for all Americans.
This conviction - that public policies must ensure that everyone has at least a chance to succeed - marked the clearest difference between the fundamental approach to government presented at both conventions. And it should be the overarching theme of the 83th Texas Legislature that convenes in January.
Looking ahead to the session, the 12-member Select Committee on Economic Development had its inaugural meeting in Austin this week. This panel of business leaders and lawmakers was created to review the state's economic development programs and make recommendations for legislative solutions.
The message from that meeting: Texas may be one of the top job-creating states right now, but that will be endangered if we don't seriously address long-term problems in education, transportation, water, and health care.
Of all these issues, education, in particular, must be a priority in the next session - not the target of devastating budget cuts. The Legislature must ensure that all Texas children have access to a good education. That is the beginning of opportunity; the clearest path to the starting line.