The negative election campaign rhetoric is coming to an end and Americans will cast their votes on Tuesday to decide whom our leaders will be. Please make sure your opinion is heard by exercising your right to vote.

If you vote on one issue this election, your decision is easy. It is also easy if you vote based on your inherent belief system about the role of government. If you vote on who is best for the cattle industry, your decision is already made. If you vote based on one's stand on abortion, your decision is black and white. If you vote on whether you prefer less taxes or more government programs there should be no question about which candidate you support. If you want gun restrictions, or are concerned about second amendment rights, you are going to vote one way, and the list could go on.

Yet, for the first time in my life I will not vote merely for the man who has the philosophies and policies that most closely align with mine. I will be casting my vote, in part, because of the message that this election sends to the world -- friends and enemies alike.

For me it is simple task to interpret the message that will be sent -- it is a message about whether America will embrace the lessons of our past or shun its responsibility to the future. Many would argue that this election is about whether America accepts its awesome responsibility as the world's only super power and confronts the world's single greatest threat -- terrorism. I would argue rather that this election is so vitally important because it is not about who will occupy the White House the next four years, but instead is a referendum on America itself and whether we will maintain our mantle of leadership and address the problems that the rest of the world either lacks the will, fortitude or ability to tackle.

I believe that history will say that Kerry and Bush had little choice in their roles and or even in the message that this election will send. Events out of their control made this election far different than any other in recent times. Can you imagine Roosevelt being set aside because of frustration that was caused from the climbing out of the Great Depression, or because of the devastating losses that the Allies had suffered in WWII? Or, to have Abraham Lincoln replaced because of the tremendous loss and division that had led to a war far more devastating than America had ever experienced? While it is inherently unfair to the candidate John Kerry, if this country was to replace George Bush at this time in our history, we as Americans would send to the world the message that America no longer has the ability to take on big tasks.

While a rejection of Bush would be heralded around the world (with the notable exception of our allies, who would also be devastated), we have to recognize why they would be celebrating. They will be celebrating that America is no longer a beacon of light. What message will we send to the next president that must make tough decisions? The lesson will be to defer tough decisions.

Perhaps more concerning than America turning away from idealism to pragmatism, will be the message we will send to those who wish to do us harm. Again, this isn't about Bush or Kerry as much as it is about us. This would only to serve to validate the belief that America can be defeated, not on the battlefield (even the terrorists know that this not attainable in the long-term) but rather in the court of American public opinion. You defeat America by striking at the sentiments of American voters who are unwilling to endure sacrifice.

Before you dismiss this assertion, consider George H. Bush and the first Gulf War, Somalia, the terrorist attacks in Spain, the actions of the U.N, and now the war on terrorism? Don't for a minute think the beheadings, mass executions, and attacking of the innocent taking place are merely the acts of mad men. They are done to achieve a clear objective to stop America from the course it is on. If we reinforce the message that terrorism works, I think the results will be dire. Freedom and leadership comes with a price, and unfortunately this election is not about whom will do a better job of securing our ideals and national interests domestically and abroad, but it is in large part a message of whether America is still able to carry the mantle of leadership.

That is why all the pundits are right in calling this the most important election of our generation. It is not as much a referendum on Bush or Kerry and their beliefs which are worlds apart; it is a referendum on what America is and what it hopes to be. Whomever your candidate, don't allow this decision to be made without you. Past generations have had their defining moments in a variety of avenues -- ours is likely to be held at the ballot box.