I find myself wanting to say some things to our presidential candidates. I offer this advice, of course, for what it’s worth, which, considering the price, isn’t much.

First, I want to say what our candidates surely know: We have some very real problems in our world, and those problems require strong leaders to step up in fresh new ways. There is a deep current of unease over our national decline, and people are yearning for intelligent discussion about real solutions to real problems. This is not just a political game we are in.

People are out of jobs. And here’s what I worry about: The deep American notion that everyone gets a chance seems a long shot to far too many people these days. If that spirit of opportunity ever gets badly damaged, we will have changed a core American idea.

Intractable budget deficits and a staggering national debt threaten our future. This can’t go on (witness Greece and Italy and Spain).  And here is my bias: We cannot cut our way out of this morass, though some of that is necessary. We must make the way for businesses to grow. There is no other way. We need to stop denigrating business and get out of the way of innovators and entrepreneurs and risk-takers seeking to build something.  That is my bias, and I am watching how our leaders address just this goal.

I believe our schools are crumbling, and it is the poor in our American cities who suffer most. This fact wastes precious lives and puts our nation at risk. We must clear out the obstacles, put our best minds to work, and build better schools. We have no time to waste on this one. I need to hear real vision about how to fix our schools from our leaders.

I believe we must address, with great care and thoughtfulness, a culture that has grown coarse, unmannered, disrespectful, split, and dangerous. I happen to believe there is a yearning for spiritual renewal, and I would like to hear that our leaders are at least sensitive to this yearning.

Here’s another thing I would like to say: Stop saying things that are not true, about the realities we face, about the character of your opponent, about the prospects of your solutions. Stop spinning things so much. Talk straight up. Don’t take us for fools. We know when untrue things are said. This stuff is degrading to you the candidates, to our democratic process, and to our nation. Just stop it. Debate vigorously, and disagree vehemently, but talk truthfully.

And finally, leaders lead with vision. That’s one of my deepest convictions. Leaders must spell out the challenges, to be sure, in very clear and thoughtful ways, but good leaders don’t lead with fear. They lead with hope. They lead with solutions and opportunities. And so I am listening for our candidates to make a compelling and positive case about where we ought to be going. Help us believe in the future. Help us believe in our nation and our people and our ability to solve real problems. I am convinced most everyone is ready to roll up the sleeves, but we need leadership to bring us together and point the way.

Let’s all step out of the world of perpetual political spin, get the facts on the table, debate the issues with intelligence and vigor, and then let’s cast a vision of something good, something better out ahead.