With the election of our first African-American President, Barack Obama, the United States has achieved a significant historical milestone and reaffirmed the American ideal that any individual, whatever his or her background, can ascend to the highest office in our land.

That fact alone is cause for great national pride, regardless of anyone's party affiliation.

Barack Obama ran a strong campaign, emphasizing the need for change. I share his hope that there will, indeed, be a change in the rancorous tone and partisanship that has stymied productivity in Washington for too long. The best way we can build bipartisanship is to rally around sound principles that focus on the genuine concerns of American families.

Our nation's present economic crisis has forced many low- and middle-income Americans to tighten their belts and carefully balance their budgets. Likewise, the government must keep its own spending under control. With the national debt already at $10.5 trillion and climbing, federal spending must be curbed.

In the Senate, I will work my colleagues and with President-elect Obama's administration to lower spending, setting clear priorities, and working toward a balanced federal budget.

Sen. Obama has proposed a progressive tax policy that will sharply raise taxes on small businesses and middle- and upper-income individuals. By capping or penalizing financial success, economic growth and job creation become stifled.

Instead, lawmakers and the next administration should cooperatively advance policies that place opportunity for success within the reach of all Americans, while not discouraging entrepreneurial risk by redistributing the products of success. And we must all heed the lesson America learned the hard way when President Hoover raised taxes during economic hardship in 1932, turning a serious recession into the Great Depression.

One of Sen. Obama's campaign pledges was to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care. As Congress and the next administration consider health policy solutions, we must guard against abandoning the free market principles that will help keep quality, affordable health care choices available to our citizens.

The next administration will be tasked with the urgent national priority of pursuing American energy independence.

President-elect Obama has set a goal of reducing American imports from the Middle East and Venezuela. We share this goal. It will take a comprehensive approach to halt the $500 billion we currently send abroad for foreign fuel each year.

His plan to pursue alternative sources of energy and promote new, clean technologies should be of a part of a broader strategy.

However, until technological advancements can keep pace with American energy consumption, we must bridge that gap by increasing our domestic supply of oil and gas. Congress should not adopt policies, such as a windfall profits tax on oil producers, that could stifle production, discourage innovation, and keep our domestic oil and gas in the outer continental shelf off limits.

The principle of supply and demand should guide our energy solution as Congress works with the next administration toward an era of self-sufficiency.

Finally, in order to keep America a place of opportunity and prosperity, we must continue to protect our homeland from the threats of terrorism. In January, Sen. Obama will assume the solemn duty of commanding our Armed Forces and overseeing the administration of the Global War on Terror.

He has promised a phased reduction of American troops in Iraq. As our forces are drawn down, it is important that our commanders on the ground continue to be consulted in order to avoid micromanagement of the war from Washington.

This will help us to build on the success of the surge in Iraq, and assure that terrorists do not destabilize that country and spread their destruction further.

Voters have tasked elected officials with serving the best interests of all Americans. Lawmakers may disagree on certain issues, but we share the same goal and responsibility of making this nation a better, safer, and more prosperous place.

Though the political climate has changed and a new set of challenges lie before us, I remain committed to the people of Texas and will stand by the principles that have helped me earn their trust.

Kay Bailey Hutchison is a U.S. Senator for the state of Texas. Readers may contact her via telephone at (210) 340-2885.