By David Hegg
Everywhere I turn there is another article or podcast or broadcast critiquing someone in a governmental leadership position. But what I don’t often hear is a simple outline of what our politicians should be. So, today I offer four simple thoughts on what we should demand of everyone given the privilege to serve in an elected office.
1. Serve the People: Sounds simple enough, right? But increasingly we are seeing politicians use their positions and power to pursue personal agendas while considering the people who elected them as a mere funding source.
Remember when elected officials were actually “public servants”? I do, and I also recognize the challenge of serving a diverse constituency. No one is saying public service is easy. But the real problem is that to be a good servant you have to understand and prize the opportunity to serve others even if you’re not noticed or applauded for the work you do. You also must accept that, if you really do give your life to serve the people, you’ll often be treated like a servant, and have to actually serve. Yep, you’ll have to get your hands dirty, keep your mouth shut, and actually do what you were elected to do, all the while rejoicing that you’ve been privileged to serve. That’s a servant’s heart, and that’s what we should demand in our elected officials.
2. Tell the Truth: I don’t know where to start with this issue. We the people have been so inundated with untruths, half-truths, generalizations and obfuscation that we no longer trust anything being told to us by those who are supposed to be serving our best interests.
Here’s the deal. Tell us the truth! We can take it. Don’t spin it, and please stop seeing everything you do through the lens of “plausible deniability.” Tell your speech writers you want unvarnished statements that are actually true and verifiable. Better yet, fire your speech writers and your publicity agents, and have the courage to talk straight to us. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Who knows? It just might work to make honest, sincere and consistent communication with the folks who gave you the job the hallmark of your tenure.
3. Act with Wisdom: To do this you must be a good student, always learning, intent on getting the truth, and never satisfied to make decisions without all the necessary information. But knowledge isn’t wisdom! Technically, wisdom is the proper application of knowledge to the stuff of real life. It is using knowledge properly to navigate through the deep waters of both the knowns and unknowns of in this crazy world. We’ve had plenty of “know-it-alls” who papered their walls with fancy diplomas, certificates and awards, who couldn’t creatively and wisely shore up a wobbly restaurant table. It’s time we demand that our elected officials employ a high level of active intellectual ability combined with a truckload of common sense and practical wisdom. Frankly, absurdity in this country has gone far enough.
4. Ignore your Legacy: Dear elected official, we didn’t put you in office so you could use our money and our lives as building blocks in the wall of your career and whatever legacy you fancy yourself leaving. Here’s a thought: Do your job, do it well, do it now. Make every one of your “todays” a priority and valiantly resist the temptation to think about your legacy. Trying to stack the future in your favor will only hinder you from making the tough decisions, telling the truth and doing the right thing now. But I can assure you that, if you demonstrate integrity, walk in humility and dedicate yourself to serve with sincerity, we’ll remember you. But even better, our neighborhood, our village, our city, our state, our nation, and maybe even our world will be better because you decided to serve others rather than yourself.
Now get to work and make us proud!
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.