On a recent trip to Europe, I was amazed at how many people asked us about our government. Are we happy with the Administration? President Obama seems to be doing a great job, wouldn’t we agree? Despite the economic problems, America was still strong and bouncing back, right?
Overall, from cab drivers to people at the next table in cafes, the feeling was positive, upbeat and respectful for our United States government and the public face it projects to the world. It was clear that no matter what we think about how things are going at home, people in these countries, upon learning we were Americans, were eager to share their thoughts on what a great country we live in. Do we value our own democracy in the same way?
Coming home was something of a culture shock! Turning on the news to cries of ‘throw the bums out’ (pick a party – any party!) made us realize that perhaps we do not show the same level of respect to our own elected officials and public servants. While we certainly have a right to criticize and expect more, good or bad, these are the people we elected. Polite debate has given way to muckraking and name-calling, but these folks did not just appear in office. We put them there.
Worse perhaps is the indifference. With primaries upon us, how many will take the time to vote? And how many of those who did not exercise their rights to elect will complain about those who are elected and the decisions that they make? This is the ultimate sign of respect for our democracy, taking the time to consider the options and cast a ballot for the people and ideas that resonate with each individual.
As public servants in any realm, in government, nonprofits or education, we need to encourage everyone to learn about the people and the issues and get out and vote! It is our duty as well as our right. It is the reason we fight wars and build global relationships. And it certainly is valued by those in other countries even if we do a poor job of respecting it here at home!
By Yvonne J. Kochanowski, DPA, MBA, firstname.lastname@example.org