I read a quote from a graduate of Hillsdale College a number of years ago that has played repeatedly in my mind as I have continued in the role of representing District 1.
The young man had graduated with honors, continued on to graduate from law school, and had clerked for Justice Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. While being given an award for an early career achievement, his acceptance speech contained this phrase, “There is a beauty in public service.”
Public service is a broad term that encompasses many aspects of government employment. At every level of government there are people working who could be deemed “public servants” because their salaries are paid for with public dollars, and they often have the opportunity to interact with the public, depending on their terms of employment. I think most would agree that it is difficult to find an objective “beauty” within what we call the “bureaucracy,” but there is certainly the opportunity for employees within the bureaucracy to express beauty in their employment.
Upon reading the above phrase, my thoughts turned to the public service role played by persons elected to represent their fellow citizens in one capacity or another, and how could the actions while serving in that role be described as beautiful or could contain beauty.
The impetus for seeking an elected office can be different for each person who participates in the process, but the responsibility that accompanies being elected to represent the interests of a constituency are universal regardless of the reasons for seeking the specific office. The beauty in public service comes from the action of the elected official and their interaction with their constituents.
“It ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention.” ~ Edmund Burke.
The responsibility of the public office goes beyond serving only one’s supporters; it also demands an understanding that representation involves responsibility for a larger number of people. It is imperative to live up to the standards set during the effort to get elected, but making yourself available to all constituents after winning an election is imperative as well. The intention should be to stimulate a confidence in the public that their elected representatives have their best interest in mind, and all effort should be made to avoid any appearance of dishonesty or manipulation of public sentiment.
“To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.” ~ Edmund Burke
In addition to the facet of the individual conduct of a public servant is the promotion of policy that provides a general benefit to all. While there is rarely unanimous agreement on public policy, the intent should be to effect policy that is as unobtrusive as possible to the individual, but still maintains a rule, or order, that protects the individual’s rights. This type of policy again speaks to generating confidence within the public that government is a benefit and not a burden.
Our republican form of government ensures the opportunity for all voices to be heard through elected representation, and seeks to prevent the tyranny of both the majority and the minority that naturally ensue within many other government structures. As all men are created equal, the consent of the governed was required at the establishing of our government, as well as is necessary during the course of its operation to protect against a decay into despotism.
While we have been slowly slipping away from the moorings of our founding principles, the course back is not difficult. Through the efforts of our Founding Fathers, we have a map to guide our current and future public servants in their efforts to accurately represent their constituents and retain the prosperity and freedom of our country.