Servants of the people

August 31, 2009
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The death last week of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy touched the nation, just as irrefutably as the laws, policies and philosophies that defined him and our time.

His greatest legacy, however, was his example of leadership, defined by compromise and good will — even for those who returned only contempt. The country is nearly bankrupt of such leadership, also wholly defined by this city’s favorite son, former President Gerald R. Ford.

We must fervently hope that their leadership is emulated in these times rather than buried with them and forgotten. Theirs was a life of “service,” as they viewed it, not of political “careers.”

As the week before Labor Day begins and “politicians” prepare to be called back to session, it will assuredly be a week fraught with the rancor a younger generation now believes to be the standard. It is as evident in the Michigan legislature as it is in nation’s capital.

The incivility that eschews teamwork, compromise, thoughtful debate and creative ideas leaves all constituents in the lock of a no-man’s land, a purgatory, a paralysis. Paralysis can be a certain killer. Compromise, though sometimes distasteful, offers continued ability and opportunity.

Paralysis in Washington, D.C., and in Lansing has in recent times been unyielding and strangling a two-party system of election. One need not list here the many symptoms of the morass in which this state (and nation) finds itself. The inability of its leaders to provide solutions for economic health is the result of the death grip of unrelenting paralysis. It is not survivable.

The guise of “platforms” assumes no difference of opinion even among those who embrace less or more government. It is uniqueness that is celebrated as part of a creative class, and it is creativity that breaks down the sides of the boxes of conformity. It is in learning and continued education that new solutions to old problems are found.

When did civic service become a career? Why do the pundits reinforce such a mockery of American history? When did shouting opinions replace presentation of the facts — and the story of the incivility of the shouting matches become regurgitated as “news”? This, too, is intolerable by a freedom-loving people, who still in this day have the examples set by Ford and Kennedy.

The story of Ted Kennedy is not about the “legacy” or the “power” but rather the accumulation of knowledge and experience: It is about service. Ford embodied these principles and an entire community must continue to thank him for that by expecting it of their leaders.

That is the “legacy” of this week. That is “politics” at its best.

Labor Day is a celebration of the work of a nation, and certainly includes the labor of public service. These are united states, not a kingdom.

Rights, privilege and responsibility belong to its people, and should be shared and expected of their public servants.

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