We spend more time buying a pair of shoes than we do choosing our public leaders. Then we wonder why we get some elected leaders who are 'heels' and have no 'sole'? Sounds a bit silly, but sometimes it's true.
We elect politicians based on 10-second sound bites and slick mailers that we glance at for three seconds and toss in the garbage. We hear what we want to hear and look for those who can give us canned answers. We are quick to make decisions based on labels — conservative, liberal, progressive, socialist, libertarian — without challenging the candidates on what each of those labels mean. If you ask them to elaborate, they immediately and skillfully change the subject or filibuster the question leaving no time to answer.
Some of us have become too complacent, cynical and self-absorbed in our own corner of the world to take the time to elect people that affect our daily lives. Then we complain that the people we elected are less ethical and truthful than what they said they were and don't do what they said they would do if elected. Since it was the special interest groups that financed their campaigns, they quickly ignore the promises they made while campaigning.
We complain about the government we have — too big, unwieldy, bureaucratic and unresponsive. We want an ethical and honest government, and then hurriedly choose politicians based on the sound bites and flyers stuffed in our mailboxes paid by special interest groups with big money, who then block any citizen effort to limit campaign spending.
If we want a government that is honest and we can trust, we must take the time to elect people who are trustworthy and work for the public's interest. We can choose people who run a successful business, attorneys who are good litigators, professionals who know their trade, developers that can negotiate deals. However, as John W. Gardner has said, when choosing leaders, look for two things, good taste and good judgment, everything else you can buy by the yard.
When electing our leaders, we must take the time to know them and their values. Issues will change, however, their values in dealing with them must not. Make sure they reflect our values. Study them the way geologists and human behaviorists study the present — they look at the past and how it affects the present. It includes asking questions about their backgrounds, families and community values and asking them for examples on how they handled specific problems in the past, rather than how they might handle theoretical ones.
Select leaders who can offer a vision of what we ought to become, rather than preoccupied with the past. Good leaders are those that understand how our world has changed and the forces affecting our lives. They understand and can articulate what's in the hearts and minds of people, offer a vision for the future and invite people to share in making it a reality. Good leaders offer hope and challenge people to look beyond themselves, sacrifice and work for the common good. They call upon the goodness and best in people, rather than their fears.
Reject politicians who divide us by exploiting our fears about the unknown future for their own benefit.
Our founders assumed there would always be educated and alert citizens to make sure we chose leaders who would reflect our values in government. If we want a government for the people, then it's up to us to make it so.
- Top scandals and controversies of each United...
- Robert Bennett: With public trust waning,...
- Top scandals and controversies of each US...
- Letters: No welfare, ever
- In our opinion: Big screen exploitation of...
- About Utah: Without fanfare, the National...
- Tolerance and the same-sex marriage debate
- Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: How will...
- Letters: No welfare, ever 52
- Letters: Deception and government 31
- Letter: The real death panel:... 29
- In our opinion: Reduce the legal... 26
- In our opinion: Big screen exploitation... 25
- Letters: Paycheck Fairness Act 20
- Matthew Sanders: Imploding trust in... 20
- Tolerance and the same-sex marriage debate 18