September 6, 2010

A Quote from John Adams

I am finishing up John Adams by David McCullough.  The book is exceptional and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in our Founding Fathers and an interest in what leadership and sacrifice look like.

I was struck by a seemingly inconsequential passage in the book.  It wouldn't leave me, so I wanted to share it with you.  In a letter to John Quincy Adams, who expressed an interest in public life (serving in politics), Adams wrote "His first maxim then should be to place his honor out of reach of all men.  In order to do this he must make it a rule to never become dependent upon public employment for subsistence.  Let him have a trade, a profession...something where he can honestly live, and then, he may engage in public affairs, if invited, upon independent principles.  My advice to my children is to maintain an independent character".

Oh how far we have come!  There was a time when "public life" was to be had only after establishing a profession.  Now, political service is a means in and of itself.  This is exactly what I meant when I spoke of  the concept of servant leadership and the notion that we need to be leery of those running for office who have no private sector experience.

If we are going to effect true change in this country, the kind of change espoused by the everyday folks involved in the tea party movement, we need to take a hard look at our "leaders" whose only "service" has been in public life.

There was a time when Congress convened for six months out of the year and then the individual members of Congress returned to their homes and their professions (in fact, John Adams did this as Vice-President).  Are we too far removed from times such as these?  Can we get back to a time when people didn't aspire to political office for the power, perks, and paycheck?  I believe that we can, but it's up to each individual citizen to make it a priority to call on servant leaders to lead, not those who have made a career out of serving themselves at the public trough.

By the way - this is another great reason to support Dino Rossi over Patty Murray.  Dino is a self-made man who built a business and then, when called to serve, put his experience to use for the benefit of taxpayers.  By stark contrast, Patty Murray has made a career out of ensuring that the taxpayers serve her.

1 comment:

  1. An excellent commentary, David.

    Looking over the constitution, I am left thinking that originally, and even with the changes of the 20th amendment, elected officials were to be part time, not a career.

    We have too many from both major parties that want the prestige, benefits and perks associated with office today and their re-election takes precedence over the good of the nation.