Talk about timing! Just as I was about to give up on good government – locally, nationally and around the world – I attended the UEL dinner December 1st. Not only is it always great to see friends and fellow concerned Miamians over a good meal and a glass (or two) of wine – but this time we all got a little shot in the arm from Senator Graham.
Soft spoken, kind and very persistent, he encouraged us all to keep up the good fight. His new book, America’s Owners Manual, Making Government Work for You, calls for a renewed emphasis on teaching – and practicing – basic civics.
I bet that lots of UEL members can remember their student government days and the classes that taught us things like how a bill becomes a law. I can see in my mind’s eye the teachers who spoke encouragingly about making the system work and the role we could play in that. I would also bet that I am not alone in having scars on my forehead from banging my head up against the system and struggling to maintain an attitude of skeptical optimism when I watched “the system” fail and learned to “follow the money” to understand why.
Senator Graham’s point is that if citizens don’t have a clue about the system (who governs what decisions, how legislation works, and how to influence the system) things will only get worse. He described the origins of this book as a high school class he co-taught years ago and recently revisited while at the Kennedy School.
He reminded us of individuals (Barbara Capitan for one) who kept up the good fight even in the face of lost battles. He also stood before us as someone who, after a long career in the “system,” has managed to keep his optimism, keep his temper, and keep on – as we used to say – keeping on in spite of disappointments and conflicts we can only imagine.
I was struck again by a sense of his core decency and decided that I won’t give up – just yet. Good government is a worthy goal; honorable leadership, decency and optimism are worth fighting for. And good friends and a glass (or two) of wine was just what I needed to remind me that it is up to all of us to encourage and support the generations who are just entering the fray. Thanks UEL.
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