Duty, honor, country still matter in our great nation

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 4, 2005

I am in Charlottesville, Va., this week. I am adjunct faculty at the Federal Executive Institute, where I teach postmodern leadership to the most senior civil service executives in the federal government.

The opportunity is one that I cherish, because every visit here I learn more than I teach.

This week, I have been reminded of something that gives me encouragement in the face of all the difficulties that cross the front pages about the effectiveness of government.

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Sometimes, we know government more for its failures than for its successes. Hurricane Katrina was a demonstration of the failure of government at every level.

Mike Brown, now the ex-FEMA director, has become the poster boy for incompetence at the highest levels. But this week I saw something very different here in Charlottesville.

Working with a group of very senior execs, each holding responsibility of many millions of dollars in budgets and many reporting staff members, I have seen something that we may not know still exists in government service. I have seen, not by explicit proclamation, but by implicit content, the quality of duty that infuses these individuals.

Government service is not easy today. For two decades politicians have named government as the problem in America.

And yet it is government that protects our shores; government that regulates interstate commerce; government that makes social security one of the most successful programs in administrative history; government that protects our food supply; government that made the cost of electricity affordable throughout the U.S.

I could go on, but the point is, our federal government has made America better, not worse.

The individuals that lead the agencies that shape the role of the federal government are the people I spend time with in Charlottesville.

Today I report to you something that should comfort all of us. These are people who care about public service, who care about duty to their country.

They entered public service to serve the country, and they carry with them, in spite of the negative critiques that surround the concept of &#8220big government” a sense of commitment to make a difference, to shape careers that make a contribution to the good of the country.

The U.S. military also sends leaders to the federal executive institute, and they, like those in civil service, serve us all well, believing that duty, honor and country are more than words to be memorized.

These are people who are so steeped in these values that they cannot imagine service taking any other shape.

All of these people work with little or no recognition. They simply quietly go about serving the nation with their best efforts, with careers imbued as much with sacrifice as with any other value.

Our government at the federal level is not the enemy. Those politicians that use government service as a popular punching bag do a deep disservice to these fine individuals and to the institutions and agencies established to service the complex needs of a large nation. Big government is not our problem.

Our problem is those politicians who misdirect their poor policy decisions to blame it on the institutions.

If you want to assign blame, assign it to those who corrupt government with political deals for their private industry friends, who award contracts that reward negligence in the private sector.

Want better government? Don't accept the politicians blaming everyone but themselves for their ethical gaps and intentional corruptions.

Dr. Jim Crawford is an administrator at Ohio University Southern. He can be reached at drjim893@msn.com.