"I look with increasing horror, along with a growing number of other Americans, at the great and bitter division that is taking place in our politics, and the cynicism that is the end result of power for power's sake. We are losing sight of civility in government and politics. Debate and dialogue is taking a back seat to the politics of destruction and anger and control. Dogma has replaced thoughtful discussion between people of differing views."
These words were spoken by then New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey in his farewell address to the state in 2004, and I fear that they are truer today than ever before.
With Congress back in town for just three days before a two and a half week break, all anyone wants to know is if, not even when, we might actually get some real work accomplished for the American people. We are three months into the Second Session of the 114th Congress, and what do we have to show for it? Sadly, our record of accomplishments is short and sweet.
To top it off, all our constituents are hearing in the media is the hateful rhetoric and vengefulness spewing from some of the mouths of our presidential candidates. And now unfortunately our third branch of government can't even escape the partisanship that is choking our federal government.
This is not a new struggle for our great democracy. In fact, John Adams wrote to his wife about this same issue over 200 years ago.
He wrote, "I fear that in every assembly, members will obtain an influence by noise, not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By contracted hearts, not large souls. There must be decency and respect, and veneration introduced for persons of authority of every rank, or we are undone. In a popular government, this is our only way."
I couldn't agree with his words more.
Our constituents, our allies, this world deserve so much more from us. Because today, America definitely doesn't look like the "shining city upon the hill" or "beacon of hope" that we once were.
But all hope is not lost. James McGreevey finished his farewell address with these wise words.
"I urge you, my fellow citizens, to seek those who will build bridges between us. Those who do not need to shout in order to be heard. We must have leaders who value their words as much as they do their actions and who, above all, believe in their heart what they say and do. Demand good and effective government from wise leaders who speak softly with great ideas, who inspire people to work together for a common purpose. We as a nation have done this in the past and I know we can do it again."
As the leaders of this great country, I urge my fellow colleagues in the House, governors, and presidential candidates alike to hold ourselves up to a higher standard. Because as Herbert Hoover once said: "When there is a lack of honor in government, the morals of the whole people are poisoned."
U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-05) gave this speech on the House floor on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.