Leaders on Political Right and Left Should Sign on to Chuck Hagel's View of Public Service

Former US Senator Chuck Hagel -- now teaching students chosen by lottery for his classes over at Georgetown University and of course Co-Chairman of President Obama's Presidential Intelligence Advisory Board as well as Chairman of the Atlantic Council -- has written an elegant reminder of what elected public service ought to look like.

The political atmosphere of late is too toxic, too spoiled and defined by gotcha antics, than by serious and thoughtful leaders putting smart ideas for the country on the table.

Although I doubt it will happen, Hagel's US News & World Report article today, "Informed, Engaged Voters Lead to Quality Public Leadership" ought to be turned into a resolution in the House and the US Senate. It would be interesting to see if leaders in both parties -- and the new political movements aspiring to join these Chambers -- would sign on to Chuck Hagel's generic frame on the responsibilities of leaders and of the electorate.

Would be interesting. Here is a clip but I recommend the entire piece:

Elected public servants must not allow themselves to become disoriented from the business of governing. Our country depends on this. Elected officials must realize they fail their country and those they represent if they succumb to the sometimes violent currents of political opinion--which they bring on themselves when they don't lead and govern with integrity.

There is always the inherent conflict between, do you vote based on your constituents' opinions, or your own conscience? This has been a central issue of democratic political drama over the centuries. The best explanation I've ever heard or read that addresses this question--one that I subscribe to--is Edmund Burke's response two centuries ago: "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."

Public service is the essence of a free people, an open society, and a vital democracy. It is the centerpiece of a generous and caring culture. And there are so many wonderful ways to engage oneself in the employment of humanity, including elective office. Public service defines us, and it takes many forms. It is more than anything else the privilege of helping make a better world for all mankind. What is more important in life, more fulfilling, and more compelling?

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note. Clemons can be followed on Twitter @SCClemons