Politics: My Vote Goes for Character
Abe Lincoln: A Man of Character
Voting By Paper Ballot
Character ... Not Attendance!
A few years ago several fellow bowlers were recipients of cash prizes and trophies in the Tuesday Night Winter Fun League at Rip Van Winkle alleys. Because of my mediocre bowling average, I wasn't expecting anything (other than a small portion of the money we paid toward prizes.)
Nevertheless, I was not altogether forgotten; I was awarded a nice little pin extolling my "perfect attendance."
While my bowling partners conveyed their congratulations to me, they would have been much happier had I performed better in the weekly games.
Perfect Attendance Questioned
People often win praise for good attendance; however, attendance cannot properly be evaluated in a vacuum. There were days, for instance, that I bowled so badly that my teammates would have much preferred that I stay home.
In politics, citizens often treat good attendance as a praiseworthy virtue. In political campaigns, candidates frequently brag of never having missed a vote, or berate their opponents for missing votes or committee meetings.
Absentees Under Fire
Some of our nation's best and brightest people have been attacked for missing votes, including former President John F. Kennedy. Over the years, there have been several local commission members who came under fire for not showing up at meetings -- in fact, I believe one person was banished from a local post for missing a large number of sessions.
In truth, having a perfect voting record is not all it's cracked up to be! And missing a committee meeting may not necessarily be so bad. It all depends!
It's a mistake to blindly lash out at officials because they miss a vote or a meeting.
Of course, one must always fulfill one's obligations and responsibilities. But intelligent people always weigh their options before making decisions.
Personally, I admire the way JFK used good judgment in budgeting his time. Perhaps one reason he was so successful was his ability to manage his schedule wisely.
Consider the Circumstances
Whether the issue be voting on a legislative bill or attending a local commission meeting, wisdom demands, always, that we consider the circumstances.
If you were a legislator, for instance, you, of course, would want to vote on the issues that come before you. But scores, if not hundreds, of these votes come up at every session. While a few are exceptionally important, most are mundane -- and not closely contested.
If, for instance, a matter comes before a legislative body that is expected to pass by a wide margin, it may well be that one's time could be used more wisely doing something else -- either professionally or personally.
Given the choice of voting on an unimportant matter that would undoubtedly be approved without your presence and attending a school play crucial to your child, what do you think would be the correct ethical decision?
It may be easier, in this instance, to show up for the vote and, thereby, avoid the slings and arrows of the always-at-the-ready critics, but, I believe, it is both wiser and ethically better to go see your child taking part in a school play.
Character is far more important than reputation!
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Dec. 27, 1997.