Mutual Respect and Trust

The president’s State of the Union speech officially marks the beginning of a new federal cycle.

What will that new beginning look like? How will those few, elected to represent the many, lead?

Here are a few words for both Congress and the president to reflect on.

At the end of Mr. Jefferson’s great Declaration are these words:“…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, & our sacred Honor.”

While we’ve always believed in the value of “rugged individualism,” we are, in fact, a nation of 315 million individuals who are inextricably bound together by the values of liberty, respect, responsibility and fairness.

The oath of office for members of Congress states:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

While members of Congress represent the needs and wants of their own state, that representation should not come at the expense of the rest of the country. And it certainly should notcome out of the kind of fear and hate that we have witnessed in the last several years.

In his farewell address to the nation, President Eisenhower reminded us that we “must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”

In the last several years, trust and respect in our elected leaders has been hard to come by. With so many diverse interests and groups demanding their own priorities, integrity has been lost to self-interest.

The nation’s character has been sorely tested in the last few years, beset by a great recession due the excesses of financial institutions which ultimately led to a lack of confidence in ourselves and our government. Then there are the numerous ethics scandals that have shown us that those we once believed in have lied to us.

All this and more have weighed so many of us down that sometimes it has felt like we’ll never get off the floor. But, gradually, we are.

Those of you who have been granted the privilege to govern need to recognize that you are here to serve the many, not the few. You need to understand that your responsibility is to the future of the nation, not the next election. Too many times, you have focused on your own interests at the expense of interests common to us all.

“…self-interest is a powerful motivator” former Governor Mario Cuomo writes, “perhaps the most powerful one. If we hope to re-establish our strength, confidence, and balance as a nation …we need to understand that apart from the morality of recognizing an obligation to our brothers and sisters, common sense by itself should teach us that we are all in this thing together, interconnected and interdependent.”

Members of Congress have a duty to embrace that interdependence and strive to work with all sides in order to more effectively re-establish that strength, confidence and balance.

Mr. President, members of Congress, the people have elected you to lead us into a future of strength and confidence by bearing true faith and allegiance to the constitution through mutual trust and respect.

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