We the People
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
I think most US citizens are quite familiar with the first three words of the US constitution’s preamble, “We the People…” But, I have blithely gone about my merry way without really spending a lot of time on the idea that we have delegated the sovereign power of the people to government bodies for specific purposes. We the people are the source of the power. The government works for us. The other side of that coin, however, means that we own the problems of this country.
I have found myself very jaded by the presidential campaign this year. The anger in the electorate is turned on a variety of culprits such as immigrants, bankers, the Chinese and Mexican people, the one percent on and on. But, the real culprits are “We the People.” We have been asleep at the wheel. We complain about the dishonesty and ineffectiveness of politicians. But, the fact is they work for us. If I am a proprietor of a business and I have an employee who is failing miserably the appropriate thing to do for my business is to address the deficiency through actionable feedback. But, if the failure persists we must let the employee go. I think most of us neither give the feedback nor do our duty to dismiss ineffective elected representatives. I saw one estimate that suggested that 96% of incumbents are reelected to congress despite record low approval ratings (barely double digits). Let’s get real here, “We the People,” the owners of this great enterprise, the United States of America, are failing.
I love the painting above from Norman Rockwell, entitled “Freedom of Speech.” I see a common man standing up to make his views heard in a public forum. Clearly this man took his role as a citizen serious enough to attend this meeting, but what’s more he stood to voice his opinion. Perhaps I romanticize this too much, but I picture a time when we as citizens took our role to manage the government more seriously. I would love to see us all take our role as “We the People” more seriously from now on. This painting makes me think about what I should do now recognizing I have been complicit in the terrible political environment we now have.
The first thing that comes to mind for my next actions is to start local. This decreases the difficulty of my initial foray a bit. I also suspect that there are only a handful of people who actually participate at the local level, which could mean that an outspoken few have a disproportionate voice on matters taken up by local councils. So, I will commit to attend at least one city council meeting before the year is up.
The second thing that comes to mind is that I do not know the voting record of my state legislators and my national representatives in congress. What manager does not review (ever) their direct reports’ work? Answer: a bad one. Again, if 96% of our representatives get reelected, but we generally feel that things are off track, then we have to look in the mirror on this one. The CEO of my organization often says, “we run this place.” That is, we can’t point the finger at “them” and say “they” are to blame. We are all to blame. We run this place. My second commitment is to do a quick initial review of my representatives’ voting records and to get familiar with the bills that have gone before congress recently to see how I feel about their performance. I found this site to help me look at their records.
To close, I have argued that every woman and man of voting age owns a share of the problems we see in our country. Perhaps you agree, perhaps not. But, if this resonates with you, I invite you to think about your first steps towards greater political activity to right the direction of this great enterprise, the United States of America. Simple actions compounded by millions of people could have profound impacts. I still believe, but turning things around depends on us and the degree of ownership we exercise as “We the People.”