The Strength of America is in Our Shared Community, Not the Rugged Individual’s Survival of the Fittest
September 3, 2012
A Labor Day Message 2012 from Danny Donohue CSEA, President
It’s time to get real about the importance of community and collective action in all our lives. There’s a popular myth about rugged individualism in America, but no one really does make it entirely on their own. Our nation’s greatness comes from people working together, in spite of their differences, to build community and share prosperity.
We’re all better off in America with good public education that gives everyone an equal chance to learn, grow and reach their potential. This begins with early childhood education and extends all the way to our institutions of higher learning. Children can only do better than their parents and build a better future when they have a fair path to opportunity. It’s an investment in our future.
We all need good roads and bridges, available public utilities, water, sewer and other infrastructure in our lives.
We all need reliable and professional public safety to protect our communities against natural and human threats.
Our well being depends on public health standards being established and maintained and access to affordable, quality health care services and professionals for everyone.
These are community services and resources that help make us better people and a better nation because of concern for the public good that also benefits the individual. It is government’s role to help make them happen and – contrary to the political rhetoric – it works, every day, in millions of ways. CSEA members know because we take enormous pride in the role we play delivering these kinds of services and meeting community needs, 24/7. Yet, too often in today’s political debate, the value of this reality is either ignored or dismissed.
If government leaders haven’t always lived up to their ideals, it’s a human failing. Take a good, hard look at the recent record of many so-called business leaders before you start condemning public officials. We should all be demanding and expecting better ethics and performance from everyone in positions of authority. We have laws and regulations for good reason.
A healthy public sector is just as important to our economic well being as a vibrant private sector – sometimes, even more so. The public sector not only provides the talent, resources and structure for private business to operate, but also sets the standards and expectations of good citizenship.
When it works, America is greater than the sum of its parts. But making it work requires all of us to respect other people and other viewpoints, even when we don’t agree with them. However – pay attention to this – both sides have a responsibility to seek common ground. That’s a lesson that is too often lost in our polarized politics today. People who just bash government and aren’t willing to recognize the necessity of compromise and collective action, harm our democracy.