Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Invocation from Last Night's Oshkosh Common Council Meeting

At the start of every meeting, an Oshkosh Common Councilor reads a non-denominational invocation. The one provided by the city is here.

Last night, in the light of the recalls, division and strife at the national and state level, I decided to change it a little.  Here was my invocation:

As we come together this evening to discuss the issues confronting our city, may we remember the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln who said:
we should avoid planting and cultivating too many thorns in the bosom of society.”
So, in these divided times, may we:
Disagree honestly
Compromise wisely
Agree vigorously

I think the points on disagreement, conflict and agreement are important considerations for elected office.  In fact, they are the entire point of elected office.  Most of your duties revolve tightly around these three actions.

We will often disagree, that is the role of Robert's Rules and organizational bylaws, to mitigate this conflict.  Honest, stubborn disagreement is not a vice.  But it must be disagreement based on facts, consistent application of the law and the benefit of the entire body governed.

Compromise is necessary in all human endeavor, it is also the most difficult.  Don't be afraid to consider another opinion, don't fear letting a step from your foothold.  But also, do not sell the needs of your constituents for political or personal gain.  Before the compromise, ask yourself in who's benefit are you moving: your own, a specific interest or that of the best path for the people you represent.

And when agreement is reached, embrace it with enthusiasm.  Give credit where due, blame when needed and honesty in all communication.  You may well need to go through compromise and disagreement with the person who's hand you are shaking soon enough.

There will always be conflict in elected office.  A steady, consistent application of disagreement, compromise and agreement is important for the survival of a governing body, and more importantly, the people governed.