We often only think about government when we pay taxes, attend jury duty, vote in an election or watch news about a new political conflict or something that has gone wrong. Government services are so much a part of our lives they often go unnoticed or unappreciated until they are not there. Let’s take a look at a day in the life of most Americans.
We wake up in our residence and we live where we do because of zoning laws that local governments establish for where residential and commercial buildings can be built and receive services (water, roads, trash removal, electricity, sewer and gas etc.). Every act that we take throughout the day using; clean water to drink and bathe, electricity, eating the food in our cabinets, wearing clothes, using soap, riding in the car, train, ferries or bus, using the roads and sidewalks, are the result of laws which ensure the safety of the product or resource. Additionally, we have laws which protect the safety and well-being of the citizens who work in the production and delivery of these resources and products we depend on.
The agencies like EPA, FDA, OSHA, Department of Transportation, and many more are mirrored at the state and local levels to ensure your safety and access to the resources needed to thrive. If they are doing their job you never think about them or notice that they are actively inspecting or regulating.
All of these actions on the part of millions of public servants make it possible to safely go about our work, education and commerce. There are still more departments and agencies to think about when we consider the work of public education, public health, elections, crime and safety, banking, defense, health care the list grows larger. Without each department or agency doing its part the things that we take for granted would cease to exist. Unlike any time in recent history, it seems clear that our lives depend on a well-trained, capable public servants and their leadership.
Unfortunately, we tend not to notice these enabling services and protections unless something goes wrong. There is also much more interest in the media and with political campaigns in highlighting all the failures and faults to attract viewers and interest. Over the last fifty years we have had many president’s and their administrations who undervalued public service and never met nor partnered with them. This loss of expertise and historical knowledge has greatly impacted each of us. Peggy Noonan in her recent WSJ editorial entitled “America Emerges Disunited but Intact” cautions Hollywood.
“Hollywood you would do us a great kindness if you would stop for awhile making movies and series that show how sick and corrupt politics is and how conniving and immoral our political leaders are. Your cynicism has helped lower standards and reduce expectations.”
It is easy to see how our existence as citizens is tightly bound with the ecosystems of local and federal agencies and the thousands of civil servants behind each of the services. Most of us even if we are public servants ourselves don’t pause to think about how all these services happen. Almost everything we do in our daily lives happens because thousands of people we depend but will never meet do their jobs very well every day.
Take some time to think about the public servants that make it possible for you to live your life. Look at other successful western democracies who have no political appointees, nine political parties and have very different relationships with their public servants—you’ll be surprised.
What We’re Reading and Watching This Month
Click here to visit the Public Leadership Transitions page of our website. On this page are two coaching articles that might be of interest to you as you await new leaders.
- Preparing for the Arrival of a New Leader (PDF)
- Managing Change in an Organization during a Transition in Leadership (PDF)
“At the end of nineteenth century, food was dangerous. “Milk” might contain formaldehyde, most often used to embalm corpses. But even as protective measures were enacted in Europe, American corporations blocked even modest regulations. Then, in 1883, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University, was named chief chemist of the agriculture department, and the agency began methodically investigating food and drink fraud, Over the next thirty years, a struggle for food safety and consumer protection. Dr. Wiley changed history. When the landmark 1906 Food and Drug Act was finally passed, it was known across the land, as “Dr. Wiley’s Law.” Click here to watch The Poison Squad on PBS.
We are looking ahead to more courses offered online; if you are interested in any of them please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can help your city, town, agency or school system with our courses in sustainable leadership, systems thinking in an era of contagious diseases, or other areas.
We are here to help and wish everyone success at this time of new beginnings.