Lee Hamilton is a Senior Advisor for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government and was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.
He writes occasional columns and I happen to be one of the people on his list of where to send columns for consideration.
I generally like Mr. Hamilton’s non-partisan approach to his opinions. I get dozens of columns for my consideration from other people on a daily basis, but most are heavily one-sided. I probably get 10 times as many right-leaning columns as I do left-leaning ones. And barely a fraction are moderate, even-keeled, sensible opinions. Mr. Hamilton is of the latter ilk.
But back to Mr. Hamilton.
His latest offering touched on the fact that, in a representative democracy, you can’t accomplish things alone.
“Whether you’re trying to get a stop sign put up on a dangerous corner or to change US policy on greenhouse gas emissions, you have to reach out to others. Learning the skills of active citizenship makes this a stronger, more resilient country,” he says.
The people who have learned those skills, he says, are not closely connected with politics or government. They just wanted to improve something in their community.
Even at the local level, things can get complicated. There will always be voices for leaving things be.
“But that’s the nature of the democratic process: change deserves debate, and learning to marshal facts, find and work with allies, and ultimately sway public opinion is part and parcel of living in the system we enjoy. Participating in the process challenges us to make our case, develop our skills of persuasion, and become better at speaking, listening, building consensus, and being an engaged member of a community.”
That’s what any small community needs: engaged members of a community.