During the first week of July in 1995, I read an editorial by Judith A. Ramaley, president of Portland State University in Oregon, that seems as appropriate for today’s events and public policy environment as it was then. Perhaps even more so. Ms. Ramaley wrote:
“I used to think that character is how you behave when no one is looking. For most of us that may still be true. For public figures, however, character is how you behave when everybody is looking . . .
“. . . Nearly a century ago when President Woodrow Wilson was still a college professor, he said: ‘A great nation is not led by a man who simply repeats the talk of the street corners or the opinions of the newspaper. A nation is led by a man who, rather, hearing those things, understands them better, unites them, puts them into common meaning; speaks not the rumors of the street but a new principle for a new age; a man for whom the voices of the nation . . . unite in a single meaning and reveal to him a single vision, so that he can speak what no man else knows, the common meaning of the common voice.’”
As our “modern” nation heads into the heart of yet another election season, with earlier and earlier primaries leaving little separation from the last acrimonious campaigns, it is this quality above all others that I’m seeking to find in the candidates for public office: the uncommon heart and mind to unite us for the common good.