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Your Post-Election Responsibilities
Paul Simon

"Fulfill Your Duty As A Citizen—Vote Next Tues­day," read a number of signs throughout our nation the week prior to election.

simonThat statement contains about as much truth as does the statement, "Fulfill Your Duty As A Christian-Attend Church Next Easter."

I am in favor of attending Easter services; I am in favor of voting. But for anyone to think that either of these functions is a complete fulfillment of duty is a far—if comfortable—cry from reality.

The editor of the cresset has asked me to direct a few words in your direction "about the responsibility of The People to their servants" in public office. He thoughtfully also asked me to "say something beyond the usual cliches."

I'm not sure I can satisfy the editor in either direc­tion. For the most part this mass we call The People has no more responsibility to me or to any other office holder than they do to any other citizen. Their re­sponsibilities to me are in reality responsibilities to themselves. The public fulfills its duties to itself through a public official. The public official is not the object of service, but the avenue of service.

As to the "usual cliches" I am to avoid, I'm afraid I won't be able to. To a great extent these "cliches" represent unfulfilled responsibilities. Some portions of this article will look like a familiar road; however, I fear its familiarity is not the result of use.

What is the problem? Let me give you two ex­amples.

The weekend before this was written I spent at a Walther League (Lutheran youth group) conference for district leaders from the U.S. and Canada. Spirit­ually it was a real treat. I receive much more from such a meeting than I give, particularly when you have men like George Ho"'er and Elmer Witt on the pro­gram. But something bothered me. We were at a camp in Wisconsin, away from all newspaper contact and away from world news generally. The first time I noticed an awareness of this was Saturday night when they started asking questions: How did Kansas and Nebraska come out in their game? Did Seward beat River Forest? What did Oklahoma do? How about Michigan State? But this was the extent of the ques­tions. No one asked: "Are the people of Hungary winning or losing in their fight for freedom?" No one asked, "Is the fighting continuing in the Middle East?" I felt uneasy. Uneasy because I could see that Nero was not the only one who fiddled while Rome was burning; uneasy because I knew that too often I had shared in the same easy sin.

Let's take another example. If I were to introduce a bill in the Illinois legislature stating that all Lutheran churches must pay a tax of $100 per year to the state, I would be snowed under with protests. The same would be true of any other denomination. My mailbox would bulge and the telephone would ring night and day. But when legislation is before us calling for greater economic equality for the Negro, Jew and other groups, almost the only mail I receive is in opposition to help­ing my fellow human beings. When we face the prob­lems of helping the aged, the blind, the crippled and others in need, supporting mail is eloquently silent. But when we restrict the hunting of wild ducks there is angry protest from good, Christian citizens all over the state.

When I face these harsh facts, I hear Someone say­ing, "I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me. . .As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to Me."

By and large, people—Christians included—take an interest in government when it may hurt them, but they do not take an interest in government when it can help others. Fortunately, there are many exceptions to this, but these exceptions must become more numerous.

What is the answer?

More important, what is your answer? Let me make just a few suggestions.

Know the Men

1) Get acquainted with officials. Make it a point to meet your city officials, county officials, state repre­sentative and state senator. Meet higher officials as well, although congressional and state officials will be somewhat harder to meet on an informal, personal basis because their territory is larger. Let those you meet know the problems which interest you, and ask how you could help them in any way.

One good way to meet public officials is to get a dozen or so people together in your home some evening for coffee and ask an office-holder to come over to dis­cuss his problems with you and allow you to ask questions. Most officials will jump at the opportunity. In such a meeting you should not hesitate putting an official "on the spot." If he is afraid to be put on the spot he has no business being a public official. Many times when you do so, you will get a new slant on some of the problems he faces.

Political rallies and civic affairs are other places to meet an office-holder, but these are not as good as the informal coffee hour. The ideal is a combination of all three.

In getting personally acquainted with your official, you get the opportunity to assess him, you get the chance to express your views to him, and you have created a favorable reception for your views, which may be presented to him at a later date. He knows you are an interested, alert citizen.

Know Your Community

2) Get acquainted with your community. By this I don't mean simply joining a Rotary club, although that could be part of it.

Perhaps your church has conducted a survey to dis­cover the church affiliation, or lack of it, of those in your area. This is good, but maybe you also should take a social survey, if not door-to-door at least in a dis­cussion with a few friends with similar sympathies. Who are the people with special economic problems in my community? How can I help them? How can the government help them? Why are they facing these needs? Who are the aged in my community and what special social and economic problems do they have? What problems do the Negro and Jewish people in my community face? Or maybe it's the Spanish-speaking Americans? Are there blind and permanently-disabled people in my community? Have you ever discussed their problems with them? Have you visited the near­est state mental hospital? Have you talked with people who have relatives there? Have you visited your city or county jail? How do they handle a 13-year-old boy whom they find homeless in your county? Is he put into jail "temporarily" with hardened criminals?

This is but a partial list of questions you should be asking yourself, and when you answer these and similar questions I think you will have a much better idea of the role you as a Christian need to play in your com­munity and the proper role of government in some of these areas.

Know the Issues

3) Get acquainted with the issues.

To make sure you get a balanced view of the issues, watch your reading. If you do not have two news­papers of opposing political viewpoints you ought to be sure to get the opposite view from some source. Rated by newspapermen as the three top newspapers are the New York Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the Christian Science Monitor. If you don't see a good newspaper regularly, you ought to get hold of one of those three.

You also should approach news magazines with the realization that these are basically editorial comments on the week's happenings. Here again balance is good. TIME, Newsweek, U. S. News and World Report ought to be balanced by The New Republic, The Reporter, or Commonweal (produced by lay Catholics). Make it a point to try to read both sides of a story.

Secondly, take a deeper interest in a few special areas so that you can not only educate yourself, but make a real contrbution. Here are a few possibilities:

The farm problem. Here is a complex and difficult field but this does not minimize the need for fresh thinking. The soil bank, for example, is an attempt to restrict food production in a world that is starving. Is this morally and economically sound? Only a few small voices have expressed the view that this repre­sents a moral dilemma at best. Is our real problem production or is it distribution? Is the present govern­ment program a help to the large farmer or the small farmer, and how does this affect the rural church? What is Benson's plan? What is the Brannan plan? What are the relative merits of each? How does the tariff problem affect the farm problem? How does the farm problem affect foreign policy?

The tariff question. Fifty years ago this was the big political question, something hotly debated in every general store across the country. Today its importance is again recognized by economists but by discouragingly few among otherwise alert citizens. Appointments to the Tariff Commission are made by the President with­out a line of attention in most newspapers. Congres­sional decisions on the extension of reciprocal trade agreements are mentioned in a news item deep in page six. Yet these actions probably have more to do with the long-run economic and political development of our country and other countries than do most of the dramatic, headline-catching affairs.

Guatemala is a good illustration of this point. For a while Communists were in complete control of the government of Guatemala. Then came the revolution led by their current president and strong man, Castillo Armas. Since the revolution we have sent over $30 million in foreign aid to Guatemala. Certainly I favor this dramatic gesture of good will. Yet we are really only scratching the surface with such foreign aid—and we are doing little to solve the long-run problem that originally created the Communist menace in Guatemala and can do so again. Approximately 73 per cent of Guatemala's export is coffee. When I talked with President Castillo Armas on a visit to Guatemala dur­ing the summer of 1955 I asked him frankly what he felt his chances were of staying in power. My question was prompted by evidences of unrest I had seen in the country. His equally frank and honest answer was, "To a great extent that depends on the price of coffee." Guatemala is dependent on coffee for existence. It does not have a solid base of economic stability; and political stability without economic stability is a virtual impossibility. So when our country raises the tariff on English bicycles, for example, we very directly affect the economy of Guatemala, though its produces no bi­cycles. By such action we tell native investors and foreign investors who might put some money into in­dustrial development in Guatemala, that if any industry they develop gets too efficient, we will adjust our tariff policy to restrict their business or put them out of busi­ness entirely. Capital is then invested in the U.S., Canada or Switzerland or some country where there already is some political and economic stability.

Probably the most penetrating analysis of our current situation on the tariff question was given by Senator Paul Douglas in a speech on the floor of the Senate dur­ing the 1956 session—and yet the only thing I read of that speech was in the Congressional Record.

Until more people realize the importance of the tariff question, many of our foreign friends will continue to live in the middle ages economically where they will be easy prey to the false hope of Communism.

If you who read these words study this issue a bit and write to your Congressman, it will probably be one of the few letters he has received from the public-at-large on this question. Special interests let their cause be known while the public sleeps. I hope some of you will be among those who are not sleeping on this vital issue.

Civil Rights. Currently the federal level receives most of the newspaper attention but let's take the state level as an example. Here our influence can be more direct and powerful.

In 13 states legislatures have adopted measures creating a Fair Employment Practices Commission (or a group with a similar title) whose duty it is to see that the larger businesses and industries do not practice dis­crimination in their employment. This type of legis­lation is particularly helpful to Negro and Jewish groups, the two major minorities against whom the most flagrant abuses of a fair employment pattern are directed.

These states which have this type of legislation have found it to be most helpful. It has resulted in more employment opportunities for many, and the oppor­tunity for better racial understanding. In the history of all of the state programs, only three cases have actual­ly been taken to court; otherwise difficulties have been worked out on the basis of mutual understanding.

Certain business groups oppose such measures; people who have not been conditioned emotionally for this type of thing are very vocal in their opposition.

But   hardly   anyone,   other   than   people   from   the minority groups and the opposition, takes an interest in this type of legislation. As a result, almost all pressure is in opposition. I happened to co-sponsor this legisla­tion during the last session of the Illinois legislature, and as I recall I received two letters supporting my stand, many letters and much pressure opposing it. The bill failed in Illinois this last session and it will con­tinue to fail until more Christian citizens exercise their rightful responsibilities.

And Other Issues. There are many, many other possibilities. Your state tax structure probably is like that of the majority of states, filled with discrepancies and loop-holes favoring the wealthy and penalizing the middle and low income tax groups. Perhaps there are sincere elements in your state who espouse so-called "anti-Communist" legislation which in essence would deprive all of us of certain vital freedoms; perhaps the only pressure being exerted on your legislator is for the restriction of your freedoms.

And so you could continue.

Pick out issues which interest you—and go after them.

Know the System

4) Don't ask or expect your officials to be "above politics." The one exception to this is the judicial branch which should be removed as much as possible from the pressures of partisan politics. In general, to expect public officials to be "above politics" makes about as much sense as expecting a minister to be "above religion". My personal feeling is that one of the real weaknesses of President Eisenhower is that he has sometimes regarded himself as "above politics" and as a result has not exerted the influence on his own party he could or should.

Through politics I am able to muster support for goals which I believe are proper goals. This does not mean adoption of a philosophy that "the end justifies the means." It does not mean voting for a bid bill so that someone else will vote for my good bill. It does not mean compromise with principle. It does not mean being dishonest.

It does mean that I must work with leaders of my party. It means that I must work with men with whom I disagree and men whose actions may at times be per­sonally offensive to me. It means that sometimes I must take a "half a loaf instead of a whole loaf" be­cause I am faced with a realistic situation where I can­not get all I want in a piece of legislation. The legis­lative process is often a process of compromise, and I must expect to give and take in this process. People who demand either the ideal or nothing in the way of legislation, generally get nothing. We sometimes have to inch toward our goals instead of leaping at them, and people who expect us to leap are sometimes un­realistic.

In this connection it should also be remembered that all types of people are involved in politics and you should be neither shocked nor disappointed when very diverse elements get together in support of or opposi­tion to some measure. Their presence must not cause you to retire from the field nor mute your voice for progress.

A good friend of mine, Pastor Martin Marty of Chi­cago, told me of a minister in Chicago who headed a fight to keep taverns out of a certain Chicago ward. Supporting him in the fight were chiefly two groups: The WCTU and the taverns of the adjoining wards. That pastor won his tight and afterwards was feted at a banquet sponsored by the WCTU and the taverns.

This is a case where seemingly opposing forces joined hands for different reasons; but probably they could not have accomplished their goal if they had not joined forces.

It's all part of day-to-day politics.

Know the Time

5) Remember that the struggle for 1958 and 1960 started the day after election in 1956—if not sooner.

When you read newspaper accounts of intra-party fights remember that this is part of the struggle for power for the coming years. If you know of honest, capable men who you think would make good public officials, don't hesitate to mention to them that they ought to be attending party functions and civic affairs. And don't hesitate mentioning to party leaders with whom you may be acquainted that "Tom Jones would make a good candidate for city commissioner. . ." Also, mention names of men you think would be good candi­dates for higher offices.

A good politician has his ear attuned to public opinion. If you remember that the real struggles for 1958 and 1960 are starting now, and if you become active, you can have a great deal of influence on party selections for those years.

Know the Choices

6) Emphasize to public officials that you expert them to do the right thing, even if it is unpopular.

I haven't been in politics too many years, but even in my brief stay in public life I know you are sometimes faced with the choice of leadership or popularity. The honest and courageous public official will choose leadership. "I know you're right on this issue, Paul, but the people in my district wouldn't let me vote this way. . ." That gets to be a familiar song. "I represent the people of my district and they're for this," is another ' way many salve their consciences.

A really good legislator is going to represent his own conscience and what he believes to be the best interests of the people of his district, the state and nation. A legislator—either state or federal—should be sent to Washington or your state capitol with the understand­ing that he is not expected to follow every temporary and uninformed whim of public opinion. (An excel­lent book illustrating this point is Senator John Ken­nedy's "Profiles in Courage".)

Tell your city council member, state legislator, and congressman that you will inform him of your opinion on things, but that you expect him to follow his con­science. It will be a refreshing thing for him to hear.

Special to Pastors

7) A special word to pastors: The fact that you are a pastor does not reduce your responsibility as a citizen. Pastors who avoid politics in order not to offend in­fluential members simply are avoiding their duty. The pastor has the same responsibilities that any citizen has —and some additional burdens. The pastor should re­member that the Old Testament prophets without ex­ception spoke not only to the people but also to the government. Sometimes it was difficult, sometimes it was dangerous, but these obstacles didn't stop the prophets from telling government when it was wrong. In the New Testament John the Baptist did not hesi­tate telling the government and the heads of govern­ment when there was wrong-doing.

I think very often a pastor and his flock think they are fulfilling their duty to the hungry overseas when they take up a once-a-year collection. I am all for this, but such spasmodic help is no substitute for interest in the tariff problem, no substitute for legislation which will help the hungry overseas to eat regularly and work regularly.

A pastor who lives in a community where there is wide-open gambling and prostitution ought to send some very direct barbs in the direction of public of­ficials. To preach Sunday after Sunday the Gospel of Christ without showing its relation to the community which is corroding at the church's feet is simple avoid­ance of very real responsibilities.

A pastor living in a racially mixed community who does not speak out to public officials and business and labor leaders for economic opportunities for the colored friends for fear of being accused of meddling in politics or the pastor who avoids inviting those of a darker com­plexion to his services must face his Lord with some very serious burdens.

I do not say that a pastor should announce in his service the candidates he is supporting, but the pastor should not hesitate using his very real influence to point out what is right and wrong when clear-cut moral issues present themselves. This should be done not only for the congregation, but also for the public of­ficial. Confucius is supposed to have said, "You can sit on a mountain, but you can't sit on a tack." Public officials sometimes can sit on a mountain of indifference and corruption and do nothing, but they cannot stand the tack of public opinion if they know they are wrong. The pastor as an influential citizen has the obligation to keep that in mind.

The pastor can encourage the parishioners of his church to take an interest in better government, and particularly help pass on to the young people the con­viction that politics is an honest and honorable area of service.

In a sense these paragraphs to pastors apply to school teachers and to all who are in some special place of in­fluence where assuming rightful political responsibili­ties might put them on the spot. It's easy to pass this responsibility on to others mentally, although in reality this is an impossibility; it cannot be passed on.

Let me give you a good example. The November 1956 issue of a state PTA magazine has a column by the state president in which she says among other things:

"I would weaken my position as a leader in the com­munity were I to engage in political elections or allow my name to be used in connection with a controversial issue which did not concern the PTA. Therefore, I endorse no candidate and take no active part in elec­tions because I am pledged to respect the opinions and rights of all. . .Remember—Children Come First."

I think you could take her last three words and on that basis more logically come to exactly the opposite conclusion she has reached.

Her answer is easy. It is not right.

Know the Process

8) Write letters—but don't always expect specific re­plies. The power and influence of a letter to your government leaders has received a great deal of attention. I could only agree with all that has been said. Letters are tremendously important and those who have not been in public office do not fully appreciate the impact even one letter can have. I am sure that one letter has decided many of the most important legislative matters our country has faced.

But I would add this: Don't expect to receive a re­ply stating a definite position.

I'm sure some of you who are reading this are saying, "That's typical politician's talk." Sometimes evasion of a stand on an issue is "politics" in the worst sense. But sometimes taking a definite stand is the easy thing— and not the right thing.

A typical letter I receive will state, "Please support House Bill 999. I'm all for it. Sincerely, Tom Schmidt." What Tom Schmidt doesn't realize is that House Bill 999 can be amended in committee, either in the House or Senate, and can be amended on the floor of the House or Senate. The bill he asked me to sup­port may be much different from what he has in mind when it comes up for final vote. During the last legis­lative session in Illinois we had one bill with 26 amendments.    It was totally different in its final form than when originally introduced.

The legislator who obligates himself to support or not support a measure before it reaches its final form may be taking an easy course, he may even seem courageous, but frequently he is not taking a wise course. People who expect a "yes" or a "no" on a certain measure in most cases are asking for something they should not ex­pect. Candidates should be clear on issues and on principles, but much less so on measures which still are subject to change.

Very frankly, I hedge my replies by saying I am for or against a measure "in its present form," or I state my general opinions in the field without obligating myself in any way on the particular legislation. If I haven't had the opportunity to give the matter enough study yet I simply say so, and tell the person writing that I plan to give serious consideration to his letter when I do have the chance to vote on the measure.

For many people this is not a satisfying type of answer. But it is a more honest answer than an answer which commits a public official before he is really in a position to commit himself.

Don't Vote Your Denomination

9) Don't become too conscious of your denomination in taking a stand on issues and candidates.

Sometimes when I am running for office someone will come to me and say, "Paul, you're a Lutheran and I'm a Lutheran too. I'm going to vote for you." While as a candidate I seldom find myself in a position where I want to decline votes, I really hope people have a better reason for voting for me than the fact that I am a Lutheran. If I have an Episcopalian opponent who would make a better legislator than I make, then my Lutheran friends ought to vote for the Episcopalian.

Let me give you a very practical situation. In Illinois the Democratic party was faced with a choice of candi­dates for Governor. In the minds of many of us the outstanding candidate was Stephen A. Mitchell, former national chairman of the Democratic party and a man of real integrity and ability. I was among those who urged our party leaders to name Stephen Mitchell. He was turned down for one reason: Stephen Mitchell is a Catholic. Leaders of my party in the state—including many Catholic leaders—felt that religious prejudice was still too strong to elect a Catholic as governor. In this case religious prejudice—or at least the fear of religious prejudice—denied the State of Illinois the opportunity to have the services of a man who would make an out­standing governor. This is a loss Protestants, Catholics and Jews alike must share in Illinois.

In this connection perhaps I should add that many not in politics have the idea that "Catholics vote as a bloc," or "If the bishop tells a Catholic legislator to vote a certain way, he has to vote that way." These statements are based on more emotion than fact. When I first ran for State Representative, for example, my op­ponent was a Catholic; yet I apparently received a ma­jority of the Catholic vote. Catholic laymen have every right to differ with their clergy on political matters, just as I have a right to differ with Lutheran clergy— and we both do it quite often. "Look at Spain," I can hear some say. It's true that you can find areas where many sincere Catholics are not proud of the perform­ance of their church. But I don't hear Ireland men­tioned, for example, where Dublin (almost entirely Catholic) has a Jewish mayor, and where the country had a Protestant president not many years ago.

I am hopeful that this type of religious intolerance is beginning to become a thing of the past.

Don't Hallow What Is

10) Don't equate the status quo with Christianity.

"Whatever is, is right," is a policy most of us would disavow, yet many of us practice.

It starts from the ridiculous when I get letters oppos­ing Daylight Saving Time because it is "interfering with God's plans. You're not supposed to change God's time." I frankly can't get too excited about daylight saving time either way, but I am both amused and dis­heartened at this attempt to equate "God's way" with "my way."

Historically the organized church has made many mistakes along this very line, supporting dictatorial monarchs and calling democracy a "tool of the devil," often supporting economic exploitation in its extremes because this is part of God's "natural law" as explained by Adam Smith. The basic fault of these Christian leaders of other times was that they worshiped at the altar called "status quo."

It is not difficult to imagine that if church leaders of other eras made this mistake, we might be making the same type of mistake in our congregation. I feel that one of those mistakes is to accept an easy and in­accurate labelling of anything which represents change under a bad-sounding name and anything representing the status quo under a label which evokes cheers. Ex­amples of each I think of readily are "socialism" and "free enterprise." The supposition is that anything which is socialistic is bad and that anything which rep­resents free enterprise is good; this has come to be al­most a religious conviction with many.

When I worked for a city sewer system for my small city one of the opponents said that a city sewer system is socialistic. And of course he was right. But that didn't make the city sewer system wrong.

I personally reject socialism in its extreme; I re­ject free enterprise in its extreme; and I reject the thinking of those who under misleading labels—and often in the name of Christianity—bow to the idol of status quo-ism.

Know Your Precinct

11) Get acquainted with the political situation in your precinct. The most important and the most-neglected unit of our government structure is the pre­cinct. You ought to become acquainted with your Re­publican and Democratic precinct committeemen for two reasons:

First, ordinarily they are the most influential people in your community politically. If you favor certain legislation at the state or national level, you increase the support of that legislation tremendously if you can get your local committeeman to write a supporting letter. The office-holder faces this reality: You as a citizen may enjoy talking about issues, but ordinarily you aren't going to do much more than talk. The pre­cinct committeeman is a fellow who gets out and works. The office-holder wants to keep on your good side, but to stay in power he must keep the good will of at least a few committeemen.

The second reason you ought to get acquainted with your committeemen is that if they are not the finest type of people, you should be thinking about encourag­ing someone else to seek the position. Most of the weaknesses of our government can be traced directly to the inattention of the public to that important position of precinct committeeman.

And It Takes Money

12) Remember that ordinarily the office-holder is not "plush" financially if he is honest.

This means for example, that you might start putting a dollar a month aside, for 1958, when you would be able to contribute a little over $20 to candidates you want to support.

Campaign costs far exceed what the average person thinks. My office of state representative is a relatively minor office. Two years ago my campaign expenses were more than $3800. I haven't figured my expenses for this year yet, but they will be over $2000. These are not deductible expenses at income tax time. I believe the total of contributions I felt I could honestly accept this time was less than $300.

"How much does the party contribute to your cam­paign?" I'm sometimes asked. For a candidate for Congress, the party sometimes does make a contribu­tion, but in my case I am "assessed" $875 by my party as my portion of the campaign costs. I pay the party— the party does not pay me.

I happen to be single and have a small business; I can get by with less money than many candidates. But I can understand why a candidate for office is able to rationalize himself into accepting some of the perfectly legal "no strings attached" campaign contributions which he actually should not accept. In reality there seldom is a contribution with "no strings attached."

One sizeable contribution which I declined during this past campaign came from a group whom I had fought on almost every measure they supported. They said they were making the contribution with "no strings at­tached." Yet if I were to accept their contribution I simply would not be in a position to fight them at the next session with the same vigor I did before. Such a contribution means there are mental strings attached. Any honest office-holder admits this.

The only way to prevent this type of thing is to get more than a handful of people contributing small amounts to campaigns. Considering the few disinter­ested citizens who do contribute, it is amazing that we get along as well as we do with our government.

You should also refrain from hitting public officials for contributions. If it means giving up an easy source of revenue for some fine causes, omit it anyway. In the long run those contributions you receive cost you dearly.

Every type of organization and civic group hits the public official for contributions. When I can grace­fully escape it, I frankly do. When I feel it is not a legitimately good cause, I don't contribute. But even the good causes which I'm not able to avoid gracefully amount to quite a sum in my modest budget during the course of a year. Often the candidates who contribute most generously and therefore receive the widest acclaim from these groups are men who have not secured their money in legitimate ways. Many church and civic-groups in practice encourage the corruption they publicly denounce.

Next time you have a civic or church function where you have a printed program, do yourself a favor and don't ask the public officials to take ads.

*         *         *

There are many other suggestions I could make.

But if you follow even a few of the suggestions given in this article, I know you will find so many opportuni­ties for service that additional suggestions are hardly necessary.

There is a French folk tale about a small village which had just been assigned a new priest. The villag­ers decided that each would bring some wine to be put into a large barrel which would be presented to the priest. The village blacksmith, being a wise and frugal man, decided that since the rest were bringing wine, he would bring water. No one would know the difference anyway. So when it came his turn to put the contents of his jug into the barrel, he poured in the water. The time came for the big presentation and when they turned the spigot on the barrel, out came pure water. All of the villagers had been "wise and frugal"; each had depended on the others to do his job.

You who read these words are making some kind of contribution to government. It is either the water of indifference, of "letting George do it," or it is a contri­bution of substance which can enrich your life and your neighbor's.

You either put water or wine in the barrel.

The choice is yours.

 

At the time he wrote this essay, Paul Simon was Editor of The Troy (Illinois) Tribune and an Illinois State Representative. In 1985, he was elected to the US Senate where he served until 1997.

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