15 December 2009
Dear President Obama,
I expect our correspondence to be once a month considering our hectic schedules, with extra leniency around the holiday season.
Today I was lobbying a staff member of one of the County Supervisors to grant extra money towards one of their Health Services contracts. This measure would not only save jobs, but would continue the perinatal therapy services that the clinic provides to the low-income community. I generally like to get straight to the point when it comes to lobbying, in part because I don’t like to dance around the heart of the issue and frankly, I’m not big on hearing myself speak. While laying out “the ask” the staff member interrupted me and proceeded to first introduce himself, with a full 1000 bio, complete with professional references, and then scolded me for not using the title “Supervisor” when speaking of one of the elected officials. “Now, I know that you are new at this, and I’m not sure where you are from, but don’t you think that they have earned that title and deserve at least that much respect?” Because I was feeling nice, I merely said, “On one point you are correct, I’m not from here. I just moved from Texas, I’m a foreigner to these Californian ways.” And I left it at that and let him fill up the rest of our meeting with his boastin’-n-name-droppin’.
I believe all people deserve respect, but what he had asked that I show for the Supervisors was not that kind of respect–but rather an acknowledgment of their political position, an acknowledgment of the air they breathe being more important than mine and certainly more important than the workers I represent and the clients they serve. Do I think they have earned that title? Well, Mr. Supervisor Staff Member, define earned? If you mean bought and paid for, then of course. Politicians buy their way into the position, they earn it by making tough decisions, by saving jobs and providing care for the people who elected them and when they can acknowledge the real needs of their community and can meet them. Then they can deserve at least that much respect. They earn their position when they are no longer just a politician, but a leader.
Mr. President, I read about a protester’s sign in Copenhagen that read “Politicians Talk. Leaders Act.” I thought it was very appropriate and hope that “act” for you means pushing and signing a binding resolution at the summit that will trickle down into our domestic policy. You, sir, are a politician, and as any card-carrying Republican will remind us, you did pay quite a lot to have your title. But have you earned it? While there is much to say about hope and faith that one day your inspiring words will turn into action, at the end of the day–and presidential term–what will we have to hold onto?
More to come soon. I’ve read many essay’s on hope lately that I’ll include with this letter. I’ve highlighted the areas I think you’ll find especially pertinent to our current national dilemmas.
Si Se Puede,