Al's Views, Personal Thoughts

Public Service
and the Public Trust

03 October 2002


public servants
A person holding a government office by election or appointment.

The Random House College Dictionary
Revised Edition
Copyright 1988, pp.1069

As you can see, the definition of public servant is one who holds a government office. However, to expand this phrase just a bit, and I think that most would agree (unless they happen to be a dishonest or egotistical public servant), but those who hold any kind of government job should be included in this definition.

Perhaps it's that word "servant" that bothers folks so much. Some Blacks dislike it because it reminds them of their great, great grandparents who were placed in servitude by other African tribes, sold to Dutch and English traders for use in Europe and in North America. Some Whites do not especially like this word either, but purely because it's beneath their dignity--or, perhaps, their great, great grandparents were slave owners. image of a public servant smiling broadly

public servants leading the million mom march some years pastEither way, no one likes to consider themselves a "servant," even though there is no greater task than serving others.

Concerning the pictures chosen for this commentary, instead of a police car with police officers, I certainly could have used the picture of a crew of sanitary engineers as they go about their day collecting trash for those who live in their community. I could have chosen the picture of a street cleaner as he goes about the business of beautifying the streets of his village or city. Or, I could have used the picture of Congress as they go about their job of legislating new and even more restrictive laws. But that's okay for they are making life in the U.S. just a tad bit saver--or a tad bit more dismal, depending on which side of the law you just happen to be.

Guns for DrugsNo matter what picture I would have or could have used, the bottom line is this, if you work for government, please keep this little but powerful phrase in mind: P U B L I C    S E R V A N T, for it is, indeed, a most important job involving what was once freely thought of as "the public trust." So, when your supervisor or your commander asks you to do something that you know is wrong, find a way to change it. If you are a good public servant, don't leave public service just because of the bad apples you see around you--find a way to change it. If all our good public servants were to get up and leave public service, we would have no one else but the bad ones in power.

Once upon a time a military intelligence officer wrote me an e-mail describing his dilemma. Seems that this individual had only so much time until retirement. They had been involved in various high-profile cases involving national defense and they allegedly uncovered corruption and treason at the highest levels of government here in the states. This individual's concern was that justice must be done, but this person was debriefed and told that it would be handled. It was not. The concern was, if this person did something to expose those involved, lives could be lost (family, their own); at the least this person's pension would be sacrificed as others higher up sacrificed this person's career at the eleventh hour.

If gives me no pleasureWhat should this officer have done? I can tell you that nothing was done. But, with that said, there is no doubt that we can only do so much and then we must think of others. But, in the mean time, find a way to quietly change things. Above all, remember that you must remain a good public servant and do not compromise your own integrity because of the imoral and unethical nature of others around you.

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