Early in the Nineteenth Century Thomas Adams conveyed an interest in becoming a public servant. His tested father, John Adams, wisely counseled those who desire public life: “Integrity should be preserved in all events…through every stage of his existence. His first maxim then should be to place his honor out of reach of all men. In order to do this he must make it a rule never to become dependent on public employments for subsistence.”
He then wisely taught his son: “Let him have a trade, a profession, a farm, a shop, something where he can honestly live, and then he may engage in public affairs, if invited, upon independent principles. My advice to my children is to maintain an independent character.”
The nature and scope of holding public office has changed, but Adams’ counsel still resonates. Some states have full-time legislatures. Wisconsin is one of them. Can an individual hold a few different political offices for twenty years and still “maintain an independent character?”
I think Governor Scott Walker represents someone who has maintained an independent character while serving as a public official. He boldly confronts the dependent mentality. His reforms support a return to independent character along with personal and government self-reliance. A timely resurgence, as America’s vulnerability may just be her complacency to liberty and her fetish in welcoming any handout or pretended package of comfort and ease. It is, I will admit, good strategy for those relying on “subsistence” of public office to offer their constituents crumbs from the table. It is a reminder of what President Obama sadly, yet matter-of-factly declared to the crumb takers a few years ago: “Government is the only answer.”
Our mentality seems to be leaning toward that of the children of Israel. After struggling with hunger and thirst in the wilderness they told Moses, “would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full.” Indeed, they had bread, but were slaves to Pharaoh and his princes. They labored to support another’s existence while being robbed of independent character. I am sure Pharaoh emphatically reminded the Israelites: “Egypt is the only answer!”
As our love for liberty and independent character weaken so does our collective and personal ability to stand in readiness and responsibility. It is perfect timing to remind ourselves and the current Pharaoh, and the princes and daughters of Egypt, of independent character.
Governor Walker is pushing a revival to remind and recommit Americans. Nevertheless, some are trying to undercut Governor Walker because he walked away from college before finishing his degree. Bloomberg View columnist Albert Hunt recently addressed the question: Does a U.S. president need a college degree? To be honest, I think such an individual is refreshing to have in the fray of presidential politics. All the educated ones we have had recently think money grows on trees (my mother constantly reminded me as a youth it didn’t), or that money just magically appears. Governor Walker’s track record should squelch the ridiculous qualm people have of him not having a college degree. I like the red pen approach and have been looking for someone to wield it for years. I hope he, and others, eventually take the red pen to higher education, which may be the next big financial crash in America (Consider this report and special).
I am hoping honest and venerable individuals will enter civic life without selfish strings. I am hoping honest and venerable individuals in office will quit making enslaving promises and start promoting the general welfare. With these hopes, I plan on watching Governor Walker closely—he has something to offer—reform and a renewed interest in good and wise government. If I am wrong in my judgment of Governor Walker, I will continue to hope for a red pen wielding patriot to fill the void.