on Resolutions

“Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed”.~ Cavett Robert (1907-1997), founder of the National Speakers Association

Well it is that time of year again. The old year has passed and we start afresh with a new one. It is a time when we make those infamous “New Year Resolutions”, promises to do certain things, act certain ways, and generally be better people either for ourselves or others. Making promises are hard, which is probably why most resolutions are broken by February. I was always taught to never make a promise – to yourself or to another – that you are not ready, willing and able to keep. This is why I rarely make a New Year’s Resolution unless I am well prepared – no matter what – to keep it. Resolutions or promises should not be made out of emotion, duress, or by a timetable. They should only be made when you fully intend to do whatever is necessary to keep them.

Politicians make resolutions too. They can do it via official means such as legislation, policy or ordinances, or simply by making certain promises.  Yet, instead of treating them as serious matters, I find that many of those in elected office often see these as no different than a New Year’s Resolution: something done in the heat of the moment, with the consequences not fully considered, and perfectly willing to break them come the meekest amount of resistance or personal discomfort. Few treat them in the way my father taught me: don’t make a promise you can’t keep, and if you ever make a promise, you do what it takes to keep it. In political circles the idea of “your word is your bond” is often looked upon as something quite quaint, and no longer practical in reality. I look upon that attitude as basically a weak-kneed, cowardly cop-out.

I believe that elected officials keep their word based on two things: the level of their character and the level of their comfort. The very first thing elected officials do is take an oath – they promise to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and, if local, to support and defend the Constitution of their personal state. Men and woman of character see any oath as a pretty big deal, akin to say a marriage vow or a vow before God. A person of character, regardless of their faith belief, would strive to always keep their promise, regardless of the personal cost. This is why you see people of character often deliberate greatly before making such promises; they want to understand the cost it may require to keep them. You see, sometimes keeping a promise requires you to get uncomfortable, and those of lesser character often prefer keeping their comforts over keeping their promises.

This is what defines the difference between a statesman and a mere politician: the former values his character, while the latter values his comforts. The former honors his oath to the Constitution, even at personal sacrifice, while the latter honors whatever helps maintain his personal ease and happiness. The former seeks to do what’s best for ALL his constituents, while latter seeks to protect only his friends and his ego. Unfortunately, we have way too few of the former, and far too many of the latter.

So this year, I’d like to see our politician’s make – and keep – the following New Year’s Resolution: be a statesmen.

“New Year’s Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time”. ~ James Agate (1877-1947) English novelist, drama critic and book reviewer

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