The Aug. 15 arrest of State Rep. Joseph Brennan, D-133, for allegedsimple assault and DUI and his subsequent press release dated Aug. 22 announcing he will not seek re-election in November should lead the citizens of the Lehigh Valley to conduct deeper research into who their candidates and elected officials are.
We, the people, should place higher standards on our elected officials, and those public officials should abide by ethical and moral standards superior to the constituents they serve.
What drives someone to run for public office? I believe candidates' motives are initially pure and noble. They may feel an innate desire to serve the community and sacrificially give of their time for a greater calling.
Based on the current local, state and national political climate, it would appear the traits that compel many candidates to run for office have become lost in the politics of acrimony, money, self-interest and poor decision-making.
As voters and citizens of our communities, we should expect those who represent us at the city, state and national level to live an exemplary life.
Our elected officials should be expected to not only follow the laws passed by these same legislators, but also clearly understand they no longer live insulated, private lives. They live public lives open to scrutiny from all levels of society.
Living and working in the public realm requires a far different standard of living. The public servant is continually projecting his or her life out into the public sphere. Every word uttered and every action taken will be observed and evaluated by another person.
Perhaps this higher standard of living and the intense stressors of the job lead some elected officials to make less than honorable choices and decisions.
The rigors of the job, which require an always receptive eye and ear to those the public official serves, may cause the elected official to steer off course and lose the sense of duty, obligation and calling he or she once was driven by.
The voters place a sacred trust in our public officials by casting a vote for them. Our vote should confirm to the candidate we not only consider the person competent to perform the duties of the job, but also are ethically, morally and legally equipped to serve us and our individual communities. Our votes are stamps of approval, showing public officials we trust them, we believe in them and we support them.
What can we as voters do to ensure those on the ballot are the most qualified candidates?
First, research each candidate. Contact the League of Women Voters and the county election office and request whatever information they may have available on the candidates. Also, resort to the various media outlets to determine what is being reported on regarding the candidates. Ensure you acquire as much information you can before casting your vote on election day.
Second, you can also attend a public debate or forum. These events highlight a great deal about how candidates respond to a particular question and issue. These events also tellingly display how comfortable candidates are with presenting his or her political platform to the public.
Finally, contact the candidate yourself and ask questions.
Those we elect – from the local level to the congressional level – should be men and women who are driven by a desire to serve others and who possess the highest virtues among those living in their voting wards and districts. These are individuals who not only represent our interests and our communities, but also the values we hold closest to our hearts.
Our elected officials should be men and women the youth of this country should aspire to be like.
According to a recent Suffolk University - USA Today survey of unregistered and unlikely voters, 90 million American citizens eligible to vote will not cast a ballot in the upcoming general election. This number is alarming and should motivate each of us to do our part and vote.
The wise philosopher Plato said, "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."
Before we cast our vote, let's make sure we are not governed by "inferiors," but rather by men and women of the highest ethical and moral character who are fully qualified to perform the duties required of a public servant.