Thursday, November 1, 2007

Why AM I running anyway?

Picture above: My dad, Ben "Rai", who used to always say, "If you can do it, do it."
Warning: The following commentary is long, but I hope you will bear with me because what follows is an open and honest discussion that any candidate for public office should have with her/himself and the public.

Given that elections are tomorrow, it seems rather late of me to explain why I am running for the Board of Education. However, up to this point, I thought it was more important to share my thoughts and insights on education with the public than to explain why I’m running because voters should know my approach to education before they know my approach to campaigning.

So, to the question at hand: Why have I chosen to run for public office? Before I answer that question, I want to explain why I, or anyone else for that matter, should NOT run for office. For now, I have six reasons.

Reason one: It’s expensive and time-consuming. It doesn’t have to be, but it usually is. On the campaign trail, you spend money and time publicizing yourself. If elected to office, you spend time in meetings, community gatherings, and all sorts of other engagements. Once in office you also spend money on donations to this or that charity, helping someone with their CUC bill, or giving chenchule to the family that invited you to their Christening, wedding, or funeral. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I have seen too many politicians lose money both in and out of office. Therefore, it doesn’t surprise that some politicians take bribes or kickbacks of some kind. They’re simply trying to recoup their losses. Why would I want to sacrifice all that time and money only to put myself in a position where I might be tempted to compromise my integrity and convictions? It would be wiser to invest my time and money into my family.

Reason two: People often expect too much from government, especially here in the Commonwealth. We live in the aftermath of the Trust Territory welfare state and the boom economy of the 1980s and 1990s where government doled out jobs and money and favors left and right. We, the people of the Commonwealth have been trained to believe that the government is the answer to all our problems, which is a far cry from my grandparent’s generation, for whom hard work over a long period of time was the key to a successful life. Today, we want instant gratification and magic solutions from a government whose benefits we feel entitled to. Such inflated expectations are virtually impossible for anyone to fulfill.

Reason three: While people expect too much from government, it is very difficult to achieve anything in democratic government. Democracy is meant to be slow and prudent because you have to work with other people. As I’ve said before, getting a group of opinionated people with ideas and interests of their own to agree upon a single course of action is very, very hard. Add to that democratic process the red tape of a bureaucratic government and you get a recipe for paralysis. You get a situation where nothing changes easily or quickly, if anything changes at all.

Reason four: Jumping into the public arena subjects me to the scrutiny of an often unforgiving and overly critical public eye. As a private citizen, I can pretty much just be myself and make decisions that I think are right, without having to worry about too many critics and snide remarks. If I make a mistake, I deal with manageable consequences and work to fix what’s wrong. However, campaigners and public servants have to deal with all sorts of people who have anything and everything to say about anything and everything that you do. And if you make a mistake, even if you’re humble enough to admit it, you must face a firing squad of critics, pundits, angry voters, and opponents who are all too willing to take advantage of your blunders.

Reason five: I am busy as it is. I am a full-time principal, full-time father, and full-time husband, who also teaches two classes and advises some extra-curricular activities. The last thing I need is another heavy load on my plate. For my own personal sanity, it would be better to avoid additional commitments, like public office.

Reason six: Am I truly qualified for the position? Who am I to think that I can or should be in a position to make important decisions about thousands of students, hundreds of teachers, and a system that has a profound impact on the welfare and future of our Commonwealth? The burden of that responsibility alone scares me. While I do have over a decade of varied experience in education, it would be arrogant of me to say that I definitely have what it takes to take on this position.

I bring up all these reasons against running because I believe that anyone who decides to run for public office should have reasons compelling enough to outweigh those reasons listed above.

In my case, I am running because of something my dad taught me a long time ago. My dad used to wake me and my brother up every Saturday morning to work on the yard. I hate yard work, so it was a constant struggle with me. However, when I finally got behind that lawnmower, my dad would always say, “If you can do it, do it.” That has always stuck with me.

Despite all the reasons above, I believe that I can and should make a difference. I’m tired of helping my students understand what our community’s problems are, without doing anything to change things for the better. It is hypocritical of me to point the finger at what’s wrong, without lifting a finger to fix what’s wrong.

I may lose money and time—but I will not do so inappropriately or unethically. People may expect too much, I may not accomplish much, and I will probably be criticized much no matter what I do or don’t do—but it’s still worth a shot. And I may be busy as it is and I may not be qualified enough—but I am committed enough to make time and make a good effort.

I am very passionate about education and I sincerely believe that a good education system can make a positive difference in our community. The Public School System has accomplished a lot so far, and I want to help it accomplish even more.

In short, I am running because I want to do my part to help our community.

And as my dad used to say, “If you can do it, do it.”

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