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Lincoln Daily News
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Choosing leadership for Illinois

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To the editor:

The other day I read an article from the Associated Press that said the Illinois gubernatorial race might have been about ethics reform due to the allegations toward our ousted former governor. (Article: Dem. lieutenant governor candidate exits Ill. race)

Instead, those who are vying for the office have made it about "a sputtering economy" that has left the state in the red by about $11 billion.

If there is any group of politicians who need to demonstrate ethics in their character, it is the group in Illinois.

Now recently, a newly nominated lieutenant governor had to bail from the race due to ethical issues. I wonder if the core issue of the problem that Illinois faces is that of trust and integrity: in a word, stewardship. Stewardship is a responsibility. More than that, however, stewardship is a privilege.

Stewardship is an act of service carried out by a steward. A steward is a person who is in charge of possessions belonging to another. In addition to being responsible for the owner's possessions, the steward has the responsibility to carry out the owner's instructions regarding that property. Those who seek and attain offices of public trust become the stewards of the people's resources.

Although government levies taxes on the people to collect the money, everything that is collected continues to belong to the people from whom the money was received.

When the framers of our form of government put quill pen to parchment and wrote those enduring words, "We the people...," the values changed from feudal lords, monarchy and privilege, to individuals with freedom.

Each individual living in a stable society with freedom and liberty must strive toward attaining and maintaining integrity, high moral values and trust.

[to top of second column in this letter]

More importantly, the person who is thrust by "we the people" to be a representative official is even more obligated to take on a lifestyle of the highest character. That person becomes for all intents and purposes a steward of the people's wealth. To marginalize the need for ethics is to abrogate that responsibility of stewardship. Perhaps for too long we have had a gaggle of politicians who only wanted to talk about what they think is best for everyone, even as they use everyone else's resources to achieve it. It is shameful that we in Illinois have sunk to a deficit of over $11 billion. There is not a family in Illinois that could maintain that level of deficit spending and expect to prosper.

There always comes a day when we "reap what we sow." It is clear that those responsible for reaching this deficit outcome have been poor stewards of the people's resources. We hear of so many instances where enormous amounts of money are spent for "bridges to nowhere" or projects that benefit only a few, while we read about programs in our own schools in danger of being eliminated because the former and present "stewards" have mismanaged resources.

I wonder if, in a leadership role that is created by assuming the duties of a public office, the foundational strength should be first the individual's moral character, along with practiced ethics and values of good stewardship.

Is this not the most important requisite for holding that office?

Jim Killebrew, Ph.D.

[Posted February 10, 2010]

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