By Jason Stverak | Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
There is a reason why the men and woman who serve in our armed forces are called “America’s Finest.”
Since 1973 the United States has been protected by a volunteer military force. Simply put, men and woman make a conscious decision to join a branch of the military knowing that at any moment they may be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice and give their life so the citizens of the our country can be safe and secure.
These individuals are the ultimate public servant, so it can only be described as “disturbing” when a career politician questions the relevance of a veteran’s military service when it comes to upholding the public trust.
Dr. Arie Friedman is a pediatrician and father of five. He is also a veteran of the United States Navy. According to his website biography “during his seven years of active duty, Dr. Friedman flew SH-60B Seahawk helicopters out of Naval Air Station North Island, California, from which he deployed twice, including once to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Storm.”
Today, Friedman has entered the unfriendly arena of politics in Illinois. He is running for State Senate and according to his opponent, “he has never been responsible to citizens and taxpayers.”
During her campaign office opening, Julie Morrison, who has held the office of Township Supervisor for nearly 15 years, told supporters ”I know what it’s like to be accountable to taxpayers and my opponent does not. I know how to balance a budget.”
It’s hard to believe that an elected official for any office could so easily dismiss the awesome responsibility of operating millions of dollars of military aircraft as not being accountable to “citizens and taxpayers,”
“By questioning the relevance of my experience Mrs. Morrison displays an unfortunate naiveté about the nature of military service,” Friedman said in a news release. “Only a full-time career politician would believe that a retired Desert Storm Naval Aviator has never held a position of public trust and accountability.”
This incident in Illinois reveals an attitude that arguably has corrupted our entire political system. “Politician” has truly become an occupation. The noble and selfless idea of serving your fellow citizens because you bring a special or unique qualification during times of need is arguably dead.
Alexander Hamilton warns in The Federalist Papers, politicians “place power and importance over service to their country.” He also said, “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.” The latter is undeniable.
Isn’t there something inherently wrong with a political climate that decides when individuals running for public office should be deemed unqualified because they never held an elected position?
The political divide that exists in our country is perpetuated by individuals whose first goal is to keep their taxpayer-funded job, while trying to demonize citizens who want to bring a new vision, different ideas and in the case of Friedman – a unique background to public office.
As the 2012 election draws nearer, I hope we can look beyond political parties and the names that have been permanent fixtures on ballots, and embrace ideas and qualifications that may actually improve the lives of the people.
I also hope that we can agree that the ultimate public service always will be putting on a United States military uniform.
Jason Stverak is the president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.