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Guest Column

What compels those who seek public office?

By Lois Spatuzzi
Published October 10, 2006

Power is a driving force that compels some individuals to seek elected offices. And as election time approaches again, we see the same games played, but with different players.

I ponder those who choose to run.

Miss Carolin, my American history teacher in high school, probably had the most profound influence on my political experience. I can still remember her opening remarks. She stood just 5 feet tall and had a voice that carried to the back row. She explained that her job was to teach us American history; our job was to learn it - and that we would. End of discussion.

She also told us that homework, special projects and papers were due on the day assigned. The only excuse she would accept was a death in the family - ours. Again, end of discussion.

In that vein, we spent a year learning about this country, the how, the who and everything in between. On the last day of class she informed us she had given us the tools to become informed American citizens and that in a few years we could take our place in the voting booths and know who we wanted to vote for and why.

The first time I was alone in that voting booth, I felt like a real American. My forefathers, who helped settle this country back in the 1700s, had not died in vain.

In the 1960s, I went to my first political rally. It was for a mayoral race in central New York. The candidate said many things I believed in and gave promises that had meaning to me. I volunteered to help elect him. He won, and for four terms he not only helped put the city on the map, but also held the esteem of many. There was talk that his next race would send him to Washington, D.C.

Twenty-four hours after he left office, the FBI barricaded his home and office and he was charged with taking payoffs. He was later found guilty. To this day he is remembered as one of the best mayors we ever had, but his legacy is tarnished.

Not long after that I met, in a supermarket aisle, an elected official I knew personally. He was in his second term as a state representative. I asked him why he was not running again and his answer was that he liked sleeping at night.

Presidents have been murdered, have lied, have resigned and have defaced the office. Yet through all this, the candidates keep coming. From these pages of history, I learned that all idols have clay feet. It is one thing to make a bad choice and learn from it. It is a different ball of wax if all that is learned is to not get caught.

Today, the worst in everyone is up for cheap grabs, as there is money and power to be had if you pull the skeletons out of the closet first.

With all this being said, the question of why anyone would run for public office is not so hard to understand. For some, it is the desire to see things improve and the feeling they can implement that change. It's an ideal and a dream that starts the political ladder-climbing.

The daily rung-climbing, unfortunately, is met with harsh and difficult reality. The vote-getter is only as good as the votes tallied and the polls projected, and to achieve this, ideals and dreams are swept away by caving in. Standing up is a lot different from standing tall.

Every election season brings a new and better crisis to the voter. In my lifetime of voting, we still haven't solved the health care issue because too many toes will get stepped on if we do. Illegal immigrants are what you would classify as a relatively new issue. This new issue forgets that breaking a law is punishable. I can sneak into this country and receive amnesty, but if I fail to file a tax return I might face jail.

Terrorism has always been among us, as we went to the basement of our schools because the air-raid sirens were sounded for practice if the Russians attacked; it is as real to me today as when we practiced for it back then. We have more laws, more crimes and more prisons, and if there isn't a problem, just wait.

People look to every form of government to solve every problem. Common sense, respect and responsibility are virtues that should be the ideal but, for many, are as distant as the moon.

This is the perfect setting for candidates, and thus, they step on stage to lead us to a better place, providing the polls dictate it.

Lois Spatuzzi lives in Spring Hill. Guest columnist opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.


[Last modified October 10, 2006, 07:18:15]

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