Guest blog post by Don Nielsen (BA 1960)
Normally, I am a very optimistic person, but I am concerned with what I see taking place or, perhaps not taking place, in all facets of our government. Federal government programs are not working as predicted, and many of them have failed. Looking at the list of bankrupt programs—Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, the Post Office, Amtrak—is depressing. Most of our states are in serious debt—California could declare bankruptcy in the not too distant future—and finances at the city level are no better. Debt is piling up in all sectors.
One striking statistic, which I think contributes to these failures, is the fact that many of our top-level national and local government officials have never worked in the private sector. Today, we have developed an entirely different occupation—career elected official—that is the norm for those in most of our elected offices.
However, our founders never anticipated that serving in an elected position would be a career choice. It was intended to be a public service. It was something you did to make your contribution to the society in which you lived.
How many times have you heard someone compare the voting process to deciding between the lesser of two evils? Would this be acceptable if you were recruiting a new CEO to run your company? I think not—and it shouldn’t be acceptable for recruiting people to run our government.
This country needs leaders who understand our economic system. The Foster School has recently initiated a major effort in leadership development. Foster students, already considered A-list hires, are being asked to take academic rigor and real world relevance even further. While most of our graduates will go into business, I hope some will think about public service, if not at the outset, then later in their careers. And while many of our alumni are doing great things in the world of business, I hope they too will consider lending their expertise to righting the “ship of state.”
We need leaders who run for office as a public service and who run for office to preserve this wonderful republic that we all love. Leaders, not politicians, will make sure that happens. Please consider running for public office and serving a few years in a public service position as a part of your career plans. Give voters the chance to choose the best officials who can help make the tough decisions needed to solve this nation’s problems.
Don Nielsen is a member of the Foster School Advisory Board and chairman and CEO of Light Doctor, LLC.
This alumnus opinion post is not intended to represent the views of the Michael G. Foster School of Business.