Editorial: Saluting those who aspire to public office

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The (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star

Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday we celebrate next month, put an exclamation point on what he viewed as the heart of our democratic government when he intoned the famous words “of the people, by the people, for the people” in the climactic sentence of his immortal Gettysburg Address.

Lincoln understood that in order for the American experiment in self-governance to succeed and endure, “the people” must be its central focus. He recognized that the power of leadership was dependent on the will of “the people,” and that without it, no government could stand the test of time.

Effective government is, indeed, dependent on the willingness of good citizens to do their part through active civic participation. First, they must exercise the precious right to vote. But they must also be willing to offer themselves as candidates for elective office, to fulfill the people’s will, advance the collective interest, and protect the rights of all.

On Jan. 10, the candidate filing period opened for the May 7 primary elections. Between then and Feb. 9, citizens can declare candidacy for a variety of state and local government offices on the ballot in their party primary.

Holding an elective office is an esteemed position in a community, as it should be. Elected officials serve a vital role in carrying out the many duties and services of government. They set county budgets, conduct elections, direct departments that build and maintain key infrastructure, and administer all phases of the criminal justice system. There are thousands of elective positions that depend on citizens to step forward and become candidates for those offices.

Running for office is not a trivial exercise. It takes time, energy, and a thick skin. Putting yourself out there makes you a public figure, and that status subjects you to pressure and stress. That is especially true today when communities are intensely divided along partisan lines and elected officials are too often targeted, unfairly, as a source of people’s angst. Undeniably, elected jobs are hard jobs.

But seeking and holding public office have rewards as well. An elected official who takes an oath to serve the public, uphold the law and defend state and federal constitutions is embracing a civic ideal that is foundational in the American system of democracy. Fulfilling responsibilities and advancing the civic cause is a high calling to be recognized and applauded.

Those who aspire to seek and serve in elective office are deserving of our gratitude and support.

We salute those who step into the fray. And we encourage more citizens to consider becoming candidates in the future and contributing their time and talents for the good of all.