“Why is there not harmony?” people ask me. “Why can’t you all just get along.” others say. “Why does it seem like everyone is out for their own political gain and not for the people?”
Can we achieve harmony? Is it too much to ask of public officials? Will elected leaders work to pursue the common good? Will we support them if they do?
I gained a bit of insight into leadership this past summer when I had an opportunity to visit the Art Museum in Milwaukee.
The marquee display was an incredibly beautiful 18th century Chinese garden built by the longest serving Chinese ruler. In this garden the emperor took refuge to rest from his labors, meditate and seek wisdom. Wisdom we might heed today.
The garden was a cluster of little buildings and beautiful landscaping. The names of three of the small buildings gave me insight into the Emperor’s mind and the secret of his success. There was the Studio of Self Restraint; the Supreme Chamber of Creating Harmony and the Pavilion of Prosperity.
Self restraint, harmony, prosperity - three words we don’t hear much these days.
Prosperity eludes us because haven’t figured out that prosperity is built on self restraint and harmony. If the Emperor does everything the Emperor wants there will be no harmony. If there is no harmony there will be no prosperity.
How does a wise emperor create harmony? By mutual respect; by valuing the people of the kingdom; by creating a vision of prosperity that provides for the common good; a vision that involves all people.
Self restraint and harmony have proved time and again to lead to prosperity.
In January the full Senate and Assembly will return to the Capitol. Spring sessions are sure to bring political posturing and disharmony. But let us hope it also brings leadership.
Our state grapples with very difficult problems. Can a sluggish economy be jumpstarted with mining jobs? Can we protect the environment ‘unto the seventh generation’ while spurring economic development? How should we manage state government?
How do we pay for schools? How do we care for the least among us-the elderly, poor families, the disabled? How do we care for veterans who protected us? How do we develop a health insurance exchange to provide affordable health insurance to individuals and small business?
How do we create a prosperous state for all?
What we in Madison have sometimes lost is a way to come together to solve problems. But this spirit is alive and well in communities across our state. I see it in Chamber meetings, school boards, town halls, community centers and city government.
Let us bring this sprit back to seat of state government. Renew our commitment to solving problems and moving forward.
I sense the yearning for harmony is much greater among the people of the state than among our current leaders. The people are more willing to respect those who differ with them and to restrain their own personal desires in order to get things right.
I met a man in Northfield at the wonderful Norwegian Uff Da Festival. We talked about the difficult problems facing the state and how hard they were to solve.
In typical Norwegian wisdom, he told me, “I know it’s going to hurt, I just want the hurt to be fair.” Right now people don’t feel like they are at the table; part of the discussion.
The problems we face are complex and will be solved by no one single person.
But the answers lie within our grasp. Solutions are not always found in Madison. Ideas can come from those who work everyday providing services or working in the field. We all need to be part of the discussion; we all need to be included and respected.
We must, as leaders and as citizens, put aside our own personal desires and make the relentless pursuit of the common good our way of life.
Then, indeed, we can look forward to a new year in 2012.
I wish you and your family the very best for this New Year.