On Tuesday, Aug. 21, voters will have a very important choice to make as they go to the polls. If we are to have the very best representation in Congress, it is important that we send to Washington the most qualified candidate among the choices that are available. Checking out their backgrounds; reading their websites carefully; and measuring their values and character all are useful techniques.
It also is helpful to consider what members of Congress do, how they spend time and what qualities are especially relevant if they are to do their jobs well. In my years as the senior planner in the Air Force, I testified before a number of committees and subcommittees of the House of Representatives.
IN ADDITION, many members of Congress gave talks and taught in seminars during the four years I served on the faculty – and later as the commandant – of the National War College. Because the college was only a five-minute drive from Capitol Hill, members of Congress and key congressional staffers were willing to spend a couple of hours sharing their insights on how the legislative process worked – or did not work.
What became quite clear to all of us who had exposure to Congress was how important it was to have the highest-caliber individuals serving as members of Congress. The best were mature people who had led organizations, hired people, met a payroll,
were strongly civic-minded, had strong communication skills and had an exemplary record of making ethical choices in tough situations.
Frankly, some members of Congress were just not up to
the job. Some were lazy; others were intellectually deficient; and some did not have much experience in leadership and decision-making.
The job of members of the House of Representatives is not an easy one. They must keep track of complex legislation. They must serve on congressional committees and attend regular committee meetings. They must have warm relationships with various sections of the executive branch. They must answer their mail – 500 or more letters and emails per day is common. They must be firm in their convictions, but also be flexible enough to get things done.
To shift to the decision at hand Aug. 21, here are a few points that may be of some value.
IN THE PAST four years, a number of outstanding citizens have been saluted in my articles in The Augusta Chronicle. These are individuals who have a long record of service to the community and their fellow citizens. Some of the people who were highlighted in these articles included Ann Boardman, Doug Barnard, Clay Boardman, Clint Bryant, Terry Elam, Martha Scroggs, Randy Smith, Boone Knox, Pete Caye, Julia Jackson, Donnie Thompson, Dan Blanton, Jeff Foley, Doug Hastings, Tyrone Butler, Bo Bovard, Bill Geiger, Jane Howington, Nancy Glaser, Mike Firmin, Fred Gehle, Mark Albertin, Charlie Bellmann, Tom Sutherland, Richard Rogers and Rick Allen.
At this time, I would be remiss if I did not expand on the praise of Rick Allen that appeared in one of those articles.
What has impressed me the most is Rick’s generosity. About 10 years ago, I approached him for the first time to ask for support for the Boy Scouts. Every year, Rick purchases a table for the gala Boy Scout dinner in early November. He gives some of his seats to wounded warriors. They are thrilled to get a free ticket to spend an evening in the presence of a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
(Incidentally, Medal of Honor recipient Barney Barnum will be the honored guest at the Nov. 2 dinner – call (706) 733-527 for reservations.)
Rick’s support for the Augusta Museum of History has been equally strong. He is asked for support every year, and he always comes through. His contributions to construction projects at Christ Community Health Services and the Heritage Academy were multifaceted. He made a major financial contribution to both organizations.
IN ADDITION, Rick not only reduced his fee considerably, but he also got many of the subcontractors to donate their time or their materials. Also, his support for his church was essential during a major construction project.
The listing of all of the community leadership positions Rick has held is on his website. It is a massively impressive list. My wife, Connor, and I have great respect and affection for Rick and his wife, Robin. As he goes forward with his quest to serve the 692,000 citizens of the 12th Congressional District, we wish him and his family well.
(The writer – a retired U.S. Air Force major general – serves on the boards of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, the Augusta Museum of History and the Augusta Warrior Project. His website is genpsmith.com.)