If there's one thing that I've learned in 20-plus years of working in the media world, it's been that everyone has an opinion. No matter the subject, there is an opinion to be had, and just as sure as the day is long, someone, somewhere, will have an opposing opinion.
The neat thing about such situations is that, here in the United States, we are guaranteed the right to have differing opinions on topics, because that is a right guaranteed us by the Constitution. Our forefathers placed a value on the right of freedom of speech and freedom of thought, rights that are just as important to people today as they were in the 1700's.
The ironic thing about freedom of speech and opinion is that it does have a cost but we often overlook it. That cost has been paid and will continue to be paid by those who serve in our military whether in the regular armed services or through the Reserves or National Guard. It is the sacrifice, and yes, sometimes their ultimate sacrifice, that pays the cost for our right to speak our mind, disagree with our politicians, and promote our causes.
There's another aspect to our freedoms that sometimes gets overlooked that is the ability for any citizen to serve their fellow citizens as part of a governing body, such as a city council, county board of supervisors, school board, state representative or even a member of Congress.
When our nation was founded, our forefathers took turns as leaders and lawmakers, serving at the bidding of their fellow citizens. Out of those beginnings, our system of public elections grew, with those being elected promising to serve the interests of those who elected them to serve.
Unfortunately, over time, there have been some folks who have decided that being elected should become a lifetime vocation. Most times, the individuals have been able to determine when they needed to step away from the demands of public office, but there have been cases where those individuals have become so infatuated with the power they perceive they've been given, they lose sight of the fact that they must answer to those who elected them in the first place.
There have also been cases where those who were elected forgot to listen to the voices of those who elected them, choosing to ignore the wishes of the electorate to pursue a personal agenda that satisfies a personal need putting their own needs ahead of their constituents - a selfish act.
And then there are those who second-guess every decision that the elected representative makes. They complain about the way the elected board operates, makes decisions and doesn't listen to what the voters want.
Covering various governing bodies over the years, I've heard these statements, accusations, innuendos and untruths countless times. "You don't listen to us!" "That's not what we want you to do!"
When I hear phrases like that, my first thought is this Did you ever say anything to anyone, giving your opinion? Or, did you just sit there, quietly, like a sheep, afraid to say anything, because you didn't want to be blamed for anything?
The whole idea of elected representation is for the voters to express an opinion that the elected official takes to the rest of the elected body for consideration. It's not for the elected official to dream up and do without the blessing of the electors. When that happens, the electors can replace that individual with someone who will listen.
We've seen that happen in past national elections, and it will happen again, at all levels. If the voters perceive that those elected are not doing what the electors want, then the electors will find someone who will. Gee, an example of that freedom of choice, once again.
So, you want to exercise your freedom? If you don't like the way a board is operating, then run for office. Bring fresh ideas to a governing body. Instead of sitting in the background, taking potshots at those who are willing to serve, step up yourself make a difference. In many cases, the compensation isn't financial, but the reward for doing something good for your fellow citizens becomes priceless just like our freedom.