Like so many others, Susan and I have been in a political funk since the election. It has been draining our optimism and elevating our doubts about the future. In our younger days, we celebrated John Kennedy’s summons for the “best and the brightest” to join in the service of our nation. Overall, our generation and those that followed responded. The Kennedy challenge was the challenge of our “Greatest Generation”: betterment of the human condition. That was always the goal.
With the advent of Donald Trump, we questioned our tomorrow and wondered where the “best and brightest” have gone.
Then some two weeks ago, I entered the hospital at the University of Minnesota for surgery that involved a six-day stay. It was there we found the answer to the question of our best and brightest.
Anyone who has been a patient knows about vulnerability. But no one knows it better than the health providers who combine medical excellence with warmth and understanding of patient care.
As the recipient of their professionalism, I realized that as a nation we have not lost our sense of excellence. No, we have just neglected to draw our talented youth into political service. For years, we pounded government and politics with daily attacks of incredible negativity and now we are reaping the results. The best are elsewhere.
The University of Minnesota Hospital radiated excellence and demonstrated a culture that is patient centered. From the cleaning staff that always greeted me with cheer and well wishes to surgeons who came regularly to check in and nurses who had to deal with the complicated challenges of medical technology while providing the ultimate healer, human warmth, all combined to renew our faith and confidence in tomorrow.
This experience not only healed a wounded body but also restored our confidence that the best and brightest are still there but we, the people, have to encourage them to enter public service. Without excellence in our governance no other excellence will thrive.
Let’s start with teaching civics in our schools and accepting responsibility for restoring quality in our mission to serve the public.