I have to begin by saying that I hope you have as many opportunities for interesting experiences in your life as I have in mine. Every day I learn something new or am reminded of a truth of life. Of course, I had one such experience recently that merits sharing with you through this medium. I know, you’re surprised to hear me say that…. yeah, right….
So, anyway, my experience started when I read an article in our local newspaper. The article was reporting what had transpired at the latest meeting of our county supervisors. One of the things that was noted in the article was in regards to a tract of farmland owned by our county, Jefferson County, Iowa. Well, apparently the land had been in a three-year rental agreement and the three years were up. So, the supervisors had put it up for bid for a possible new renter. The article stated that indeed a new renter had been selected. It was not the farmer who had been farming the land for the past nine years, but rather a new renter. And, the article went on to state that the new renter had been selected on account of the fact that he was the highest bidder.
Now, you probably think that I’m going to comment on that piece of information. Well, don’t be surprised if you see me address a few things about that in my next blog, but this post doesn’t have to do with the issue of how the renter was selected. Rather, this post is about the process I went through to express my opinions to the county supervisors in regards to that article.
Because I read this news in the paper, I first thought a letter to the editor would be a fitting venue for my response. But, the more I thought about it, the more I thought a letter to the editor can sometimes seem like an attack. That was not my intention. Because I did not vehemently disagree with anything I read. I simply wanted to make a statement so that my voice would be heard, my thoughts noted.
I concluded that if I wrote a letter to the editor, my statements could be misconstrued. Not only that, but I realized that if I had been quoted in the newspaper, I would not want to see myself quoted back to me in a letter written by someone else that appeared to be ABOUT me, even if that wasn’t going to be the intent of my letter. Not to mention that while we citizens spend a lot of time complaining about our elected officials, I have to give most of them the benefit of the doubt, that they want to do the right thing, and certainly would rather have a dialogue than an argument.
You see, I concluded that even though a letter to the editor is a public platform, it’s not a public forum. A public forum has opportunity for dialogue, for rapport to be established and for respect to be earned, one to another.
And so instead of write a letter to the editor, I simply attended their next meeting, which is always open to the public, and made my comments at that point in the meeting which is specifically set aside for such comments.
Before the meeting began, the head of the supervisors came up to me and introduced himself and welcomed me, something that wouldn’t have happened had I simply written a letter to the editor. Following my comments, the supervisor asked me a few follow-up questions, which I gladly answered, something else that wouldn’t have happened had I simply written a letter to the editor. And, when the meeting was over, all three of the supervisors thanked me for coming to express my views. I felt we all had the same end goal in mind – the betterment of society.
No, we obviously don’t all always agree on the best route to that end goal. But, how much more productive it is when we choose routes that enable us to build rapport with one another, in a setting that encourages dialogue, in order that the greatest good might be achieved, not to anyone’s credit but just for the good of society.
I encourage you today to do what you can within your local government to support the things you believe in and to stand up against things you feel are counterproductive. But, do it in such a way that demonstrates respect for our elected officials and that gives them the benefit of the doubt that their motives are pure, at least as pure as yours and mine. (picture a smile and a wink here……)
Have a great day!