Saturday, October 13, 2012

Public demeanor

7:56 p.m. Today's project was to consider the Vice President of the United States' debate performance. 82 interruptions and making faces were the reported activites he indulged in on stage. I'm glad I was at my Mary Kay unit meeting and was able to avoid the grave embarassment I would have suffered as a former publicly elected official!

In 1992, I was top vote-getter in the Riverside Unified School Board election, thanks to: the Lord, who called me to run two years before, showed me how to lay the groundwork, and told me that I would win; a dedicated team of praying women, who took my campaign issues and requests to the throne of God as instantly as they arose; scores of wholeheartedly dedicated volunteers; and plenty of door-to-door campaigning for me, my husband, and the whole family. Even Baby Steven, 3, went along to help put flyers under door mats. Oldest son Sean, then 16, helped his dad and other male friends from church, hammer in yard signs. I placed plenty of signs myself on my lunch hour from Bethel Christian School (where I taught kindergarten) with the trusty sledgehammer I carried with me in my van.

I know both how to be a challenger to seated offficeholders, and during my three terms, how to be an incumbent. But my role as a locally elected official, just like my role as a wife, mother, Bible teacher and elementary teacher, was always to represent Jesus Christ, and in so doing, represent well the 90,000 registered voters and the 40,000 children of the school district. I took, and take, I John 4:17b seriously: He is, so are we in this world. Or as the NLT puts it, ...we live like Jesus here in this world.

While campaigning, and in any and every public debate forum, I focused on problems and issues that needed changing, and my plans to do so. I never mentioned a single incumbent by name, strictly telling the truth about the documented, and anectdotal, poor reading scores and useless methods being used to teach reading, especially. I represented the parents' views on math instruction, busing and year-round school. Flagrant sex education instruction without parental permission needed to cease as well. (And during my first term, it did!We even instituted curricula for Family Life and the 9th grade health and biology course that mentioned marriage)!

Once an officeholder, the perks and status would be tempting to make a newly elected board member compromise, but not this one. God, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of many constituents who also took the trouble to attend the meetings and speak up, gave me the strength to stand up despite numerous 4-1 votes. Yet, by the end of my 3rd term when I decided not to run again, the district had changed in the parents' direction, and education was improved for all children and youth. That's solely the work of God! He deserves all the praise, every bit of it.

Thirteen years in ofice were not without personal attacks against myself from a very few ill-willed opponents, and tens of thousands of dollars thrown against me in each election by the CTA and local chapter of the teachers' union. But wth God's determination that I was to be in that position, the members' dues money was wasted. By my third term, district administrators were giving me campaign coffees because they knew my record of honesty and focus on academics had benefitted the students. But a Christian in office could have done no less--not while claiming to be a follower of Jesus!

One night, in the midst of a very heated debate that raged locally and statewide, the lineup for the public comment microphone was long. Most were against me, along with my colleagues; some were for me, but as the citizens stated their points, I looked each one in the eye with a demeanor befitting a public official, and kept my facial expression pleasant and concerned. Three radical people got up and called me vicious names, just short of profanity --for which they would have been removed by the police. Yet, did I roll my eyes, make faces, or interrupt them? Absolutely not. I looked each of my revilers directly in the eye, with my demeanor unruffled, and they rather shamefacedly left the microphone when the red light came on. It made the newspapers, believe me!

After the 4-1 vote, and later at the meeting's end, I stepped down from the dais as I usually did, to greet supporters and opponents alike. My outspoken, yet honorable, opponents came up to me, and almost in tears, apologizing to me for the hideous behavior of some on their side, so ashamed were they. That is how politics is supposed to work--we may be in opposition to a fellow citizen's viewpoint, but it's not about the person--it's about the policy! And I am friends with those good people to this day, still well respected, and the respect is mutual. They campaigned for my next re-election, by the way!

Love my policy positions or hate them, not one person could say that I ever brought embarassment or disgrace to the school district. It may sound trite from repetition, but truly, I answer to a higher power, my Father in heaven.
May our national elected officials understand that they do, too.

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