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Wednesday, April 27, 2011


 I hear freedom echoing in the hallways of state government these days - especially in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and New Jersey.  Is it possible that it’s the same kind of freedom that rang throughout the cities and countryside as the news spread about the British surrender at Yorktown?
 If it is, let me remind you of this: It comes with a price.  The high cost of freedom is shared by each person who enjoys the unique privileges of liberty.  The price to maintain and protect freedom is responsibility.  I believe it is one free people inherently know – it is theirs to pay-- until someone tells them otherwise.
I remember the first time I opened the grocery store with my own keys and Dad stayed home.
“You’re on your own now,” he said in his gruff kind of way.  But I heard more than that.  I heard, “I trust you.  You are capable.  I wouldn’t have sold you this store if I didn’t think you had it in you to make it work.”  I was only 21, newly married and scared, but I was willing to take on the weight of responsibility for the opportunity of freely pursuing my dreams.
“The World Turned Upside Down,” was perfect background music for the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown to end the Revolutionary War.   I feel myself humming a few bars each time I switch on the television and catch a glimpse of the Union workers protesting.  Last year it was Tea partiers calling for the government to act responsibly.  Now folks are walking off the job to demand the state or local governments to spend money they don’t have. 
What has changed?   The economy is about the same.  Is it possible this is about the simple request to consider a responsible solution to budget deficits?   Union bosses are taking their place at the table to demand their rights. It seems reasonable to me to trade a small percentage of a benefit package in order to avoid excessive lay-offs.
The responsibility part of the equation is either missing or forgotten. What about the line in “America the Beautiful”  ‘...who more than self thy country loved, and mercy more than life.’?
Granted, it may not look so beautiful today with a flagging economy and a high unemployment rate, but in the long run, if concessions are made without undue tax burdens added,  won’t that make for a better tomorrow?  All the political promises from charismatic leaders can’t change things.  But there is something that can.  That something, I believe, is Courage.
 One example of the power of courage to change things is happening in the state of New Jersey. Against the odds, Chris Christie, a Republican, was taking on Jon Corizine, the incumbent democrat in a gubernatorial race with little if any hope of winning.  When the night was over, the blue color, blue state, home of “the Boss”, whose constituency had voted over 57 percent in favor of Barack Obama in November, elected Christie as their Governor.
He would take his post as the first Republican to hold that office in over 12 years.  Probably because he campaigned as a fiscal conservative, the voters elected him to deal with a financial state of emergency.  There was no plan of action in place besides an appeal for handouts from Washington or a hefty tax increase or both. So, with roughly a 3 point margin over Corizine, the “Courageous” Christie takes office and the story begins. 
Two of my favorite lines in all the video clips I’ve watched of Christie on Youtube (and re-watched!) are the following:  “Why are we cutting a small percent from the state’s portion of your retirement fund?  Because the state is broke and unlike the Feds, we don’t have a machine or the authority to print money.”  And this is even better:  “I was elected by the people of New Jersey to manage this fiscal debacle and I came here to do that.  I came here to govern, not to worry about getting re-elected.”
Imagine that!
 Doesn’t it seem ironic that it is largely the same people who want me to share my  money as a private sector business owner in the form of higher taxes, so they  are able to maintain their lifestyle, who are protesting a request to share some of their benefits for limited time, simply so others can keep their jobs?  Something has to give, but it’s not them.  This sounds more like an entitlement program.  I’m required by law to pay more out of my pocket in taxes so you don’t have to suffer?
 How did we get here?  In my opinion, voters in America have elected people to office who lack the strength, integrity and courage to lead.  Sound fiscal management is trumped by unnecessary expenditures to garner votes for the next election.  A sound economy fosters freedom.  Deficit spending leads to servitude.
Christie’s words, “Less spending, lower taxes and less government.”  Less is more.  In any family or privately owned business, there are times when the only way to stay afloat is to cut back.  Saving and sacrifice have become taboos in American political campaign rhetoric.
 It takes courage to stand up to a teacher, a fire-fighter, or a policeman and call a spade a spade.  These people are invaluable to our communities.  But as Christie said, “I’m sorry I have to be the first guy to tell you the truth.  The politicians, who made these fairy-tale promises to you in order to get your vote, couldn’t keep them and they knew it when they made those promises.”
It all boils down to choices like anyone in the private sector has to make when business is slow.   Either benefits are cut or positions are cut.   There are no other options when the money train comes to a halt.
Men and women of courage are usually not the most popular people in the pack.  Most great leaders have endured far more criticism than praise.   
But courage is more than just bravado and a stern tone of voice; true courage requires preparation for the task and the ability to carry it out to completion.  It requires a firm conviction that the path you are leading others along is one which is going in a good direction.
One thing about Governor Christie, when he is asked a question, he has an answer and most of the time, the information to back it up.
Other qualities that go with true courage would include, discipline, perseverance, resolve and patience.  These are virtues recognized by most people as moral virtues, regardless of their creed. How often do you hear anyone getting an award for virtue?  How can it be encouraged?  En-courage-to inspire one with courage.  Courage to do what’s right.
Courage is contagious and motivational.  Alexander the Great’s horse, Bucephalus, was a war horse of great heart and valor.  Just his presence would cheer a column of fatigued soldiers and give them the stamina to march on when they wanted to stop.  Long after he was retired from “active duty”, the majestic steed traveled with his master to boost morale when things looked bleak.
It is an inspiration to see Scott Walker holding his ground, day after day, unwilling to give into the badgering by professional bullies and attacks by the mainstream media.  I admire his courage.  It gets me off my chair and renews my confidence in the people of this great country. 
It renews my hope.
Recently I came across the simple quote “Leaders are those who lead.”  A big following is not always the sign of a great leader.  Sometimes it gets lonely out front, and I know from a little experience, it’s never pleasant to be the one taking the heat.  But I have to say, I feel a surge of energy after I watch a Youtube clip of Governor Christie standing his ground.
Courage.  It may be one of the few things in American government we could use a little more of.

Gary Emineth is the President and CEO of Green Chile Foods, enthusiastic father of two sons, Zachary and Austin and partner in life for 31 years with his wife Deone.

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