Archived: Antidote for Anxious Times? Do Your Duty

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Over the last few months, many Washington pundits have been discussing whether our government is dysfunctional and what might be the remedies.

I want to tell you my view on the best way to fix government dysfunction.

Let me explain with a story. In 1780, the skies over much of New England became very dark at mid-day. Many people thought Judgment Day was at hand. The Connecticut legislature considered adjourning, but one representative opposed the motion. “The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not,” he said. “If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty.”

So it is with us. We may be discouraged about Washington, but whether Capitol Hill and the White House are falling apart or performing splendidly, our responsibility as citizens does not change: to do what we can to improve our own corner of the world, and to insist that our elected representatives improve theirs.

If we hold both ourselves and our politicians to account, that is the best salve I can think of for our country’s current pains. In short, we must choose to be found doing our duty.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

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