Public servants, political process -- A right, a responsibility

  • Published
  • By Col. David Thompson
  • Aerospace Data Facility commander
It's just a few days away now -- Election Day. Regardless of who is elected President on Nov. 4, the United States will close one chapter of its history and begin a new one.

A new administration will bring new ideas to the challenges we face as a nation; challenges that are political, economic and military in nature. That has been the case with every election throughout our history.

Most of you reading this article are public servants; we will be part of the team that works on behalf of the new leadership to tackle those challenges.

For all of us engaged in public service, election cycles bring reminders of the special responsibilities we have, reminders of appropriate and inappropriate ways to participate in the political process.

As American citizens, we all have the absolute right to vote. This is a right I take very seriously. I hope you do to. Since this election is so close, your vote will have a lasting impact.

As much as we all must exercise this basic right to vote, our status as government employees also carries with it special responsibilities and limitations. It's easy to describe the limits to our participation based on law -- there are federal statutes that clearly define activities that are permitted in political campaigns -- the fundamental principle doesn't require an extended legal discussion.

Our position of public service carries with it an implicit requirement to maintain public trust. By agreeing to serve as members of the armed forces or in civil service, we agree to serve the people and interests of the United States. Those interests are declared by way of our national, state and local elections. This most democratic of methods determines who will lead the nation -- the leaders we as public servants look to for direction.

To publically campaign, in uniform, on behalf of one candidate or another erodes the confidence of fellow citizens that we will effectively serve the opposing candidate, should he or she win the election. I also believe each of us must personally commit to supporting the new administration, a private confirmation that our allegiance to the people of the United States is reflected in our support of their duly elected leaders.

On Election Day, I hope you exercise your voice as a citizen and help decide who will lead us through the next chapter in the nation's history. Before and after Nov. 4, each of us in public service must demonstrate our responsibility to honor the collective voice of the nation -- by faithfully serving those we elect.