Sometimes, you read a quotation and it just strikes you as being something that is so very meaningful to you and your own circumstances that you cannot help but share it. I came across one, recently, by Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, in which he said:
Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.A Square Deal; speech made to farmers at the New York State Agricultural Association, in Syracuse, New York, 1903
I have previously read about Roosevelt, but little of his actual words until recently. This line just seemed to encapsulate my own philosophy about public service. This is the best answer I could give to anyone who might ask why I was running for council again.
In that same speech, Roosevelt also said, “Life can mean nothing worth meaning, unless its prime aim is the doing of duty, the achievement of results worth achieving.” I’ve always felt that public service and being a volunteer for the community were honourable duties.
And, yes, I have made, and likely will make more mistakes while in that service, but out of my desire to do the best for the community and act in good faith as one of its stewards. Errare humanum est: to err is human, as Seneca said. We should learn from our mistakes and endeavour not to repeat them. Seneca added, perseverare autem diabolicum –
to persevere [in error] is diabolical.
As council members, we should make informed, considered, well-thought-out decisions, rather than rashly plunging ahead. But make they we must. As Roosevelt also said:
The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything.Quoted by Jacob A. Riis in chap. XVI of Theodore Roosevelt, the Citizen (1904).
A councillor should not fail to act, should not avoid decisions or slough off responsibilities (by, say, golfing when important decisions are at the table) simply because they fear to make mistakes, or fear the social backlash mistakes often bring. Too many times we read about our and other councils deferring decisions, or avoiding them. They don’t appear wise or cautious: merely indecisive. As Roosevelt also said:
We have a given problem to solve. If we undertake the solution, there is, of course, always danger that we may not solve it aright; but to refuse to undertake the solution simply renders it certain that we cannot possibly solve it aright.The Strenuous Life: a speech before the Hamilton Club, Chicago, April 10, 1899.