Government cannot be of, by and for the people unless it out in front of the people, in full view.

It should never be forgotten that government belongs to the governed, not the governing.

Whether talking about the federal government in Washington D.C., the state General Assembly, the county commission, the school board, or city council, government does not know better than the people it represents.

Those elected to office should never usurp the will of the public or assume they know more about what is right for their community than the public at large.

We do not elect officials to think for us.

We elect them to represent us.

That is what is meant by the word “republic,” a representative form of government.

Given a choice between the will of elected officials and the will of ordinary citizens, we should always defer to the people.

The people we elect should never be so audacious so as to abridge the rights and interests of those who they are elected to represent.

Being elected to office should not be viewed as being placed in a position of authority and privilege.

The Declaration of Independence provides, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

These words are primary to our entire form of government.

All real power belongs to the governed and not to the governing, elected officials.

We have protections in place, laws, to prevent a governing class from seizing power away from the people.

The problem is that the public and the media have become accustomed to looking the other way while officials have become accustomed to looking out for themselves.

Then intention of a public servant should never be to simply do what is necessary to get re-elected.

Their intention should always be to adequately, competently and ethically represent the interests of the people they are elected to serve.

That is why all the actions of government should be open to the public.

President John F. Kennedy said, “ “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”

For those who do not agree with Kennedy’s ideologies, Patrick Henry said, simply, “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”

Jim Zachary is CNHI’s Director of Newsroom Training & Development, CNHI Deputy National Editor and regional editor for Alabama and Georgia.

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