The Case For Servant Leaders in Elected Office

Tim Gavin is a Democrat running for State Senate in Connecticut’s 28th district serving the towns of Fairfield, Easton, Newtown, and Bethel.

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This Independence Day was more than a celebration of our freedom. It was also a day for reflection. 

Our country feels precarious. For the first time, an individual right that most Americans have had their entire lives has been taken away. Moreover, the cadence of gun violence in America continues to accelerate–over the Fourth of July weekend alone, shootings in nearly every U.S. state killed more than 200 people. And each of the Select Committee’s January 6th hearings unveils just how close we came to losing our democracy.

For too long, the will of the people in our country has taken  back seat to narrow political interests. Our collective way forward depends on us finding a renewed understanding of our American identity, not based in partisan ideology, but rather as citizens with a shared responsibility to act as beneficiaries and guardians of this nearly two and a half century-old experiment. We need leaders who are willing to set their personal ambitions aside, protect our democracy, and work on behalf of the people who elect them.

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I know many people see our current politics, and our nation as a whole, as hopelessly divided – rife with partisan discord and obstructionism. But I think there are even more people who believe we are capable of moving beyond all of that to a more cooperative and forward-looking era of governance. Electing public officials driven by that spirit is critical to defusing the toxic politics that tears at the fabric of our community. I believe that servant leaders – veterans like myself, nurses, teachers, social entrepreneurs, and many others – are ready to put aside narrow interests to make government work for the people.

Why do I think servant leaders can answer the call? I can tell you from personal experience, duty-focused public servants are willing to make hard choices, bring people together from diverse backgrounds, and do whatever it takes to get the job done. My first lesson as an Army officer was that leaders eat last. It wasn’t a platitude. At Infantry Basic Officer Leadership school we learned to put our soldiers first, waiting for every Soldier to eat before us – from the grizzled Drill Sergeant to the brand new Private. If we aim to uphold our nation’s founding ideals – liberty, justice, freedom for all – it’s time for elected officials to do the same by putting people and principles first to help solve the problems facing our state and our country.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government the delegates had created. He replied: “A Republic, if you can keep it.” If we hope to heed this warning, we must elect servant leaders committed to revitalizing American democracy and fostering civic unity.

Capt. Tim Gavin

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Gavin is a Democrat running for State Senate in Connecticut’s 28th district serving the towns of Fairfield, Easton, Newtown, and Bethel. Gavin spent four years as an active-duty infantry officer in the U.S. Army. He currently commands a Higher Headquarters Detachment in the U.S. Army Reserve and works on social media policy at the Integrity Institute, a nonprofit think tank.