Opinion: Four gifts for the 2019 General Assembly

   

By Pat Dougherty

I am still caught up in the Christmas season as I write this — the traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas” — the time between Christmas day and the feast of the Three Kings, also known as the Magi. I got to thinking about the gifts the Magi brought and what gifts I would bring to the new legislature in 2019 — definitely not gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Gifts. I think I will bring them four gifts. (Yes, I know we speak of the three gifts of the Magi, but there is a tradition that there was a fourth king and so I am going with that one.)

A Sense of the Common Good will be my first gift. All too often in a legislator’s effort to push an issue or a party agenda or to please a constituent lobbyist or other entity, the impact on all of us is lost and what is truly good for all Missourians gets shoved to the back burner. So, my first gift would be that the Common Good would take prominence in discovering how public policies are debated and which laws are passed.

My second gift will be the Realization of the Human Dignity of each of us when policies are created, debated, and voted upon. Our common dignity as human beings would show up in the realization that we are all sisters and brothers journeying together and sharing this space, this world, for a relatively short time. That each of us is deserving of the utmost respect would be a highlight of how they do business and make laws. I recall that dramatic line from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol where the ghost of Marley visits and Scrooge says that he was always a good man of business. Marley loudly states: “Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence, were all my business.” I would add justice as well.

My third gift will be the Insight and the courage needed to be Builders of Bridges and not barriers. Too often, legislators either see or are taught to see the “other” as alien, foreign or even the enemy when doing policy. Nothing could be further from the truth. How much could be accomplished if we looked at each other through the lens of “We are brothers and sisters journeying together!” Albeit this can be oh, so difficult, at times, how much better we would be as a society and as individuals — how much better our democracy would be if we tried.

My fourth gift will be to ask — to have them and all of us ask the question each and every time policy is created, debated and voted upon — does what we are proposing stand the test of: the measure of a society is how we treat the most vulnerable.

Now I give these gifts to the 2019 legislature as they begin their work of service and will leave them with a recommendation for what work needs to be considered. These words of Howard Thurman seem so appropriate right now for our legislators: Work of Christmas Begins

“When the song of the angels is stilled,when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations, (and Missouri)
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…”

Pat Dougherty served in the Missouri General Assembly for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2007.