Titterton: High Cost Of Public Service

Sep 4, 2018

My mother, Mary Broderick, served on my Connecticut hometown’s Board of Education for years, eventually serving at the state and national level. It was inspiring, but I still sometimes wondered if the cause was worth the cost - because it’s hard to do a job that doesn’t pay well and requires time away from your family even when you love it.

But it’s almost impossible when you’re the target of personal attacks from both within the community you serve and the world at large.

In Montpelier, Representative Kiah Morris of Bennington introduced and shepherded important legislation. A powerful public speaker, she demonstrated leadership qualities, courage, and stamina.

When attacked just for being a black woman in power, she addressed it head on. The truth is hers, she owns it, and this state needs to hear it.

Ours is a cordial statehouse. And we like to say that hate doesn’t grow well in our rocky soil. But to cling to that image is to miss that hate can still grow and cause harm here. We have to ask ourselves just how much we can expect one soul to endure. And staying in a stressful job subject to threats is certainly more than most of us, Morris’s fellow citizens, would do.

If we’re going to promote persistence in the face of oppression, we need to approach it as a team effort - not as a job for one lone individual to undertake on behalf of the rest of us.

Strength in numbers would help - with governing bodies at all levels that truly represent us. We’re making headway, but when traditionally underrepresented people run for office, it’s still seen more as individuals breaking barriers than collectively building a better-functioning system.

But we’d all benefit if elected office were more accessible to people of color and people living with disability, illness, different gender identities and sexual preferences. Greater representation from low income people, parents, farmers, and women would increase diversity among lawmakers and lead to better laws.

Morris says she’ll return to politics in time – and I hope she does.

Meanwhile, we can all work to make the system safer and stronger so every citizen with the heart, decency and guts to serve - can thrive.