It’s the American way!

Fiscal cliff, budget sequestration, IRS scandal, Edward Snowden and the NSA (MAINWAY, PRISM, etc.), government shutdown,, Nuclear Option… The list goes on.

It would be difficult to argue that it’s been a good year for our Federal Government. In fact, it’s been a very challenging year to put it lightly. In the face of that laundry list, it would be so easy to throw our hands up in disgust and abandon all hope that our government will ever work properly again. However, we at agree with Eric Liu that “[w]hen government fails, the proper response isn’t fatalism; it’s activism.”1

Liu’s opinion piece on CNN yesterday offers a few pieces of wisdom and advice that we should all heed, told through the story of his lost luggage that was tracked down by a dedicated public employee at the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission.

First, that most people in the government do good work and are well-intentioned. There are countless examples of people like TLC employee Valerie who are dedicated to helping the people they serve.

Second, that “[g]overnment is not inherently inept. It’s simply us – and as defective or capable of goodness as we are.” We need to remember President Lincoln’s words – spoken almost exactly 150 years ago – that our government is meant to be one “of the people, by the people, [and] for the people.”2 If we don’t like what we see, we are the ones who have the responsibility and ability to change it!

Third, that “[the] expectation of a working public sphere doesn’t prevail in other less healthy societies.” This Thanksgiving week, let us give thanks (see what I did there?) that we live in a country where the mere expectation that our civic institutions work efficiently and function as promised even exists.

Our government is how we make it. If we wipe our hands clean of the system and turn our backs on it, instead of putting on our working gloves and getting down in the muck, how will it ever get better?



1 Liu, E. (2013, November 26). A tale of lost luggage, and faith in government [Editorial]. CNN. Retrieved from

2 Lincoln, A. (1863, November 19). The Gettysburg Address. Speech presented at the dedication of Soldiers’ National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA. Retrieved from