By Stephen Lakis, President of SLLF
January 7th, 2021
I know we all share the same emotions about the deplorable events that took place recently in our nation’s capital: anger, revulsion, fear, sadness, embarrassment, and finally, resolve. Resolve that this must never be allowed to happen again. The notion that a mob would defile the United States Capitol, causing death and destruction and irreparable damage to one of the most hallowed institutions of our democracy is absolutely unacceptable. That the entire effort was fomented, led, and encouraged by the President of the United States adds further insult to this deliberate act of sedition. That this existential threat to our democracy is unfolding at the very same moment when our country is being mercilessly assaulted by a pernicious disease only heightens the crisis we find ourselves in today.
I write now because our country is crying out for leadership. The eminent Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn has written that real leaders are forged in crisis. If this be true, then our current state of affairs will witness the emergence of a new generation of leaders, forged by the catastrophic events unfolding in America today. The ground for real leadership is fertile.
You wear the mantle of leadership in your state and it is to you that the people turn for succor, aid, and comfort. This is your moment. You have the power to help calm these turbulent waters by lowering the partisan temperature and rhetoric in your legislature. You have the power to unite Republicans and Democrats and all the various right-leaning and left-leaning factions toward the common goal of defeating extremism, standing up to those who would deface our democratic institutions, and protecting the integrity of our constitution.
In my experience working with legislative leaders for many decades, I have come to appreciate just how difficult the job is. Trying to do the right thing while satisfying all the different constituencies on a regular basis is no easy task. Some do it well, others stumble. What separates the good or great leaders from the rest is their abiding devotion to the institution of the legislature. Those leaders who revere the laws and traditions that make the legislature the single greatest deliberative body in the world, those leaders always stand out. Invariably, they are the great ones.
I have recently learned that while events were unfolding in Washington, similar attacks on our democracy were taking place in state capitols across the nation. Like Covid-19, the disease of intolerance spreads if left unchecked.
With all this in mind, here is my charge to you: Seize the moment. Be courageous. Set an example of principled leadership for others to emulate and follow. Your legislature, the people of your state, and the nation need you to be your best right now!
I have served for nearly 40 years as President of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation. During this long span of time, my exceptional staff and I have built a nonprofit organization widely recognized for its nonpartisanship and singular focus on legislative leadership. We take no sides in the political battles that are an inherent part of any vibrant democracy. Instead, our focus is solely on sharing facts and ideas that will help make these men and women the best they can be. I mention this now because it is uncustomary for me to come out in opposition to a political figure. However, I am taking a position in defense of the United States Constitution and in opposition to anybody or anything that would jeopardize the integrity of this great American experiment.