Saturday, February 18, 2006

Rappin' with the Rep

I had the opportunity to do something this morning that I had been wanting to do for a very long time: I had the opportunity to meet and have a good conversation with Stacey Campfield. My one regret is that a planned family function intervened to cut our time together short, I have a feeling we could have gone on for quite awhile longer. Indeed, after I left, I remembered a few things I wanted to discuss but didn't bring up.

As with most people in public life, Stacey strikes me as having the guarded speech of someone whose job is always on the line. With many politicians, this way of talking can be exasperating because you can't pin down where they stand. I didn't find this to be true with Stacey at all. He was straightforward and honest, and he put himself out there on the line to be examined. He was pretty guarded when I asked him about his political future, and I respect that...I think he was guarded because he has plans for the future, and I hope he does. I am 30 years old, and I have been around politics and political campaigns since I was 16, and although I didn't share that with Stacey during our session at the library, if he reads this and knows that, I think he will realize that was a test question!

I pondered the night before whether I should clean up and wear a suit and tie. I decided against this because being at the library, it was going to be pretty informal. What I did not know was that both Nicole and I would oversleep this morning (I had a late night at the office Friday) and this meant that while I was over at Stacey's listening session, Nicole had to run the errands that needed running an hour before. When Stacey saw me, it hadn't been long since I rolled out of bed, and I am sure I looked like it. Didn't seem to matter, it seemed like Stacey was as enthusiastic to meet me as I was to finally meet him.

I mention that because I saw in Stacey Campfield a quality that I see less and less of in leaders of both political parties today: The Stacey Campfield I met at Norwood Library was humble.

Humility is a virtue that is one of the marks of a Christian life. It is especially needed in our leaders in a free Republic, such as the one in which we are supposed to live. We need leaders who remember that holding an office of public trust is a privilege and not something to which they are entitled. This culture of entitlement is the root of all of the ethical problems we have in State and local government in Tennessee. Stacey came across to me as someone who was at my service, not just after my vote. We need more leaders like Stacey.

I strongly believe that the day will come when Stacey Campfield runs for a higher office. I sincerely hope that day is sooner rather than later, because the people of Tennessee are hungry for fresh, new, real, and innovative leadership. If Stacey wants to keep on moving on up, I want to help him in any way I that I can. Some of you might say "Right Oatney, you just want to hitch yourself to a political gravy train." If the train is going to give people the kind of moral character in government that Stacey Campfield represents, I don't just want to hitch myself to it-I'll blow the horn.

I want to seek office myself one of these days (sooner rather than later, I hope), I've never hidden that fact. To do so takes money I presently do not have and endorsements that will likely come only from those who share my vision for East Tennessee. I am also certain that my enemies will dig up every piece of dirt they can find about me, whether it is true or not, and will do everything they can to destroy me.

Stacey Campfield has put his neck out on the line in a very public way through his blog, and he has weathered the storm of personal destruction that comes with seeking office extremely well. He is an example to every one of us who seek to make a difference in public life.

No matter what happens in Stacey's political future, I sincerely hope he never loses his humility. It will stand him in good stead as he continues to serve the people of East Tennessee (and hopefully all Tennesseans) in the months and years ahead.


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