Service, in whatever shape or form, is one of the distinguishing characteristics of humankind
According to a news report, Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, has taken on the role of Honorary Chair of the 2013 National Day of Service and will headline a summit on the National Mall on Saturday to launch President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. As is known, the Clintons – Bill and Hillary- were actively involved in the campaign for the re-election of President Obama to the White House, which no doubt may have influenced the choice of Chelsea to such an important leadership role.
In her own words, “there is no more fitting way to mark a presidential inauguration than a day of service. Coming together as a country to strengthen our communities has always been part of the American spirit. I am deeply grateful that President Obama and his administration have put service at the centre of the inauguration weekend and I am proud to be part of a nation-wide service effort, honoring the service and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and building a brighter future for all of us.”
Ms. Chelsea Clinton herself came from a great tradition of service. Her father Bill Clinton was a former President of the United States of America and her mother Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State under the Obama administration. Mrs. Clinton was a presidential candidate but narrowly lost to Obama in the Democratic primaries. There is speculation that Chelsea Clinton could be using this opportunity to launch her own entry into politics, something that virtually runs in her blood.
I have always maintained that the greatest service one can render is to serve one’s country. Many people shy away from working with the government because of a perception that public service salaries are low or not as competitive as that offered in the private sector. These are basically people who are motivated by financial considerations, by how much they can make rather than how much they can give to society.
Mathama Gandhi is credited for putting service ahead of material gains when he famously said “service thy duty, reward not thy business”. In similar vein, former US President John Kennedy once remarked: ‘’Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” These are indeed profound statements which highlighted the primacy of service over rewards, and if heeded, could positively impact on the way we relate to other people, more particularly those with whom we are required to interact on a daily basis by virtue of our office or position we hold in the public service.
Yet one does not necessarily have to be a public servant in order to contribute to the public good. Indeed, there are hundreds of Guyanese who make their contribution to the communities to which they belong without any expectation of financial reward or material gain.
Service, in whatever shape or form, is one of the distinguishing characteristics of humankind. People contribute in different ways based on their own interests and competence. Some people avoid some kinds of service based on perceptions and stereotypes. It is not uncommon to hear some people say that they don’t want to get into politics because “politics is a dirty” game. One manifestation of this perception is the negligible number of university students who opted to pursue Degrees in Political Science at the University of Guyana.
Yet, the highest form of service that any person could offer is in the field of active political involvement, be it at the national or at the community level. Political involvement is the oldest form of activism known to man and it still remained one of the defining moments in the political evolution of societies to modern societies. The Greek City states were the first, centuries ago, to experiment with political formations in the body politic and remained until today the cradle of democracy and the democratic evolution of societies into that we have come to know and accept.
In the final analysis, democracy is the rule of the majority. This does not mean that minority views must be disregarded in the formulation of policies and programmes. Mechanisms must be put in place to accommodate minority views wherever practicable, but it is views of the majority that must be the basis of rule in any democracy. The dictatorship of the majority is at all times preferable over the dictatorship of a few. This is why the Westminster model of majoritarian rule is seen as much more advanced from a democratic standpoint, especially in the context of political and cultural pluralism.
It is the extent to which people sacrifice and subordinate their own individual interests for the common good that sets them apart from others. This is why names such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and our own Cheddi Jagan will always be revered and remembered in the corridors of time. These are people who sacrificed their entire life for the cause of humanity and for which they never looked forward to personal gains.