I was recently invited to attend a reception for Tom Allen, a Congressman from Maine who is running for Senate against Susan Collins. I’ve always liked Tom Allen’s politics — what I know of them anyway. And I liked how he responded to questioners at the reception. Some were somewhat peeved at Tom because of a few of his votes, and because he hadn’t gotten us out of Iraq yet.
Tom’s responses to his more testy questioners was never defensive, capitulating or bullying. He calmly expressed his views. I went up to him after the reception to give him two books: Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons (by Peter Barnes) and Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (by McDonough & Braungart). While I was waiting to speak to him, someone came up and asked a question. Tom responded with his own thoughts and then said, “What do you think?” He seemed genuinely to want to learn from his questioner. He appeared authentic in his awareness that he didn’t have all the answers, and his job was to learn. He graciously, and apparently gratefully, welcomed my book donations. I gave them to him because I believe that our politicians have as much to learn as we do, and that we must work together to find meaningful, practical, ethical solutions to challenges, which books such as these help us to do.
Whether Tom is as genuine as he seems, I don’t know; but I do know that we play our role in democracy by participating in it and helping to educate our political leaders.
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