Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's Not About You

Yesterday, we attended a Memorial Day service at the Veterans Amphitheater in St. Louis Park as we have for the past few years. Each year a couple of local politicians take the stage and share their thoughts on the day, without a hint of partisanship or evidence of them seeking to gain an advantage from their appearance.

This year Congressman Keith Ellison (MN 5th CD) spoke. Now my wife isn't a hardcore political wonk like Atomizer and she doesn't take things in through any particular political lens as the most hyper-partisan among us tend to do. But she was quite put off by the way that Ellison's words appeared to cross the line between honoring veterans and self-promotion during a campaign season.

Had Ellison merely said that we need to remember the sacrifices that veterans make and ensure that they and their families are taken care of on the home front, he would have been fine. Instead, he went through a laundry list of veterans programs that he supported and talked about veterans having their homes foreclosed and becoming homeless.

What struck a nerve with me was his repeated use of the word "I" as in "I want you to know that I support this bill..." At a time when the focus is supposed to be on honoring the sacrifice of others, a speech sprinkled with said personal pronoun came off as unseemly.

To his credit, the man who followed Ellison, state DFL Representative Ryan Winkler, offered remarks that were short and to the point. He essentially said that the last thing people wanted to hear on Memorial Day was a politician, so he simply thanked the veterans and sat down. His discretion was warmly received by those in attendance.

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