Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

The Blossoms of Democracy: Educating and Transforming Public Service

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Lisa Saye
July 29, 2021

A vase of flowers is a wonderful interpretation of beauty. The combination of blooms, types and textures demonstrate the intended harmony of nature. Harmony’s variation toward balance and order is mimicked in management, design and politics. On a deep and historic level, democracies have attempted to do the same. In the Republic, Book 11, Plato ponders the meaning of education. A bit later in the text he asserts that our stories should be the education of our heroes. If education were flowers in a vase, how would they be collected, assembled and disseminated? This is the question democracies are facing at this hour in modern history.

As far back at the first century B.C., Cicero urged us to avoid the chaos and confusion associated with war. He posited the degree to which peace was superior because he believed that laws were inoperable during war. To a great extent he’s right. Democracy is the framework of implementation against a backdrop of policy, intentions and results. It craves order and is built on peace. In that light, democracy has no consistent rival. It is its own backstory and public service is its natural resource. Its concepts represent a documentary of government as it exists at any point in time—governments that can only operate effectively under a solid and respected rule of law.

There has been much written about the stages of democracy with much of the narrative predicting its end. This discussion will not reveal anything in that regard, nor will it offer a critical comment on anyone’s theory. One should look at democracy as the transformative tool that it is. It is citizen ownership practiced in scale as public administration. Its concepts are self-fulfilling and are textured by public servants. The world’s citizens are contemporary witnesses to this, which is one reason democracy is a most popular global request.

I have argued in support of the structure of democracy. I have suggested that its form is the best tower for efficient public administration. I have also commented on its flaws, its shortcomings and its blind spots. It remains a structure that has a distinctive legacy of correcting itself. Beyond this, democracy is designed to bend the arc of disorder, thereby delivering a government that is not a space for personal misery. For public administration to deliver anything, education of our public servants must be more than reality-bending discussions disconnected from goals or objectives. When public service is positive, it is a respectful commentary on human value and citizens’ needs. Value that is subsidized through public service and through the real work that truth occupies in that service.  

The impact that COVID-19 has had on transforming government is by now cliché. We are confronted with recognizing the importance that democracy had and will have in the event of a global emergency. On the continuum of history, pandemic counts, scares and stories were similar across cultures. Everyone wanted to know the same things about the disease, most did the same things to stop the spread of the disease and many transformed the access to education and information of its public service. None of these things could be accomplished adequately in chaotic or war-like environments. Pandemics don’t break for bullets, rockets or peace conferences. Heroic status has been rightly assigned to everyone who helped to make life better for others during a year of uncertainty. Every story is an education for and about our heroes, retold in every language and saying the same thing.

When public service is tempered only on crisis, public administration is ignored. Under such ignorance, democracy begins to wither. Other notions and battered theories rise in its place and people begin to search for those articles and narratives announcing its demise. Education should be expanded and revised to stand in the gap so that public administration can transform itself by using recent lessons learned and best practices.

I do not believe that we are on the edge of democracy or collectively wallowing in one stage or another. Or at least I don’t want to. I think that as public servants, we are shaping what must be taught while building what has to be learned to sustain the order and peace governments need to serve their citizens. A vase that holds one rose is stunning, but a vase decorated with many colors can be breathtaking. In stillness, it is admired for the imagination of its creator, for the variety of its stems and for the inspiration it brings to the viewer. We must allow democracy to continue to blossom and its many interpretations to continue to motivate and inspire. Public servants stand as ready craftsmen in the continuous movement to educate our heroes and to transform unsolved problems into workable solutions.

Author: Lisa Saye teaches Applied Research Methods for the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at DePaul University. Saye served as Fulbright Specialist in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and as International Consultant for the United Nations Development Program in The Maldives. Dr. Saye earned her Master’s in Human Resource Management at Troy University and her Doctorate in Public Administration at The University of Alabama. She can be reached by email at [email protected].

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (10 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)

One Response to The Blossoms of Democracy: Educating and Transforming Public Service

  1. Taiwo Olaiya Reply

    July 30, 2021 at 4:17 pm

    Saye, this is an undoubtedly courageous, inspiring and reassuring article on democracy, detailing the public service importance and peace nexus for global development. Kudos! One only wonders if the practitioners of democracy, the bosses of public administrators, won’t need more of the education that you proposed in this important article. I hope I will be right if I argue that public administration is mainly about policy implementation: perhaps with a little more as observers in policy enunciation. For me, and I request correction if I’m wrong, those who actually make policies that prevent or instigate wars are far from the occupants of the seats of public service. They are the politicians, the bosses of public servants. If anyone is to spearhead the educating of our heroes, which I wholeheartedly believe will have the desired effects as you highlighted, it the political class: perhaps not the public servants who take instruction daily. You cannot give what you don’t have.

    Taiwo Olaiya

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *