THE TEST OF SOCIAL SERVICE
We the people, who serve one another is all our various capacities (as mayor, federal judge, president of the United States, mechanic, politician, scientist, or gardener), must pass the tests described in the eulogy that Senator William Pitt Fessenden of Maine delivered on the death of Senator Foot of Vermont in 1866:
When, Mr. President, a man becomes a member of this body he
cannot even dream of the ordeal to which he cannot fail to be exposed;
of how much courage he must possess to resist the temptations which
daily beset him;
of that sensitive shrinking from undeserved censure which he must learn
of the ever-recurring contest between a natural desire for public
approbation and a sense of public duty;
of the load of injustice he must be content to bear,
even from those who should be his friends;
the imputations of his motives;
the sneers and sarcasms of ignorance and malice;
all the manifold injuries which partisan or private
malignity, disappointed of its objects, may
shower upon his unprotected head.
All this, Mr. President, if he would retain his integrity, he must learn to bear unmoved, and walk steadily onward in the path of duty, sustained only by the reflection that time may do him justice, or if not, that after all his individual hopes and aspirations, and even his name among men, should be of little account to him when weighed in the balance against the welfare of a people of whose destiny he is a constituted guardian and defender.
Two years after Senator Fessenden delivered this eulogy, his vote to acquit Andrew Johnson brought about the fulfillment of his own prophecy.
We, who are often quick to criticize those who serve us, but in whose shoes we do not stand, would do well to remember that we must daily pass the same test they do—and that we just as often fail.
To pass this test means we must daily remember that:
The measure of power is honesty.
The measure of success is preparation.
The measure of learning is open-mindedness.
The measure of enjoyment is responsibility.
The measure of communication is trust.
The measure of wisdom is humility.
The measure of humility is acceptance.
The measure of acceptance is forbearance.
Therefore, we must ask ourselves: Who is the enemy? Is it the President of these United States, the U.S. attorney, the industrialist, the environmentalist, the judge, the witness, the baker, the doctor? There is no human enemy. Our enemy is fear of the unknown, an enemy it takes the utmost courage to face, for each of us must confront our own fear in the depths of our soul.
There are few arenas that test a person's courage like the sense of insecurity brought about by unwanted change—the universal constant forever beyond our power to physically control. The only way we can control change, and its accompanying uncertainty, is to control our attitude toward it. By this I mean to accept the inevitable and work with it, rather than exercising the futility of resisting it.
Clearly, we are not all at the same level of psychological maturity when it comes to dealing with the uncertainty of change. Let us therefore be gentle, understanding, and compassionate with one another, for we are all in the same boat—the unpredictable, open-ended experience of being human, with its ever-shifting challenge of social-environmental sustainability. Today, as never before, the health of the environment is in our keeping because we, the adults of the world, are the current trustees of Planet Earth.
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