Leadership lacking among elected federal officials


To the Editor:

There was a time when we looked to our leaders for inspiration. They shared our values and we felt that they had our best interests at heart. What I feel now and what those I teach in my Organizational Behavior & Leadership classes at the US Coast Guard Academy tell me is that they see little of what they value in today’s leaders, the leaders that are supposed to serve us. That is an awful shame because these aspiring leaders depend on visible role models to guide them.

Like millions of others, I am a federal employee. I work for the US Coast Guard, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, which will furlough like the rest of the government, under a shutdown. I am considered an exempt employee which means that I am exempted from prosecution should I continue to work. That said, I still won’t be paid for my work but I am expected to. Not a problem for me, I can handle the sacrifice.

However, for the many millions who serve us across the world and who are not exempt, they cannot report to work and are, in fact, prohibited from doing so. They can ill afford to be without a paycheck. Their food, their housing, their family’s well-being and livelihood depend on their income. No doubt, a shutdown will exacerbate an already critical health crisis in our country.

The Legislative Branch of our government in DC, elected by us, is sorely broken and dysfunctional — much as our DC-based Executive & Judicial Branches are. There are few role models among them. Instead, what I mostly see are self-serving individuals who have little care for the country that elected them. Self-interest and self-attainment seem to be what motivates them.

We are at a critical inflection point in US history as I feel that we no longer have a ‘government for the people.’ And, like climate change, the effect will come upon us gradually, until it is irreversible. We need an immediate and major reset in how we govern ourselves. Unfortunately, all I see on the horizon is more of the same.

Mike Bellissimo is a resident of West Tisbury and a member of the faculty at the US Coast Guard Academy.