Webster’s defines the word “collaborate” as “working jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.”
In the political arena, collaboration is often referred to as bipartisanship, where members of opposing political parties find common ground through compromise.
It wasn’t that long ago when bipartisanship and collaboration were commonplace. The best piece of advice I received as an elected official was to get out of my chair and build relationships with colleagues–especially those with opposing viewpoints. This advice served me well through decades of public service.
I can recall many occasions when people with opposing viewpoints discussed issues respectfully and truly listened to each other’s opinions. While opposing points of view occasionally stymied forward progress, those occasions were the exception rather than the rule. Everyone seemed to recognize that the best work toward the common good resulted when all viewpoints were represented at the table and everyone’s points were heard and respected. Policy discussions were much less about partisan or social agendas, and more about how we could work together to improve our community and make life better for those who call Naperville home.
Sadly, there has been an ideological shift away from collaboration. Government at every level is more polarized than ever, and coalitions prefer to work in silos. Somewhere along the line personal agendas became more important than making decisions that are in the best interests of all constituencies.
A recent survey done through Northwestern University showed that most Americans prefer bipartisanship and collaboration. Sixty-two percent of the respondents said they preferred an elected leader who can compromise to get things done. This doesn’t mean elected leaders need to abandon their core values. But having everyone at the table and taking the time to truly listen to one another can produce positive results. When this type of give-and-take is rejected, the chasm between the political right and left only widens.
If we can agree that everyone enters public service because they care about their community, perhaps we can also agree that individuals, regardless of the political initial after their name, might have some good ideas that add value to policy discussions. Here in Naperville, whether it’s the Riverwalk, Centennial Beach, the Community Concert Center, Knoch Knolls Nature Center, or one of Naperville’s many other treasures, our best outcomes will materialize when everyone works together. Just imagine the future greatness that could occur if everyone remembered why they stepped into public service in the first place.
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