When Vin Gopal launched his latest attack, I heard from friends with two different types of advice. Some said I should fight back immediately because silence would suggest I had no defense. Others said I should do nothing because to respond to bullying would make me just look defensive. I thanked them all for their kind thoughts but told them all the same thing. I see this as a teachable moment to be shared with everyone who may be thinking of someday entering public life.
You may see public office as I do – a way of giving back to society and being thankful for the success you’ve had in your professional life. In an ideal democracy opponents would challenge you by putting forth a competing vision of the future they would work for and offer up their record of accomplishments so people could judge whether or not they had as good a record as yours when it comes to getting things done. Unfortunately, that’s not how our democracy has evolved.
Instead of thoughtful, accomplished candidates we are too often faced with political attack dogs whose sole purpose is to try to destroy the reputation of people in the opposing party. Lies, distortions and bullying are their stock in trade. If anyone you have ever dealt with in your public life is ever accused of wrong doing in their private affairs, rest assured that the partisan hounds will come barking after you even though you are in no way involved. That’s just the way it’s done on every level be it federal, state, county or local. So what are you to do? The answer is simple. Whether you are a little league coach or a first responder, whether you feed the hungry, lead a troop of girl scouts or serve on a school board you have a record on which you can stand. Every person you have helped, every dollar you have saved or raised, every public asset you have fought to preserve, everything you have done in your public life speaks for you. We are all entitled to be judged by our true record. All the barking of all the hounds cannot drown out the truth. At the end of the day the weight of solid accomplishments will balance well against empty accusations from a poisoned pen.
Stand strong with high standards. Keep firm in your commitments. Speak clearly of the brighter future you are working to create. Do this all resolutely and leave those attack dogs to do their howling at the moon.
Lillian G. Burry, Monmouth County Freeholder Director