Commentary: We must renew our value for men and women in public service

Commentary: We must renew our value for men and women in public service
June 22
03:10 2017

By Algenon Cash

On June 14, 2017, the country woke up to news of another mass shooting, a man used an  SKS rifle to open fire as several Republican members of Congress were practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity in Alexandria, Virginia.

James Thomas Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, severely wounded people: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise; Zack Barth, a Congressional aide; Matt Mika, a lobbyist; and Crystal Griner, a Capital Police officer.  No sitting member of Congress has been shot since Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in 2011.

The only reason Capitol Police were present at the practice was to protect Representative Scalise. Due to his leadership position, he has full-time security detail assigned to watch him.  However no other elected official present had assigned security.

The domestic terrorist attack drew a large bipartisan response from politicians, government staff and community leaders from both sides of the aisle – with many Republican and Democratic elected officials sternly condemning the tragic event.

We often forget the many individuals and families who sacrifice their lives daily to serve the public interest – state lawmakers, local elected and court officials.

Recently a group of my close friends assembled in downtown Winston-Salem, including one person who is the assistant district attorney [ADA].

Some young men nearby made a derogatory remark aimed at the ADA.  Naturally when you’re a court official, you can quickly get on the wrong side of many people in the community.

My friend impressed us when he chose not to respond, remained calm and simply continued to fellowship.  However, I swiftly recognized the danger that hangs over my friend’s head daily, not to mention the same danger threatens his family and home life – but he chooses to serve nevertheless.

I’ve had other friends who have been elected to serve the people in the North Carolina General Assembly receive death threats – triggering the State Police to dispatch officers to protect their homes and families.  Keep in mind even our state lawmakers do not receive security and gaining access to the Capitol building in Raleigh is the equivalent of walking in your local public library.

Right here in Winston-Salem, they are experiencing challenges with recruiting police officers; the department is short 50 officers.  Undoubtedly national headlines are diminishing enthusiasm in joining the police department in many communities.

Our country is in perilous times and hyper charged rhetoric has placed the lives of our most treasured leaders in extreme jeopardy.  Politics and community affairs at large can generate hostility, emotion and passion – but energy must be focused on ways to affect change, drive progress and unite people behind common goals.

You may not fully agree with the agenda of any political party, but do so with respect and honor for the very individuals devoting time and talent to the position.  We as residents and voters must appreciate those who choose to follow a path of public service, which means educating peers, neighbors and the next generation about the sacrifice made by these key people in the community.

Next time you encounter your local representative, ADA or police officer – simply say, “Thank you.”

Algenon Cash is the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm.  Reach him at

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