Avoid a Marjorie Taylor Greene moment: Elected officials must be role models | Opinion

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The other day a Facebook friend wrote about his father, born in 1907 — too young for World War I and too old for World War II — who, after losing his mother at 3, had to raise his own children by himself in the 1940s and 1950s.

He had it rough, as many Americans did, given the harsh economic realities of the Great Depression, rations during the second world war and more. It was a far cry from some of our worries nowadays.

Then, like now, there were protesters, but Americans worked together to build a more perfect union. Back then, Americans began to break down barriers certain kinds of people faced in reaching the American dream.

Stories of similar collaboration and inclusion are told of people such as Alex MacWilliam, James T. Vocelle, Dan Richardson and Alma Lee Loy, who  worked to make Indian River County a better place to live.

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James Vocelle's lifelong accomplishments led  Gov. Bob Graham to declare Nov. 13, 1984 as  "Jim Vocelle Day" throughout Florida. Vocelle, center, accepts the proclamation as family members look on.  From the left are Commissioner of Agriculture Doyle Conner, Secretary of State George Firestone, Graham, State Insurance Commissioner Bill Gunter, Attorney General Jim Smith and  Commission of Education Ralph Turlington.
James Vocelle's lifelong accomplishments led Gov. Bob Graham to declare Nov. 13, 1984 as "Jim Vocelle Day" throughout Florida. Vocelle, center, accepts the proclamation as family members look on. From the left are Commissioner of Agriculture Doyle Conner, Secretary of State George Firestone, Graham, State Insurance Commissioner Bill Gunter, Attorney General Jim Smith and Commission of Education Ralph Turlington.

Board rooms deserve civility

They weren’t showboats. They didn’t say outrageous things to generate money for political campaigns.

They were effective at the art of persuasion. They built solid cases for why their positions were right, then effectively communicated them to all — people who initially and maybe continually disagreed, etc.

So it pained me to see a local mayor a few weeks ago in a public meeting demonize certain groups of people — environmentalists, people who live on the beach, county commissioners and staff.

It was painful because Jim Hill is one of Sebastian’s most successful politicians ever, a man who wears the city on his sleeve and who — at least by title, leader of the county’s biggest city — should be a role model.

His tirade, however, did not set a good example for the boys and girls of our community.

Enough about the mayor. While his actions might have been the latest example of local boorishness, it wasn’t the first. He’s been victimized himself by classless political opponents.

It's happened elsewhere in the county, including in the city of Vero Beach, where even Miss Loy was dissed by council members. Some Indian River County commissioners occasionally are rude to the people they serve and others they have to work with. I’ll never forget an Indian River County School Board member decades ago getting his comeuppance for berating a student's mother during a meeting.

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Spencer Hojdila, a fifth-grade student at Citrus Elementary School in Vero Beach, cheers a third inning play along side his father Ted Santana as the Sarasota Reds visited the Vero Beach Dodgers inside Holman Stadium in Vero Beach, Florida, Friday May 13, 2005. Hojdila was one of 78 children attending the annual Character Counts Night at the stadium, which honors six children in kindergarten through fifth grade from each of the 13 public elementary schools in Indian River County. "I think it's pretty neat and happy I got chosen" Hojdila said. "Happy my parents taught me to do the right things."
Spencer Hojdila, a fifth-grade student at Citrus Elementary School in Vero Beach, cheers a third inning play along side his father Ted Santana as the Sarasota Reds visited the Vero Beach Dodgers inside Holman Stadium in Vero Beach, Florida, Friday May 13, 2005. Hojdila was one of 78 children attending the annual Character Counts Night at the stadium, which honors six children in kindergarten through fifth grade from each of the 13 public elementary schools in Indian River County. "I think it's pretty neat and happy I got chosen" Hojdila said. "Happy my parents taught me to do the right things."

Six pillars of Character Counts

Thankfully, it’s the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps, in part, because Character Counts, a curriculum and message brought to Indian River County by Vero Beach businessman Bob Brackett with the support of the school system, volunteers and donors, was such a popular program here for many years.

How many of you remember its six pillars? Trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

They’re not too complicated to keep front and center.

Lack of civility is a problem nationally, too, witness the frequent coverage given to  controversial statements made by many of our U.S. representatives, from Marjorie Taylor Greene to Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Lauren Boebert to Ilhan Omar.

Just this past week, a Missouri Senate candidate made headlines when he released a campaign ad showing himself with a shotgun and other men in tactical gear, claiming they’re hunting for “RINOs” — Republicans in name only.

Maybe that’s the kind of headline you want to counter those from 2018 when you had to resign as Missouri governor under a cloud of scandals. Eric Greitens admitted he had an extramarital affair, but denied claims he “blackmailed his mistress by allegedly photographing her in a compromising position and threatening to disseminate the image,” according to the USATODAY Network.

Just because you’re elected doesn’t give you the moral authority to use your pulpit to bully others, disregard some of your constituents or attack others just to score political points.

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When it happens in our community, we should unite against it — just as we have in past elections when bullies, from in town and out of town, have unfairly disparaged local candidates.

We should be tired of the efforts by politicians, often on behalf of their parties or organizations, to sow division — over politics, culture, race, religion, geography, you name it. Sowing such division lets special-interest politicians and their minions run roughshod over the rest of us at the expense of the greater good.

At least in our own community, let’s reject divisive rhetoric, meet our neighbors and learn more about them.

Let’s stop whining, and instead start to work together to build a better community — one we will be proud for our ancestors to inherit.

This column reflects the opinion of Laurence Reisman. Support his work by subscribing to TCPalm. Contact him via email at larry.reisman@tcpalm.com, phone at 772-978-2223, Facebook.com/larryreisman or Twitter @LaurenceReisman

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Role models have place in Vero Beach, Sebastian government | Opinion