10.24.2008

WHERE THE EVIDENCE LEADS

I had the honor of not only meeting but introducing Richard Thornburgh, the speaker at a breakfast I attended at the Fels Institute of Government this week, and the Governor of Pennsylvania from 1979 to 1987. I knew a few things about Governor Thornburgh from my working relationship with his son David, who founded The Enterprise Center, where I worked for ten years. But I was instructed to check out Governor Thornburgh on Wikipedia, which I did. There I found two interesting tidbits: 1) he's recently written a book on Puerto Rico, and 2) he was on the Ali G show.

Alas, neither of these items came to mind as I made my opening remarks. What I did say is, in my mind, more important: that Governor Thornburgh is one of the most appropriate public figures that Fels could have chosen, given his commitment to following the evidence and to the political process.

Those two values happen to be the two main things I learned from my time at Fels. They are principles that often seem in conflict: is getting things done about finding the right answer or working the situation politically to your advantage? It's a false dichotomy, of course. In the public realm, there is no such thing as "the right answer," although that should not stop us from being as data-driven and analytical as possible. And everything, including analysis, is political, not in the negative sense of the word but in the neutral sense, in that in this country we decide things based on a participatory process.

Felsonians continue to thrive in all professions because we understand how to do both. And I am glad I was able to meet and hear from someone this week who has practiced those principles so effectively and so honorably in service to his state and country for so long. Thanks for your time, Governor Thornburgh.
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