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Where Do You Look For Hope and Inspiration?

Thursday, Sep. 20, 2012

Some days it can be depressing to be in public service. The economic picture is bleak, headlines are not always kind, and stories of corruption seem to dominate the news. But there is hope – in the students of our colleges and universities.

This week I spoke with a class at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California in Berkeley. These students, pursuing masters in public policy and doctoral degrees, are passionate about a cross-section of our most pressing problems: education, fiscal reform, health care policy, environmental issues, the criminal justice system, and more.

My session was one of several I do each year—for Dr. David Kirp’s class in Berkeley, for Governor Michael Dukakis when he teaches at UCLA, and for undergraduate classes here at Santa Clara University. In November I will be talking about government ethics at Yeshiva University in New York.

My purpose is two-fold. First, to share with students the practical side of public life – what is like to run for office, face and think through ethical dilemmas, build a culture of ethics in an organization, and enhance public trust.

The second reason is more personal. I enjoy the intellectual curiosity, the stimulating questions, and the hint of skepticism. But most of all, I love to look at each and every one of these students and imagine a mayor, city manager, policy advisor, governor – maybe one might even go into government ethics.

The future is in the hands of our students, and they provide both the hope and inspiration that keeps me so committed to good government.

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