Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Whoever Desires to Be First Among You

All too often, public officials become pompous and arrogant, thinking that they are the only person who can do their job and taking credit for all that happens. At least the good stuff. They are smooth talkers and self puffers, but they forget that their job is to serve. They also seem to have forgotten the words of Jesus that "many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first."

As the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20 reminds us, "whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant." A few years ago, I saw one of our Fayetteville Aldermen working with the crew of one
the city recycling trucks that collects our curbside recycling, separating plastic, glass, cans, newspapers, and cardboard from the bins. It made a lasting impression on me that an elected official would seek information about our recycling stream by serving without pay as part of the collection crew.

Today's Northwest Arkansas Times captured a similar moment on the University of Arkansas campus. There is a front page photograph of new UA Chancellor David Gearhart welcoming new and returning students. He is not wearing academic regalia or even a coat and tie; he is not behind a podium bragging about himself and all his accomplishments. Gearhart is wearing a baseball cap and a t-shirt, helping students unload their cars and move into the dorms. That is student centered institutional leadership, and that is the appropriate attitude of a true public servant.

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