Former Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker talks about who inspired him to take up public service and why he is so concerned about the state of American democracy.
Q. Tell us about a person who guided or inspired you in the ideals of public service.
I'm happy to describe a mentor, Augie Everett. He was a wonderful local leader in my hometown, Middletown Township in Bucks County, who inspired me to consider volunteer public service and my first victorious run as a candidate for township supervisor.
Augie was tremendously comfortable with citizen involvement and public engagement, whether at in a formal municipal meeting or seated at a resident's kitchen table. I remember one sunny Saturday when township Supervisor Everett was walking a neighborhood, with blueprints in hand, inviting individual homeowners affected by a particular streets project to review the plans and their impact. He would open himself to their questions and do his best to give factual, plain talk responses.
Augie's availability that day stands as a vivid memory for me and a wonderful example of a public official who welcomed on-the-spot engagement with citizens. May Augie rest in peace.
Tell us about one thing that worries you about how democracy is working in our state or nation.
Relative to the functioning of our participatory democracy, one of my top worries is the sense of powerlessness and alienation among the American citizenry. Throw in the condition that growing numbers of U.S. citizens believe that much of politics is corrupt and that public officeholders reflect only well-funded special interests.
The end product is a dispirited American citizen who feels impotent resulting in presidential elections, where the turnout nationwide is often below 63 percent of eligible voters.
Citizens exercising their right to vote helps maintain the health of our democratic republic; without citizen participation our democracy and these United States will weaken.
Mark Schweiker has also served as a Middletown Township supervisor, a Bucks County commissioner and lieutenant governor.