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  • Writer's pictureLisa Maiale-Howell

When it comes to choosing our leaders, do so with a questioning attitude

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Election season is here! Whether it be local school board or town council, county, state or national races, our participation in the process is essential to this “great experiment” called democracy. In order that we make the best choices possible for our representation, we must all ask questions, get information from a wide range of sources, and listen to diverse perspectives to solving serious, oftentimes complicated problems that require complicated solutions.

In 1789, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”.

I’m sure Jefferson could not have imagined the wealth of resources we would have available in 2023. Yet like many, I am increasingly concerned that we tend to stick to information sources which are readily available and yes, that are congruent with our own philosophies.

Allowing ourselves to be spoon-fed a reflection of our own ideologies may feel satisfying and requires little to no work or thought. Yet, using critical thinking to evaluate and assess opposing views is essential. What is the “other side” talking about and might we learn something from them if we open our mind to other possibilities?

We have depended on our libraries, historically serving as resource repositories for schools and the community, to be well-stocked with diverse offerings to expand our minds and inform our thinking. As best as we can, we too need to be well-stocked with information about candidates so that we can make informed decisions when voting. Several years ago, local School Board member Kelli Fallon planted a seed in this very publication. She encouraged all of us to ask questions of our local candidates before voting and my husband and I decided to do just that. Since then, we have attempted to spend a few minutes with local school board candidates asking questions, hearing their perspectives and solutions, and expressing our hopes. Thus far, nearly all the candidates have been willing to meet with us and it has been our pleasure to spend time with fellow Hammontonians willing to throw their hats in the ring to support the education of our children. Several candidates were not willing to speak with us. I don’t vote for candidates not willing to take a few minutes with constituents. No one should. It’s the candidate’s job to answer questions and present their views. Once elected, they work for us!

Naturally, living in small towns makes it easier to connect with local candidates. Not that I am suggesting anyone should approach candidates with questions at the deli counter of the local market, but there are appropriate ways to connect with candidates on the local level and they should be willing to spend time with us. Even at the US Congressional level, there are ways to connect with our representatives and they do respond. I recall a phone call I received driving home from work one night from our congressman in response to less than favorable feedback I’d provided through his website. While we didn’t agree, I did appreciate the time he took to respond and offer his reasoning and perspective.

But largely on the state and national level, we must rely on journalists and analysis by political scientists and others way smarter than I am, on network and cable news, in printed news, digital press, the list goes on and on. And kudos to the Gazette for helping us with this via their recently announced (July 12, 2023) open-door policy to welcome all perspectives. We all need to practice with a questioning attitude as we approach the next election and beyond.

Do our homework, formulate our opinions based on active participation in evaluating the candidates and the issues, and sometimes even change course based on sound reasoning and thoughtful consideration of these issues and the people running to address them. So that ultimately, we will vote for the candidates having our best interests at heart, who will work diligently and ethically on issues impacting everyday lives in a manner aligned with our values and beliefs, and who sincerely want to make the world a little better for all of us.

Lisa Maiale-Howell, MSS, LCSW, has been employed at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia since 1997 and is currently the Regional Administrator for the Mid-Atlantic network of federally-funded Hemophilia Treatment Centers. Residing in Hammonton for 41 years, she recently participated on the Mayor’s Community Goodwill Committee, Hammonton Heart and Soul and serves as a Trustee of Oak Grove Cemetery.


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