The following is a commentary from Dr. Robert Smith, Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Illinois Springfield.
The holidays are here! Or soon will be. A time for family gatherings, religious celebrations, gift giving, holiday cheer with friends and wishing well to others as the year winds down.
It is clear to everyone that this may not be a typical year of Holiday and New Year’s festivities. Those who have been directly or indirectly impacted by COVID 19 may find it hard to celebrate anything this holiday period. Frankly, that’s a lot of us.
Moreover, because of the seeming rift in American politics these days, a bitter Presidential election, and the divide between partisan interests at the local, state and government levels, many citizens may not be in a mood to celebrate. Coupled with the distrust and confusion about politics, politicians, complicated policies and government institutions, there is even more doubts about what to actually celebrate this Holiday and New Year’s holiday.
I thought I’d share some thoughts involving a typical Christmas story that I grew up with from my family traditions. Of course, your Christmas stories and holiday traditions may be very different, are certainly special and meaningful, and carry significant religious meaning. May I ask you to please bear with me while I offer my personalized holiday story? My story just happens to involve Santa Claus. Accordingly, as a child, I wrote a letter to Santa Claus hoping for certain toys or other wishes.
I thought I might try again and I have drafted a letter for Santa Claus outlining what I’d like for Christmas this year!
First I hope you are doing well? And I hope you and Mrs. Claus and the elves are all COVID free! Do reindeers get COVID? I sure hope not. We need your deliveries and hearty holiday wishes now more than ever. Hearing your deep belly laugh this time of season would sure be a welcome distraction.
As you know, COVID has devastated many families. People are unemployed, don’t have enough food, can’t make their rent or mortgage payments. I hope you know things aren’t too well here in the US and in a lot of other places around the world. Can you help? Even if people don’t believe in you I hope you can assist everyone in need.
My wish list for Christmas is pretty straight forward:
1) Can you please fine tune the COVID Vaccine so that it is safe and ready to distribute as the New Year begins?
2) Can you please restore in people a sense of citizenship and what that means? Caring for one another, respecting one another and putting beside self-interest for the health and well-being of the community?
3) Restoring faith in representative government and democracy in the United States?
I hope that’s not too much to ask for? People have gone through enough in 2020. I realize you may need to call in a few favors to make this all happen, but we sure could use your influence to get everything in place to deliver on these Christmas wishes.
Your friend and believer in the magic of the holiday season for all citizens. Oh…Happy New Year’s too!!
On the COVID vaccine, just make sure the scientists and pharmaceutical companies and government get it right. “…doctors are facing daunting decisions around which patients should be first in line for the two authorized Covid-19 antibody treatments that may help keep high-risk patients out of the hospital. Both are in short supply.”
Also, trials of the Oxford vaccine show it stops 70% of people developing COVID symptoms. The data also shows a strong immune response in older people. There is also intriguing data that suggests perfecting the dose could increase protection up to 90%. As for the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine the big breakthrough came when Pfizer/BioNTech published its first results. They showed it stops more than 90% of people developing COVID symptoms.
But Santa, I know you know all this…just make sure to pack enough in your sleigh.
And about my second wish on citizenship, and maybe just to refresh your memory Santa here are a few definitions to help guide you, the first is citizenship as legal status, defined by civil, political and social rights. Here, the citizen is the legal person free to act according to the law and having the right to claim the law’s protection. It need not mean that the citizen takes part in the law’s formulation, nor does it require that rights be uniform between citizens.
The second definition considers citizens specifically as political agents, actively participating in a society’s political institutions.
The third definition refers to citizenship as membership in a political community that furnishes a distinct source of identity. (See https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/citizenship/#Defi if you need to!)
But even the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines citizenship “…as the qualities that a person is expected to have as a responsible member of a community.” To me that’s respecting our institutions of democracy, the will of the people and what’s best for the community.
One last reminder Santa, on my third wish about the whole democracy thing…please keep in mind some great words from some great men and figure out how to spread these important reminders:
“Good citizenship and defending democracy means living up to the ideals and values that make this country great.” - Ronald Reagan
“For in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, 'hold office'; every one of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.“ - John F. Kennedy.
Merry Christmas Santa,
Dean Robert Smith
Wishing you all the joys of the holiday season and promise of a new year filled with hope and promise and renewal!