Ken Elston
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There is a difference between the tools we use to accomplish the good we have to do and the values that inform what we do and define our priorities.

Tools like budgets, rules of order, and politics are often limiters. Budgets are finite. Rules necessarily define process and order, but they often defy common sense interpretation. And, in consideration of that which often defies common sense interpretation, politics can lead to team and consensus building, but, and sometimes more often, politics divide us. At worst, politics actually create an atmosphere of dislike and disrespect. History is full of this ugly use of politics, and we seem to be in an era that will be characterized by future generations as limited by divisive politics.

Defining shared values, on the other hand, brings us together. Defining shared values is harder than defining personal values, because shared values have to stand up to the test of actually being shared. It is well worth doing. Shared values are not limiters. Shared values represent guiding principles that help us define priorities. Values are the guide rails that allow us to assess our reasoning and decisions that help us reach our goals.

I had the honor of celebrating Eid, the end of Ramadan, with friends at the Manassas Muslim Association. It was a time of prayer and reflection centered on community and Selam, or Peace. In that time, I considered the Mosque’s motto: “Educate, Enlighten, and Empower Our Next Generation.” It seems one good way to order those values that underlie policy and decision-making.

Education is the most important investment we make. Enlightenment requires transparent and information-driven communication. Empowerment implies inclusive engagement and mutual trust. Our next generation is the future. If we aren’t doing all we can for the next generation, then why are we doing it?

Let’s make certain we are using the tools at our disposal to do good things for our next generation. Let’s define that good through shared values. Let’s set an example as we set the stage for our next generation.

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