When Americans are asked what characteristics they are seeking in a politician, they often respond with “integrity, honesty, leadership” or “problem solver.” Many also place a high value on a politician willing to do what’s right for their country regardless of personal interest.
These frequently noted characteristics are those expected of and instilled in every military member who serves in the United States Armed Forces, and nonpartisan group, Veterans Campaign is aware of this. The organization knows that many veterans have the qualities Americans desire in their elected officials, and are now educating and encouraging these veterans to run for office.
Seth Lynn, Veterans Campaign executive director and Marine Corps Reserve captain, stated that the organization encourages military members to run for office by educating them on how to run for federal, state, and local office.
Veterans Campaign has no political or ideological agenda. The organization simply wants to educate military members so that these trained leaders may potentially further serve their country through public office.
“Military service is terrific preparation for being an elected leader,” Lynn said. “It puts people in situations where success demands an ability to put aside your differences with a group of incredibly diverse people with different backgrounds and opinions and from different parts of the country…and to do what’s best for the country.”
Due to the Hatch Act, military members have strict guidelines regarding partisan politics which they must abide by. Although service members are encouraged to vote, they are not allowed to solicit or receive political contributions or engage in political activity while on duty, in a government office, or while in military uniform.
Because of these restrictions, most veterans don’t know how to run for office.
“You have this great leadership experience, but at the same time, little campaign knowledge,” Lynn said. “That is where Veterans Campaign is trying to bridge the gap, to take this group of people who would make outstanding elected leaders, but really don’t know much about actually getting there, and giving that extra step they need to become that next generation of outstanding leaders.”
Lynn also noted the national trend of public support for military members since the 9/11 attacks: “There is a huge amount of respect and admiration nearly all American have for the young men and women who are going abroad and defending the country.”
In many regards, the military is a self-chosen group that has proven its willingness “to volunteer and go risk their lives for the United States,” stated Lynn.
“And that is a terrific group of people you would want to have as leaders,” he added. “And we are beginning to see that America recognizes that and wants those type of people to be elected leaders.”
The idea for Veterans Campaign came about 2 years ago while Lynn was attending a workshop for women wishing to run for public office at Princeton University. The first Veterans Campaign workshop was held at Princeton with later workshops being help at George Washington University.
Veterans Campaign’s next workshop will be held on February 11 and 12 at George Washington University. The success of veterans in recent elections will be the workshop’s primary topic, and several veteran Congress members are expected to speak. There will also be a presentation designed to help participants “bulletproof their service record” as well as a “campaign boot camp.”
Lynn believes that having more veterans in office will benefit the entire country.
“You really do have people who have a code of ethics that allows them to put the country before themselves,” he said. “Everybody on all sides of the political spectrum believes we need more of that in Washington right now. We have a huge amount of potential for phenomenal elected leaders that we are not tapping into as much as we could, and we will have a much better situation in our government when we utilize and tap into this resource of phenomenal leaders.”
Photo thanks to kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) under creative common license on Flickr.