Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Maturity of Mind and Public Service

Every public servant finds inspiration for delivery and ethical conduct in his or her own way. Before going into public service, I stumbled upon the words of Dag Hammarskjold delivered in June 14th, 1955 at a lecture at John Hopkins University. Since then, these words, reprinted in his posthumously published notebook, The Markings, have partly embodied the theme of my adult life and have become an important source of personal strength and an indispensable basis for the discharge of public service. I quote a few passages:
"In the flourishing literature on the art of life there is much talk about that rare quality: maturity of mind…it is reflected in an absence of fear, in recognition of the fact that fate is what we make it…. the dignity of man, as a justification of our faith in freedom, can be part of our living creed only if we revert to a view of life where maturity of mind counts for more than outward success and where happiness is no longer to be measured in quantitative terms….there is no formula to teach us how to arrive at maturity and there is no grammar for the language of inner life….the rest is silence because the rest is something that has to be resolved between a man and himself…you may be surprised by an approach to international service and to the problems raised by present-day developments in international life, which, like mine today, is concerned mainly with problems of personal ethics.

The so called realists may regard what I have tried to say as just so many fine words, only tenuously related to everyday life and political action. I would challenge this criticism.

The thoughts I have shared with you are conclusions from a most practical experience. Politics and diplomacy are no play of will and skill where results are independent of the character of those engaging in the game. Results are determined, not by superficial ability but by the consistency of the actors in their efforts and by the validity of their ideals.
Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, there is no intellectual activity which more ruthlessly tests the solidity of a man than politics. Apparently, easy successes with the public are possible for a juggler, but lasting results are achieved only by the patient."

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