October 27, 2010 4:39 PM
The Thoreau Thunderbirds came to see me this morning. The Thoreau Elementary School second graders (around 60 of them with their teachers and some parents in tow) visited the Mayor's Office to learn a little about local government and to ask their mayor some tough questions.
I was asked if I liked being mayor (yes), how I got the job (won an election), what I liked most about the job (getting around the city), how many years I'd been in Madison (since 1979, I had them do the math) and if I had a dog (yes, but it's a complicated relationship), among other questions. And they left me with sheets of paper containing promises they made to the city. Most promised to recycle or pick-up litter while others said they'd be kind to animals. Some promised to give money to good causes, and others said they would keep the lakes clean or just tell the truth. One little girl promised to send me a letter about all the things that need fixing (I was glad she wasn't old enough to vote).
I'm grateful to their teachers for assigning that exercise. To paraphrase a famous quote, it would be a better world if we spent more time asking what we can promise to do for our community than what the broader community owes us. In truth, Madison does pretty well on that score. We rate high in charitable giving, volunteerism and civic engagement. But the question answered by the Thunderbirds is a good one for each of us to consider for ourselves: what promise would we make to our community?