Opinion and Forefront

SWAYZE: Stay the good course on conservatism

November 26, 2011

Sue SwayzeLeadership requires more than managing the status quo. It brings together vision, inspiration, courage and focus. It often navigates troubled waters of dissent and, in the case of last year’s legislative session … bad behavior.

Leadership prevails if it is wrought with integrity and born from passion. Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

The Indiana Family Institute recently graduated 18 outstanding conservative leaders from its Hoosier Congressional Policy Leadership Series, for which I serve as coordinator. I am proud of this, the sixth class of bright, committed professionals who are jumping into the vortex of today’s Hoosier policy issues.

Our working definition of leadership for these exciting classes is “influencing others toward a common or shared goal.” We make a distinction between common (public purposes, such as reforming schools or building a road) and shared (private or personal).

They’ve got energy, brains and an impressive resume of growing influence. And they’re just getting started. Liberals beware!

As I see the freshness in their commitment to conservative principles and passion to make a difference in their beloved Indiana, I am moved to challenge our elected officials to stay the course.

Thanks to Mitch, unlike most other states, we’re in the black without raising taxes and we’ve got money in the bank. One year ago, the excitement was electric and the mandate was clear: Keep Indiana healthy with continued fiscal constraint and a return to our family values.

And return they have! Today, Indiana leads the way in education reform, with a voucher program and other financial incentives for families, and accountability for schools and teachers. We were honored with the distinction of “The Reformiest State” by the Fordham Institute’s Education Idol contest.

We led the country as the most pro-life state, with ground-breaking policies aimed at patient safety and keeping taxpayer dollars out of abortion clinics. We may have a successful trip to the Supreme Court.

Add a responsible state budget after adept handling of a five-week walkout and you’ve got strong hands guiding this often torturous process. Onward!

As the 2012 legislative session draws near, let Republican leadership in the House and Senate recall the thrill of victory and horizons of opportunity that were handed to them by the voters last fall. They aptly led the 2011 session toward historic outcomes with a common purpose and shared goals: the values that Hoosier voters sought to return to Indiana’s policy debates.

Pshaw on the current din of commentary that last session was overreaching with extremist policies and that they should rest on their heels in the 2012 session. Stay the course.

Run, Mitch, run across the finish line of your final session! Give us even more of your hallmark efforts that will have lasting consequences for government efficiency, quality and service. Squeeze out the last drop. Your legacy will be stunning.

Now is the time to keep the pedal down and keep the conservative agenda in play. House and Senate Republicans can work with the governor again to unleash another basket of issues that will make last session’s historic gains only the first bookend of a term marked by strong conviction, courage and visionary leadership.

Right-to-work and other incentives for job creation, economic development opportunities, continued school reform, an overhaul of the criminal justice approach and maybe even a crack at entitlements are all potent seeds from which our economy and our communities can grow.

This is no time to pause and wait to test the political winds. That will come soon enough. For Indiana to keep growing and moving forward, especially in these challenging and even frightening times, bold leadership is necessary.

And if the folks in charge won’t lead, we’re launching another group of strong leaders ready to step in and move us forward toward a stronger economy, stronger families and stronger communities.•

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Swayze leads the Indiana Family Institute’s Hoosier Congressional Policy Leadership Series and has held numerous lobbying positions with not-for-profit organizations. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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