Don’t be negative by default — push your own reset button

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I agreed to cover the Garamendi Town Hall meeting in Winters for the Express on Saturday, Aug. 19, since Express editor Debra was going to be out of town. I hadn’t thought much about it — figured it would be a couple of hours at the event and then some time writing it up, another weekend writing in order to meet the Monday morning deadline.

As the day grew closer, I wondered how many people were going to be at St. Anthony Parish Hall. Would there be a mob, other papers from the big city, like Davis, covering the event? Channel 3 from Sacramento? They come out here for fires, why not a congressman?

So, I got there very early to make sure I got a seat with good line of sight and sound and a way of taking notes my old fashioned way — writing on a tablet. Wally Pearce, president of the Winters Senior Foundation that sponsored the event, had set up a VIP table for me and Lura Meyer, the photographer — up front, to the right of the lectern and with a blue tablecloth. Wow, this is the Ritz!

Very early, there was no crowd. Just a few people setting up chairs, organizations getting their information tables set up, half bottles of water were ready in the foyer. Three or four people in suits (the men) and business light dress (the women) were setting up a sound system, a couple of easels, a big screen projecting the logo of the United States House of Representatives and other trappings of power.

I asked one of the men, who was setting up the audio system, if he worked for Garamendi and he responded that he did and he had the best job in the world – working for a person he admired and respected. Well, you don’t hear that every day. I found out later, he was John Evalle, USAF, Ret., District Director of Garamendi’s California offices.

A woman came over and introduced herself as Debbie Gibbs, Deputy Director at Garamendi’s Davis office. She told me Garamendi had had two meetings that morning, then this event, and was scheduled to be in Fairfield for something that evening. She said, “I go where he goes.” She has worked for him for the past seven years. She said, “He believes that being a public servant is a privilege.”

The last time I heard that sentiment was when candidate Jerry Brown was debating Meg Whitman prior to being elected governor of California. He said the same thing: “Being a public servant is a high calling.”

I wonder how many people in office have ever had that thought? I suspect we know quite a few of them, right here in Winters.

Finally, it was close to 1:30 p.m. and Garamendi was at the back of the hall and Evalle announced that Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry would introduce Garamendi, which she did in a couple of minutes. Garamendi made about five minutes of opening remarks, and then asked for questions from the audience.

For the next two hours, our representative listened to the questions and answered them.

Garamendi listened. Do we know anymore how strange that is? He let everyone ask their own question, in their own way, including telling their own story if they wanted to, or talking about their background, or saying why they were worried. They were asking, question after question, to hear what Garamendi, who votes for them in Washington, is doing to help them sleep better at night.

Garamendi didn’t interrupt them (except once or twice, when the questioner was starting to be repetitious). He didn’t raise his voice. He didn’t point fingers. He never said a mean or ugly word.

Does this sound like the “public debate” we have become accustomed to? The shouting matches that echo from TV screens of panels of political pundits?

He listened. Then he answered the questions — to the point. He answered what the person was asking! How remarkable is that? No name calling. No sound bites, just a lot of information, and background, statistics, description of the working out of compromises and backstories of what goes on in a partisan Congress (not pretty when you are not the party in power).

He talked about internal politics of North Korea, the Department of Defense budget, statistics on California unemployment, the machinations to get an immigration reform bill through, the importance of agriculture to our state, the country, the necessity for a stronger merchant marine. He gave information and insights about a wide variety of topics that are not highlighted in the usual media we hear and see.

The audience was similarly respectful. The questions were well thought out, to the point and ranged over a wide variety of concerns, most of them not personal.

The only question I heard him sidestep was the one a woman from Woodland asked, “What are the Democrats going to do to win in 2018?”

As you can probably tell by now, I came away from this assignment impressed. Impressed not only with this individual, but with hope for the state of democracy in the United States.

This was the first time in months that I have heard people talking to one another. Talking civilly about things that matter to them personally and their concerns for the future, for their children and grandchildren, and the world at large.

My take-home lesson? Talk to one another! Listen to one another! Without name-calling. Get involved. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

It is so easy to be negative.

Negativity is our Human Default Button.

Be positive! Do something helpful!

Push your own Reset Button!

 

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Elysha Hiscox

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