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The Importance of Priorities in Politics

Purpose & Prosperity Conference Congratulations to Alice Browning of Houghton College, the runner-up in our Purpose & Prosperity blog contest! By Alice Browning I thoroughly enjoyed my time at AEI headquarters this month at the Values & Capitalism 2012 Purpose & Prosperity conference for undergraduate students. Not only were we treated with exemplary hospitality, but were exposed to a number of experts ranging on such topics as the economy’s relation to the disintegration of the family, stewardship of the environment, “freedom feminism,” the moral argument for free enterprise, and the list goes on and on. We were also given the opportunity to meet politicians like Congressman Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, and Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas. It was an incredibly informational time of learning with exceptional professionals and intellectuals. One theme that was prominent throughout the week was the importance of priorities. What are our priorities and what are they based on? As Christians, first and foremost this is question of integrity. Our priorities determine our values, and in turn, our actions. Just before attending the AEI conference I was traveling in Sierra Leone, Africa, with a professor and a number of students from Houghton College. We had a conversation which I thought very relevant to this topic. “Time is not money. It is valuable, but more than money, it is life.” Congressman Pitts highlighted this point when he talked about prioritizing his time. God is first, then family, friends, then his job. He mentioned William Wilberforce, the great abolitionist and British politician who was behind the end of the slave trade in England, who always managed to take daily time for prayer and a weekly sabbath. Congressman Pitts tries to do the same, because he realizes that having the right priorities is a big step towards successful politics. Governor Brownback also highlighted the need for guidance and direction in his life and politics. God has to come first in order for the heart and mind to be focused on what brings him glory. Brownback repeatedly said that “God is my number one constituent.” It is truth that brings glory to God. The only way to discover and pursue that truth is to pursue God and his holiness in everything we do. In his talk “Finding your vocation in DC,” John Cusey, director of AEI government relations, shared about his experiences on Capitol Hill where he worked in the US House of Representatives and the Department of Health and Human Services for a number of years. Cusey gave us a lot of advice, but he also mentioned that in politics, “people are always for something, but it comes down to their priorities.” In the game of politics, at the end of the day, it’s a person’s priorities that make their decisions. As politically minded people eager to be involved, it is our priorities and values which will drive us to persevere when we are frustrated, battling for what we believe to be right. As political scientists, economists, businessmen and scholars, we must not forget to ask the philosophical question, “Why?” This allows us to relate our faith to our profession. Why is free enterprise a moral system? Because it reflects moral principles of free-will and choice. It reflects fairness and equality in that people are given equal opportunities, but not subjected to equal results. Finally, along with theme of prioritizing, was the conclusion that the right priorities reflect a mixture of passion and humility. As public servants or aspiring public servants, our greatest role model is the greatest servant of all time, Christ Jesus. We will look to him as we prioritize our lives and politics.