Civic Life Means Accountability…for All of Us

I still cannot believe what I saw in our nation’s capital this week. The throngs of rioters who swarmed the Capitol building ensure that, for the first time in our nation’s history, a peaceful transfer of power is no longer something Americans can take for granted.

Former President George W. Bush put it well:

“I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement. The violent assault on the Capitol … was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes.”

It was an honor to serve under President Bush, both as U.S. Secretary of Education and White House Chief Domestic Policy Advisor. Like me, he believed strongly that all of us, wherever we are and whatever we do in life, must take our responsibilities seriously and hold ourselves accountable for living up to them.

As leaders, every last one of us has the responsibility to help our democratic republic function. That means, in part, giving our citizens the information and tools they need to sustain it. And that requires a true commitment to civic engagement and civil discourse.

Texas 2036 was created, in no small part, around those very ideals of civic life. We exist to bring more focus, attention and action to the weedy long-term issues that will define Texas’ future as our state approaches its bicentennial in 15 years. We seek to build a constituency around data-driven planning and other essential priorities — things like schools and universities, health care, infrastructure, and government performance. These issues sometimes have trouble rising above the tumultuous controversies of the moment, but the actions we take on them — or don’t take on them — will help shape the lives of future generations of Texans.

Addressing these long-term challenges today will help ensure that Texas remains the best place to live and work tomorrow.

Episodes like Wednesday’s violent assault on the Capitol undermine democracy and endanger the republic, and that danger is both short- and long-term. Yes, it weakens us as a nation in the eyes of our allies and our adversaries, and it disrupts government in ways that exacerbate immediate challenges.

But it also makes it harder to come together and find solutions that ensure our children and grandchildren have the same opportunities that we did.

Finding those solutions is a responsibility we all share. We have to fulfill that duty — and we must create real accountability for any leader who fails to do the same.

Margaret Spellings is President and CEO of Texas 2036. A nationally-recognized leader in public policy, she was previously president of the 17-institution University of North Carolina System, U.S. Secretary of Education and White House Chief Domestic Policy Advisor, Senior Policy Advisor to then-Governor George W. Bush, and President of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.