Hopefully, there are still some folks around who recall the children’s book “Where’s Waldo.”
It was one of my favourite books during the start of my teaching career. It was a North American take on a British book called, “ Where’s Wally.”
The book by illustrator Martin Handford was released in 1987 and became an instant success. Here is what made the book so fascinating to me: The illustrator did an exceptionally good job introducing readers to Waldo– the main character and a distinctively dressed man. On each of the two-page illustrated scenes of different locations, Waldo is located somewhere amongst the crowded scene.
Readers are asked to look at each scene to locate the lost traveler – Waldo.
Each scene is accompanied by a postcard from Waldo where he introduces the scene to the reader and comments on his travels.
Waldo then sets out on his journey, equipped with 12 items to help him on his travels.
At the end of the book, there is a checklist of other things that Waldo wants the reader to find on each page.
Readers are asked to go back to the beginning, re-explore each scene, then locate the other objects, gag items and people in each picture.
All-in-all, “Where’s Waldo?” made for an interesting time, particularly because they did not make it easy for the reader to find Waldo or his clues.
I know everyone is probably asking where the hell am I going with this talk about a children’s book.
So let me apply my literary landing gear. And I have a question for you.
As observers of the political landscape, have you found any similarities between the character Waldo and many of the people who run for office?
Let me be more specific.
Have you had any trouble locating many of the people who ran for office, especially after they lose an election? I can tell you that I have.
For far too many times I see people who claim to be public servants, or who seek to represent the community as public servants, totally avoid the public as servants.
Please permit me to be a bit more pellucid.
One can always tell a tree by the fruit it bears. If individuals who run for public office were truly public servants, they would continue to serve the community even if they lose their election.
Within the past two years or two months do any of you honestly remember even half of the folks who knocked on your door, sent you some literature, called your house, showed up at your church, that were running for office?
If you were to be completely honest, you would acknowledge that you have not seen any of those folks in your community, or even heard from any of them since they last solicited your vote.
Where did they disappear to? Where’s Waldo? Where have all the folks who claim they can do the job better than the incumbent, or who claim to be better than the other candidates, or who claim that they can take care of all your needs and issues, or who profess to be a voice for the voiceless, gone?
Why have they all-of-a-sudden become mute?
I am in no way a savant or a soothsayer, but I will tell you where most of them are: Licking their wounds and trying to figure out what is next.
More importantly, I will tell you where most of them are not….in the community. They are not working in the community for the people, because they never were in the community working for the people.
They were just providing lip service, in order to hold a position of perceived power and authority.
If they really cared about the community, then where are they now? Are they being a public servant, by avoiding the public when they are not running for public office?
Trust me, I am not letting any of the elected officials, off the hook. They have even more of a responsibility to serve the public.
As a member of the Black community with myriads of inequities, I believe we should challenge all political candidates, both past and present, as well as those in public office, not to go into hiding like Waldo.
Do not make your presence so hard to identify that people stop looking for you and forget about you.
However, even if you do decide to go into hiding and fall off of the grid, at least give us all some clues so we know how to find you when we need help.
You do not have to be an elected official to make a difference in your community or to be a public servant. All you have to do is make a difference and serve the public.
Not only will the people see your good work, they will also remember it and that may be what helps you get elected next time.
I challenge everyone who professes to want to make a difference as a true public servant to stay involved, stay engaged and stay connected to the communities and the people who reside there.
Do not be like most of these fly-by-night political candidates: You know the ones I’m referring to, here today and gone tomorrow.
Be better. Be different. Be a difference maker. Be a true public servant – with or without the title.
Aleuta– The struggle continues.