My 1974 graduate school research project examined data from a second survey of potential American leaders. Those pursuing non-profit careers did so because they wanted to help people. Those in the private sector wanted to make money. No surprises so far. But the attitudes of those in government were divided. Only half of those in public service wanted to help people. The other half wanted to make money.
I subtitled my research paper with reference to Eddie Haskell, Wally Cleaver and The Beaver. As a child of the ‘50s, I had been a faithful watcher of Leave it to Beaver, which first aired on October 4, 1957. Its final episode was on June 20, 1963. Now admittedly, I was a fan of The Beaver because whenever he got into trouble, his parents would call him by his full name — Theodore. I could relate.
I had completed my MA with a thesis on political socialization; how we develop our political beliefs. I was then exploring potential doctorate thesis topics with my University of Chicago political scientist professor Kenneth Prewitt. He had submitted a proposal to the Ford Foundation to prepare a third round survey of these emerging leaders as the next step in a longitudinal study of their attitudes and career development. I was part of the small graduate student team that might have made that our careers. But I learned my first lesson about foundations, when Ford turned down the request. I started my community development career a few months later. Prewitt went on to become President Clinton’s director of the 2000 Census.
I’m not sure whether this graduate school paper is buried in any of my dusty boxes. I did find note cards (typed on a manual typewriter) from my research on Abraham Maslow’s principles of self-actualization and Christian Bay’s political theory that to meet human needs is the ultimate purpose of politics. I found my core political beliefs in this search.
The insincere politeness and weaseling meanness of the Eddie Haskell character seemed to evoke the “on-the-make” attitudes among the for-profit survey responders. While Beaver may have got into trouble often, it was usually because he was trying to help. So I surmised he would pursue a non-profit career.
It was his older brother Wally who was most likely to consider a public sector career with the intent to help others but then confront the temptations of also chasing the money. The unanswered question remains: would Wally be more influenced by his friend Eddie or his brother Beaver? Would lobbyists carry the day or would Congressman Walter Cleaver serve the needs of his constituents?
The 114th Congress convenes January 6. The 113th Congress was second only to the 112th Congress in being the least productive. Will this streak continue in failing to serve our needs? Are we again cursed with the “best” government that money can buy?
I remember the TV shows usually had Wally siding more often at the end with Beaver. But then that was the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.
We “Beavers” should resolve this year to find new ways to convince our brothers & sisters in Congress to forgo the money and better meet the needs of the American people in these still challenging times. I don’t know about you but I still haven’t found the economic justice that I’m looking for.
What I did find among my graduate student note cards are the appropriate lyrics for this New Year’s blog:
And you still can hear me singin’ to the people who don’t listen,
To the things that I am sayin’, prayin’ someone’s gonna hear.
And I guess I’ll die explaining how the things that they complain about,
Are things they could be changin’, hopin’ someone’s gonna care.
I was born a lonely singer, and I’m bound to die the same,
But I’ve got to feed the hunger in my soul.
And if I never have a nickel, I won’t ever die ashamed.
‘Cos I don’t believe that no-one wants to know.
— Kris Kristofferson, To Beat The Devil