Lesson of 2020 was one of personal responsibility
If years can have themes, 2020 was the year of personal responsibility.
Over the past 12 months, and more than 100 editorials, the message of personal responsibility was repeated time and again on The Star News editorial pages.
The year started with a politically-motivated attack in the courts on voter registration lists and removing people from them. While decrying this clumsy attempt at backdoor disenfranchisement, The Star News
cautioned that it is the personal responsibility of every voter to ensure their registration is up to date.
As the special elections geared up to fill the 7th Congressional District seat vacant with the resignation of Sean Duffy and local elections for city council and school board offices, the message was for voters to take personal responsibility and educate themselves about the candidates and issues and make informed choices.
The Star News again urged personal responsibility to all area residents to fill out their census forms and make sure all Wisconsinites are counted. With the census determining everything from representation at the national level to how federal dollars are spent, it is essential to have a complete and accurate count.
As the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country early last spring, the theme of personal responsibility took on new gravity. Area residents were called on to make sure that churches and other local nonprofit institutions were able to continue their missions to serve the community. Individuals were called on to exercise personal responsibility in following “Safer at Home” regulations and follow the ever-developing best practices for preventing the transmission of COVID-19, from social distancing and washing hands frequently to wearing a mask whenever indoors. Personal responsibility became more than just looking out for what is in your best interest, but also how each person can impact those around them.
The ongoing pandemic also spawned a number of other issues, from facing the reality of working remotely for area government employers and businesses to the discussions on how to safely restart the school year and the need to reimagine annual events. Through those debates the issues came down to personal responsibility of weighing risks, making choices and seizing opportunities. The challenge of a pandemic is not so much as simply surviving, but in finding ways to thrive and continue to grow as individuals and as a community.
The common theme of the year continued with the need to sort through the growing amount of misinformation being spread through social media, particularly around politics and social issues. It is the responsibility of every person to verify before they share and to remember that in all things extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. There were times when failure of elected officials to exercise their responsibility drew warranted criticism such as Assembly Leader Robin Vos and the rest of the legislature sitting on their hands and collecting paychecks for much of the year while doing nothing but complaining about the decisions being made by the governor and other people showing up for work every day. Elected officials taking personal responsibility also drew praise such as Sen. Jerry Petrowski working swiftly in response to a community member’s concern to get a railroad crossing repaired before someone got hurt or the members of the Medford Morning Rotary Club and police chief Chad Liske stepping up to make Medford a safer community for children and others crossing Hwy 64.
The lesson of 2020 is that decisions come down to each individual and their willingness to take personal responsibility, not only for themselves, but for their entire community. Communities and nations thrive when people stand up and take responsibility, shouldering the burden and building for a brighter future. Communities and nations fail when people shirk that responsibility, turn their backs and become apathetic.