Speaker: Good public policy starts at home

Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Anne Deaton, was the keynote speaker at the Women Landowners Ag Conference. (Chris Post)

With so much going on in the government it is important for farmers to make their voices heard and their needs known.

That was the message of Anne Deaton, keynote speaker at the 10th annual Women Landowners Ag Conference, who reminded those in attendance that public policy begins at home.

Deaton said that parents model civic behavior and civility for their children. In discussing policy matters around the dinner table, they pass on their values and show children that it is important to be involved.

"At the kitchen table, out children can learn a lot about civil discourse," she said. "It's not overstating the case to say good changes in policy are due to public input and bad changes are the result of a lack of citizen input," she said.

Deaton said that over the years she has been involved in a number of public policy changes dealing with health care, autism treatment and exploitation of the elderly. She said the most common question that arises in these fights is "why didn't good public policy exist in the first place?"

The simple answer is that good policy takes time and effort that people generally aren't prepared to invest until it affects them personally. The key to changing this trend is for people to become involved and raise their voices, Deaton said.

The latter part is critical because representatives in government do listen and respond to what their constituents say. Deaton said recounted how she gave a very persuasive presentation to one lawmaker who admitted that he was impressed, but dismissed her by saying the issue wasn't important because he hadn't heard about it from a single person in his district.

Deaton urged those in attendance to become educated and vocal about important issues.

"Wherever you stand on health care, it is still a critical time for policy discussion," she said. "There is a crescendo of voices rising to the occasion and asking fundamental questions."

Those who wish to have an impact on public policy must also learn to persevere, Deaton said, noting that efforts for change are not usually successful without a struggle.

"It will take the full courage of our conviction to make change," she said.

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