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Public institutions key to future U.S. success, Convo speaker says

<ic Schwartz, current dean of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, opened his convocation speech last Friday by presenting the importance of government and governance in managing America’s affairs.

Drawing on 25 years of senior public service experience at the U.S. Department of State, the National Security Council, the United Nations and the U.S. Congress, Schwartz said highly effective public institutions will be the key to tackling significant policy challenges, including globalization, erosion of social security and economic inequality.

In his presentation titled “Governance is the Solution: 21st Century Challenges and the Public Service Mission,” Schwartz proceeded to highlight that political institutions “must be seen as credible, legitimate and efficient.”

America’s history, he said, “is chockfull of examples when the political government and institutions played critical roles.” Schwartz referred to Hubert Humphrey’s partnership with political institutions in 1964 in outlawing segregation. Humphrey illustrated the potential and impact of cooperation between institutions, something Schwartz sees as having faded in recent decades.

He named several roles of the government, including supporting state universities as well as private colleges to an extent.

“Programs that now seem so basic and fundamenta—such as Social Security—were very controversial and critical when first proposed,” he said, noting that the government plays a key role in ensuring these programs can exist, albeit in a weakened state in today’s economy.
“Even the strong proponents of a laissez-faire system at least recognize the critical role of government to maintain the free model,” he said.
This crucial maintenance of integrity, he said, is made possible by government and cooperating political institutions.

He then discussed the current opinion of the government, noting that a poll in 2010 reported that only 29 percent of those surveyed disagreed with the sentiment that the government was the solution.

Schwartz argues that a key task is to “stop the demonization of the government, because it is a strong misconception fueled by misinformation.”

He also said it is not fair to exclude the interests of the public sector when deciding policy.

“Private interests should not dominate and inform policy,” he said.

In light of increased cuts that continue to hurt public sector employees, Schwartz said the work of public service continues to matter more than ever. Maintaining that the public perspective of the system is skewed, he argued that many are still grateful of public service work, stressing the importance of remaining engaged in the improvement of this sector. 

“We cannot afford to ignore the problems of the public sector —and we must resist the temptation to demonize the government,” he said.

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