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OP-ED “Who Do You Want To Be A Statesman or Just an Ordinary Politician?”
OP-ED submitted by Mike Zitterich of Sioux Falls

Politician vs Statesman - many people confuse the two words to mean, one or the other, but in reality, based on my research, "WE" are all politicians within the American Governing Process (AGP). America was founded on ideals and concepts of the ancient Greeks, of whom were led by the likes of Plato and Aristotle. But, if you refer to yourself as a "Statesman" you are saying that you are placing your community's needs above your own.

So what is the difference between a Politician and a Statesman?

Let's review the origins and meaning of each term-

Politics derived from the ancient Greek word "politeia" – means: POLIS – City-State

and from the verb politeuomai – which means "I am living as an active citizen of the polis."

If "Polis" means city-state, and politeuma is a verb that means we are living as active citizens of the city-state, then we are all doing so in order to protect our own life, liberty, and prosperity as it relates to the overall interests of the community? As my friend and statesman Bill Nees, a truck driver and former presidential candidate (2008) from the State of Georgia once asked me-

"Are we not all politicians today? If, at the very best, we wish to protect our own self interests as they relate to the everyday needs of the community we reside in... Wouldn't we commonly adopt rules, codes, and means of governing said community, in order to preserve to ourselves the right to life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness?"

Many confuse the word (politician) to mean having a "career" in politics, but I would argue that not all who run for public office or have a career in politics are in fact politicians. Rather, "every citizen" of this city and State is a politician, by root definition, for he or she plays an active role in their government with the intent to protect his or her interests. IF, a "politician" is someone who will protect his/her own interest, then ( as Mr Nees suggests) are we not ALL politicians by definition?



Conversely, a "statesman" is defined as someone versed in the principles or art of government. A wise, skillful, and respected political leader who is actively engaged in conducting the business of a government or in shaping its policies.

A "Statesman" is someone who places the interest of others above their own, and does not make a career out of politics, but actively works among political leaders to keep the people engaged within their governing process. A statesman does not make a career out of politics, but yet, remains engaged in the process or actively participates in the process of which the people play a direct role in their government. Statesman, by its own definition, means "all the people who wish to actively take the lead within our governing system."This could be an elected official, or could simply be a concerned citizen, who actively steps up to play a direct or indirect role in the democratic process today.

James Madison, the author of the Constitution wrote in Federalist #10 (1787) – "It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm: Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all, without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another, or the good of the whole."

Therefore, a Statesman is someone who chooses not to serve his/her own interest, but maintains an active role in politics in order to place the needs of the community above their own.



A Statesman does not do it for a paycheck, nor for reward, or for recognition. That person does so, because they are called upon by a personal ambition to get more involved in the daily needs of the community, and to actively take the lead within the political process of governing the city, state, or even the country.

Those people whom are grounded in, or bound by a specific faction, whether it is Republican, Democrat, or some other political party, are acting in a very narrow viewpoint of what the overall needs of any given community might be. George Washington famously warned future generations against a two party system.

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

As if Washington had a crystal ball, we have indeed divided this great country. On one side we have the Republican Kingdom and on the other side, we have the Democratic Kingdom, each serving their own masters.

Federalist Document #10, written by James Madison on November 22, 1787:

"As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to an uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results: And from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties." - James Madison (Founder of the U.S Constitution)

I believe we are all politicians, for we all want what is in our best interest as it relates to the city. However, the mark of a true statesman is an individual that strives to serve the needs of the many, while placing their own needs and desires aside.

"No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause; because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity." James Madison wrote.

Our founding fathers understood that man is inherently flawed, and imperfect. Our laws were written to limit government, because government is comprised of fallible and imperfect humans.

Patrick Henry was a brilliant orator whose devotion to the pursuit of liberty fueled the fire of the American Revolution. As a lawyer and a member of the Virginia House of Burgess, Henry spoke eloquently of the inalienable rights all men are born with. His philosophy inspired the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and, most significantly, the Bill of Rights. Famous for the line "Give me liberty or give me death!" Patrick Henry was a man who stirred souls and whose dedication to individual liberty became the voice of a country.

As we head to the polls this election - think to yourself, who among us are actively leading in the best interests of all residents? Who among us are actively partaking in a role, or our governing process with statesmen like conduct, decorum and solution oriented policies?

As we shape the city of Sioux Falls, and the state of South Dakota into a much better place for our children, please, lets become a carbon copy of the great Patrick Henry. Let us inspire within one another true statesmanship, and like our founders strive to create policies that benefit all, or limit the power of our inherently flawed government

Help Support Independent Journalism, Donate Today!

--Mike Zitterich

Post Date: 2022-04-15 16:47:28Last Update: 2022-04-21 21:12:29


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