I wish I could talk to my little boy about Paul LePage. There is so much potential for a great story and important lessons about hard work and the kindness of others, but I can’t. As a mom, I’m frequently ashamed of our governor, and I can’t tell his story to my son because doing so would require me to also talk about his anger, mean spiritedness, seemingly racist ideology, and judgmental leadership.
As parents in Maine, we have a governor who has missed an opportunity, and it’s sad.
I’ve heard Governor LePage speak extensively twice—once at Husson University graduation and once at my son’s high school graduation. But, mostly, I have heard about LePage on the news.
He is in the national news a lot—and not for good reasons–so much so that I’m often embarrassed in front of my friends from other states. They ask me how this happened. I try to explain, but I’m not sure myself, especially about that second time.
It’s amazing to me that a state so full of reasonable, kind, nonjudgmental people twice elected a governor who consistently behaves unreasonably, unkindly, and is extremely judgmental.
He has been in the news for everything from denying science to making racist claims about minorities to taking away benefits from the poor. We all know the stories. They’re never good.
My personal experiences with LePage’s inappropriate and judgmental behavior occurred at my son’s high school graduation. LePage was giving the graduation speech, and, in doing so, commented on the hard work and dedication of the teachers at my son’s high school, John Bapst Memorial High School. This would seem like a good thing, but he didn’t stop there.
He then added that these teachers were “unlike” the public school teachers in our state, making it very clear that he thought our public school teachers in our state were not dedicated to their students.
There were a few gasps in the audience. I think we couldn’t believe he had just made such a comment in front of high school students and their families, many of whom are public school teachers and some of whom may be hoping to be public school teachers. But that’s what he does. He doesn’t seem to care about behaving kindly or even appropriately, not even in a high school graduation speech.
But in thinking on the events of the last week, as a mom, I realize the greatest tragedy of our situation here in Maine is that we have a governor with an amazing back story, one that could be used to teach our children about the value of hard work—and the kindness of others. But, instead, we can’t talk about that because our governor is leaving angry messages on other government worker’s phones, calling them names and swearing at them.
Talk about a missed opportunity.
When I heard LePage give the graduation speech at Husson, I took away two important lessons: First, I learned just how much LePage struggled as a child and what a tough time he had. He had no money, no place to go, and no skills. But, here’s the second lesson. Through the help and support of some really kind people, as well as his own hard work and determination, he ended up being governor of our state.
I am coming to understand that LePage misses the most important point of his own story.
As he told his story to the Husson University audience, over and over, he mentioned people who helped him, those who took him in, gave him a job, made exceptions for him to be admitted to college. Then, at the end of his story, he emphasized that he made his success happen all by himself. Clearly, after listening to his story, any reasonable person could see this was not the case.
And, instead of being a governor who helps those who come from a situation like his, he seems to try to punish them. Instead of being a governor who teaches Maine children about the value of kindness and hard work, he has become a governor who teaches Maine children that it’s okay to act like a bully and judge others.
I know there will be those who read this post and will be angry that I’m calling out our governor on his behavior and will argue that I shelter my children too much. But I don’t understand how we got here. Why is it not okay to expect our leaders to behave with civility and reason? How would you feel if someone called you or someone you cared about and left them a similar message?
Even early this week when the news hit that LePage might consider resignation over this latest controversy, I figured he wouldn’t. But I hope this. I hope he can find a way to change his behavior, even if he has to fake it, and become a better role model for our children.
I also hope to one day have our governor reflect on his own story, realize the potential, and learn to help those less fortunate, instead of trying to punish them, as well as those in our government who are trying to help.
He’s really missing an important opportunity.