Virtual Museum of Public Service

Serving the Public in Elected Office: A-4

“What made you choose this career is what made me go into politics – a chance to serve, to make a difference. It is not just a job. It is a vocation.” 
-Tony Blair

Elected officials are political leaders at the federal, state and local levels of government.  They include presidents, prime ministers, congressmen and congresswomen, governors, legislators, mayors and county executives. In North America, for example, there are also elected tribal leaders- chiefs, who are recognized by the federal government. The term of office for elected officials varies from two to six years. In most cases elected officials can be re-elected for more than one term. There is usually no limit on the number of terms officials elected to congress can serve. The Presidents of the United States, however, can serve in office for a maximum of two four year terms.
Elected officials bear the responsibility as citizens’ representatives, to fulfill their promise of public service and of protecting the publics’ trust. The media pays a lot of attention to elected officials to ensure that they live up to the electorate’s expectations. The public expects that their service will not be motivated by personal career and financial aspirations, but rather by an intrinsic desire to contribute to the common good. For this reason, the service of elected officials is regarded as a vocation, or “calling” inspired by an interest in public policy, compassion for others,  and commitment to servicing others more so than for personal gain. In a democracy people from all walks of life who hear the ‘calling’ to public service can campaign to become elected officials to serve in government. Their families often share in their commitment to public service and traditionally take on missions of their own, with some becoming celebrated for the contributions they make to their communities and beyond. United States First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1933-45), for example, successfully led the formulation of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948) in the immediate post World War 2 period. This international agreement declares the right to life for all people, with rights to privacy, nationality, safety and security, fair trial, freedom of thought and expression, education, assembly and property. 

First U.S. Senators

This featured exhibit presents the first U.S. Senators from different minority groups across the US diverse population.