I’m not going to second-guess New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to continue his vacation at Disney World while a blizzard caused havoc back at home. I’m sure he was in constant touch with aides and that the state’s response was no worse off without his presence in Trenton.
But I do object to his declaration at a news conference on his return that his first and foremost obligation is as a father and husband. That’s not what people expect when they elect a public official. In a sense the governor becomes the head of the household to millions of people when he takes the helm, and there are times when his immediate family have to be treated like any other citizens when there are restrictions on time and attention.
Society simply couldn’t function if everyone who has a spouse or children put them first all the time. No one would ever go to war. There would be no cops or emergency room staff on nights and weekends. The world would effectively shut down on major holidays. There could be no effective leadership in legislatures or executive offices. Hopefully Christie misspoke and, despite his conviction about staying at Disney World this time, didn’t mean he would always choose quality time with his deserving family over the time-demanding responsibilities he accepted with his oath of office.
Effective public service requires not only people who accept that family sometimes must come second, but families who understand their contribution to the public good requires them to accept this.