At least once a month, congressional members go home to their districts for a week, meeting with and hearing from concerned constituents.

During my most recent “District Work Week,” I received an invitation to speak at a neighborhood association meeting in Jonesboro. This particular neighborhood lies within a historic region of downtown Jonesboro, and many of the residents have expressed a desire to beautify, make safe, and preserve this area.

While jotting down a few notes on how the U.S. Federal Government relates to a neighborhood association, one important correlation kept sticking with me; regardless of the capacity people serve, the important part is their service.

We must find more ways to get our family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors involved. During the last few decades, our country has grown comfortable with civic disengagement, and citizens often feel as if individual ideas—maybe even votes—don’t matter.

We need these people involved, and I think it starts with training good leaders.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower once quipped, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

Eisenhower knew sharing goals and passions accomplishes much more than adopting a “lone wolf” mentality.

Similarly, former Army General George S. Patton said, “If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results.”
Investing in new leaders—particularly young people—yields incredible outcomes.

I’ll give an example. My wife, Stacy, and I have tried to instill the value of service to my eight-year-old son, Will, and six-year-old daughter, Delaney.

Recently, Will saw a TV advertisement asking for donations to the “Wounded Warrior Project,” which assists our nation’s injured servicemen and women. Unprompted by Stacy or me, Will said, “Daddy, I want my next birthday party to raise money for the Wounded Warriors.” Will decided, on his own, each person attending his party—instead of giving him gifts—will give money to help this great organization.

Delaney, never to be outdone by her older brother, quickly announced she wants her birthday party to benefit Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.
So, in the spirit of benevolence, my son learned the importance of making a difference, and in the spirit of competition, so has my daughter. And yet, the service itself remains important.

So whatever we can do—on the federal, state, city, community, or neighborhood level—I encourage each of us to find opportunities to serve, while also taking time to invest in the budding leaders surrounding us.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark) represents Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District. The district includes the Southeast Arkansas counties of Chicot, Desha and Lincoln.