There’s more to being a good role model

I have been sputtering like an old pickup truck for the past three years over the sometimes outrageous, sometimes ill-informed, and often infuriating comments our president makes each day on his Twitter account.

But before readers rush to judge me too harshly for that statement, allow me to add:

It would be utterly foolish, absolutely wrong, and a perversion of what the United States is all about if the officials who operate Twitter bow to efforts by Kamala Harris, the California senator and Democratic presidential candidate, to pressure the company to shut down Donald Trump’s account.

Whether our president communicates by social media postings, semaphores, or Oval Office speeches, the citizens are entitled to hear what he has to say.

It is not the “American way” to try to muzzle those people with whom we disagree. There is no place for censorship when it comes to commentary on what our government is doing or failing to do, or on what the Democrats or the Republicans are achieving or messing up.

That freedom of speech is available to everyone from Nome to Key West --- and that includes Donald Trump.

We are not going to ease our nation’s sometimes bitter partisanship by trying to silence the president’s Twitter account or by stuffing a sock in his campaign rallies.

As White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney might tell Senator Harris, “Get over it.”

Yes, no one has a constitutional right to have a Twitter account, to get his letters to the editor published or to be allowed to write a newspaper column. But what Harris is advocating would hand Trump and his supporters a gold-plated campaign issue.

Do we really want a staple of Trump’s campaign rallies to be the president standing in front of the crowd and thundering, “Those crooked Democrats are trying to silence me!”?

Besides the importance that freedom of speech plays in our nation, the president’s Twitter account and the video from those rallies provide a handy archive we can turn to to illustrate that irony apparently died a quick and painful death last week.

With a straight face, the White House announced on Friday that the president has proclaimed this to be National Character Counts Week. “

“During National Character Counts Week, we reaffirm our commitment to developing and demonstrating admirable qualities to enrich our lives and the lives of others. … We are confident that we can positively influence the next generation of our nation’s leaders and inspire them to lead lives of virtue and integrity.”

The White House statement continued: “Throughout this week, and each day of our lives, may we strive to demonstrate good character through our thoughts, discourse, and deeds in our homes, schools, workplaces, and houses of worship. Let us set an example for others of the timeless values of respect, compassion, justice, tolerance, fairness, and integrity.”

Let the words from the White House statement sink in. Ask yourself whether you truly believe the man who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is living his life in harmony with that important guidance.

Then consider a former occupant of the White House who was in the news this month.

Jimmy Carter turned 95 on Oct. 1. He and his wife, Rosalynn, have been married as long as Donald Trump has been alive, 73 years.

They live in a modest house in Plains, Ga., a rural community of about 750 people, where both of them grew up. This month, the Carters spent a week in Nashville, Tenn., working alongside hundreds of volunteers helping build 21 houses for needy families.

The Carters have been donating a week of their labor to Habitat for Humanity for 36 years, all as part of their effort to live their lives by showing respect, compassion, justice, tolerance, fairness and integrity.

I know who I believe has been the better role model for National Character Counts Week. And I’m confident Kamala Harris would agree with me on this.

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Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and retired opinion editor at the Des Moines Register. He is a native of Bloomfield, Iowa, and now lives in Des Moines. He can be reached at

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