Richard Altschuler & Associates, Inc.

Peter F. Vallone

I am continually dismayed by Americans’ lack of knowledge of the basics of our system of government in Washington, D.C., a lack made worse by their general lack of interest in their state and municipal governments. Thankfully, we are now the only superpower on Earth, and we do not have to worry about losing a war by force of arms from an outside power. Today we must concentrate on protecting ourselves from the terrorists who, on September 11, 2001, were able to plan and execute the most despicable single act of terror in recorded history. To do that, the more we know about our democracy, the better our chances are of preserving, protecting, and improving it. If malcontents are willing to die for a nefarious cause, how much more important is it for us to live out the most worthy of all causes?

If we wish to maintain our democratic freedoms—a system made possible by a balanced system of government in which the people rule—we better take the time to learn more about it and attract good people into it. Our enemies are willing to blow themselves up and kill thousands of innocent people while they do it because they believe in a distorted idea of government where death and subjugation, not life and freedom, are their ultimate goals. Now is the time for Americans to take a greater interest in our governing system. There can be no better way of doing so than by studying America’s greatest city, especially during the last thirty years, when New York City’s system of governance evolved from an unbalanced intermingling of executive and legislative powers to a prototype of good municipal government.

It seems to me that certain principles are essential if you wish to be successful in both life and politics. Politics should be viewed as a perfectly acceptable way of getting into government, but never as an end in itself. Success can never be measured in simply winning an election, because in the long run it is how you get there that counts. If you do not build a solid foundation and make friends along the way, the quicker you rise to the top, the surer you are to fall. Credibility and honesty really do count in politics, government, and most assuredly in life.

My purpose in writing this book is to share the experiences I have had over three decades of public service. I have kept a short daily diary since 1953 and will intersperse references and events throughout my recollections in an attempt to tell a truthful story. I will be as accurate as possible without unnecessarily revealing any confidences or hurting anyone along the way.

Public service is a noble profession, and in this country it is the noblest of all because the bedrock of our system of government is our “Creator.” By that I am not suggesting that our citizenry ought to practice or believe in one religion or another, but rather that our rights flow from a higher authority than whoever holds office at any particular time. I hope to prove that “doing the right thing” will serve as the best policy for any aspiring officeholder to follow, even if not the politically correct thing to do at the moment. I hope my experiences will serve as a road map for others to follow. I hope further that they illustrate why people should never get discouraged by a few bumps along the way. Politics and principles of government need not be at odds, but can and should work in harmony with each other.

In the end, I am convinced that we will all be accountable to the one who created us in the beginning, our “Creator.” What a waste our lives would be if we neglected the opportunity to make our world a better place, or never even tried.

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