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Searching through Wikipedia recently I came across the German word erfahung. It translates into English as “experience.” Like many translations, however, this one is not exact. In the German culture erfahung means, at least according to Wikipedia editors at the time I read the entry, the “coherency of life’s experiences.”
Here in the U.S., we talk about experience in government, sales, law, engineering—whatever the field. Rarely do we talk about the totality, or even better, the coherency of one’s life experiences.
I have found this topic interesting because I find myself in the position of having nearly 30 years of work experience (yes, I am getting old). That’s 22 years in state government in both executive and legislative realms, one year on a political campaign, four years in the federal government and now almost two in the private sector. My background has given me the ability to look at a public policy issue from many perspectives.
One of the most interesting issues to unfold in a broad way over the last few years has been the Real ID debate. Congress, the Bush administration, governors, state legislatures, advocacy groups, analysts and others have examined this problem up one side and down the other.
After the 9/11 attacks, a responsible Congress tried to take action to prevent similar abuses of driver’s license identity systems with what may perhaps be a less than elegant piece of legislation. Later, a new but overworked Homeland Security Department issued draft rules. Many state governors and legislatures dug in their heels with a “hell-no-we-won’t-go” attitude toward a statute and rules they perceived as another unfunded mandate, even if there was some merit in the end result.
Privacy groups cried “foul” and attempted to invoke hysteria around an alleged over-intrusive government.
I had to ask myself a few questions:
In the midst of the debate, one leader surfaced: Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington. While opposing the Real ID mandate, Gregoire showed leadership by putting another proposal on the table—the use of voluntary, enhanced driver’s licenses for crossing land borders. DHS, the very agency that issued the highly unpopular Real ID rules, is supporting this alternative approach, one that also addresses many of the concerns expressed above.
Brilliant! Washington State has now led the way for others to follow. Vermont, Maine and Arizona have indicated a willingness to become Real ID compliant through the enhanced driver’s license program. The world could use a few more leaders like Gov. Gregoire.