Sunshine Week serves as celebration, warning

Last week was Sunshine Week, usually described as an annual celebration of open government and the public’s right to know what its lawmakers are doing.

But in fact, it’s also a warning.

As Americans, we pride ourselves on being blessed with a “government of the people,” but we also know that keeping it that way is a never-ending task.

We have learned too often that our government will invariably close itself off from the people it serves unless there is constant vigilance on the part of the public and the media.

Americans were reminded of that once more last week, for instance, when The Associated Press reported the Obama administration, despite all its lofty promises coming in of being the most transparent presidency ever, is anything but. An AP survey has determined this administration has grown more secretive with each passing year, showing a consistent unwillingness to permit access to government files via the Freedom of Information Act and slow response times among agencies to answer requests for information.

In other words, we are seeing increased translucency, not greater transparency, as part of a growing culture of inaccessibility and more closed doors, not more open avenues.

Unfortunately, such behavior from an elected official is not an anomaly. Many government entities at various levels often fight to hold off or tuck away information that belongs to the people.

Sunshine Week serves as a reminder that we must always be watchful of how our governing bodies and officials work. It’s a system of checks and balances — something in which the media play an indispensable role, but it’s also up to the public to demand answers, to want to know, to simply care.

Sunshine Week, then, is about caring. And as long as we care enough to demand to know what our lawmakers are doing, America will be sound.

We need the sunshine, you see, because our democracy cannot truly survive without it.

 

— Yankton (S.D.) Daily Press & Dakotan

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