Essays: Bob Dixon

Bringing People Together and Getting Things Done

More than a decade ago, I began my public service in elected office. Every day, representing a diverse citizenry in the Missouri General Assembly, I endeavor to keep the hopes and dreams of each person—and the challenges they face—at the forefront of my mind.

I made an early commitment to listen to the opinions of everyone, even those who automatically presume we might disagree. It’s true no one can please all of the people all of the time, but one cannot lead without being an effective listener. It has always been important to me for matters of public policy to be the result of productive dialogue. Ultimately, this benefits all the people we are elected to serve. 

It has been said, “No man is an island.” Opinions are only as good as the information on which they are built, which requires a multitude of counselors. With the wide variety of issues before the legislature each year, no one can become an expert on everything, and listening becomes the most critical skill.

On some matters, everything aligns in a manner that makes clear which path to take. However, more often than not, matters are more complicated than one might first imagine; in these instances, the simplest or most popular path may not lead to the best conclusion.

In the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch says, “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

Often times, legislators who possess the same basic facts will arrive at vastly different conclusions. At those times, one depends on one’s conscience, shaped by values and principles. That being said, a person who can’t change his or her mind when new facts or arguments present themselves can’t change anything.