Dave Yost believes all aspects of life would be more equitable if people followed the advice of the late President Ronald Reagan: “Don’t be afraid to see what you see.”
During his speaking engagement Jan. 11 with the Wauseon Rotary Club, titled “Service Above Self and Integrity,” the Ohio State Auditor suggested it’s time to remove blinders and expose wrongdoing, regardless of misguided loyalties or fear of reproach.
He said that should be especially true of our leaders in a time when looking the other way has become almost customary.
“In so much of American life right now, in so much of government, it seems to me like we’re afraid to see what we see. We are afraid to look at when there’s corruption, and things that are not right in our government,” he told the Rotary Club members.
“When it’s in society, there’s things we’re not allowed to look at, to say or think. We’ve got to not be afraid to see what we see, even when it’s inconvenient.”
As state auditor, Yost ensures that financial statements and business rules are accurate and obeyed, works to make government more efficient, and holds those who violate the law accountable.
Since taking office in 2011, he has also ordered 110 performance audits, which investigate whether agencies or organizations operate at maximum efficiency according to cost and manpower. The result has been recommendations that would generate more than $1 billion in savings for state offices, cities, school districts, and other entities.
Yost said he’s felt privileged to uphold his sense of right and wrong, even when it has meant disagreeing with fellow Republican Party members.
“I’ve been willing to call out things as they are,” he said. That includes his belief that “the first rule of conservatism is, you pay your bills. I don’t like the idea of the federal government going around and borrowing 40 cents of every dollar to pay their bills. So, my first preference is, let’s cut the federal government back and live within our means.”
He added, “What if the consensus is, do we want all this government? It seems to me we ought to pay for it and not put it on the credit card.”
Yost said he has also called out the operators of some state charter schools he felt were stealing from the system, in defiance of party members who chose not to expose them.
“I did the right thing. I’m not afraid to see what I see,” he said.
He decried politicians who seek office for their personal gain, and warned his audience to choose future leaders for their character rather than their platform.
“Here’s the truth: In a lot of places in Ohio and in America, we no longer have people who are thinking of the country first, thinking of the state first, thinking of you all first. They’re thinking about, how are they going to get ahead…how are they going to raise money, how are they going to gain more power, what can they do for their friends,” Yost said.
Citing the problems he’s seen over his 15-year career in government, the common denominator is ego, he said.
“When ego drives you, when pride drives you, when self drives you, you can justify anything,” Yost continued. “Your wants and needs become more important than the needs of the community. We ought to be looking at the character of a person and whether they can be selfless, because it’s selfless people that we want to lead.”
A former Rotarian, he lauded the Rotary Club slogan “Service above self,” but added, “Too often what we’re seeing is self before service. Rotary is what’s right about America. This is what’s made us great as a people. It’s what’s made us capable of governance.”
People need to focus their merits on what’s right and good, Yost said. He said it’s important to concentrate on how to serve others rather than on enhancing personal lives.
Because he is finishing his two-term limit in office, Yost hinted to the Rotary members that he may announce his future plans by month’s end.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.