Those who decry the character and quality of our political leadership — usually for good reason — often fail to present us with an alternative, or remind us of those whose public trust has been both well earned and well served. This article does the latter, profiling Lucile Belen, a Midwestern politician who has carried on a legendary family tradition of service that continues to inspire. Her entire life has been lived in democracy’s shadow, working to improve her community as a politician, businesswoman, and civic leader. In many respects, it is also the story of the evolution of public service and public life, particularly the role of women. The article chronicles some of the formative experiences in the first half of the twentieth century that forged her brand of leadership. The author argues that, as she stands at the threshold of her tenth decade while continuing to maintain a vigorous civic presence, Belen embodies a tradition of honorable political and civic responsibility that is in peril and desperate need of revitalization and renewal.



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