ACT

THE MORAL RESPONSIBILITY OF GOVERNMENT

Emily Johnson Piper has long been passionate about the need for society to help children, the disadvantaged and people with disabilities. And now she is in a position to act on those passions in a more powerful and meaningful way than almost any other Minnesotan.

When Gov. Mark Dayton named the St. Thomas alumna (biology in 2002 and law in 2005) as human services commissioner in December, she was clear about her role at an agency that serves more than 1 million people a year and has almost 6,300 employees and an $18 billion annual budget.

“I was thinking about Hubert Humphrey and his famous quote on the moral responsibility of government,” she told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “He said, ‘The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and [people with disabilities].’ As a servant leader, I take the moral responsibility of government to be the moral responsibility of me as a leader.”

I am especially fortunate to work for a governor who appreciates that I am a better public servant because of and not in spite of the fact that I am, at all times, simultaneously serving my family and those most vulnerable in our state.

Emily has good examples to influence her work. Her mother, Barbara Johnson, is president of the Minneapolis City Council and her grandmother, the late Alice Rainville, served on the council for 22 years and was also its president. Her husband is a firefighter and Realtor, and she has a history of public servants in her family.

The mother of four young children, all age 9 or younger, spends most of her time outside of work being a mom, “running kids to and from, doing laundry, slipping on Legos and all that good stuff.” She also enjoys cooking, coaching her second grade daughter’s basketball team and volunteering as a Girl Scout troop leader.

In describing her experience balancing a career outside of the home with raising a young family and applying that to her leadership, Emily wrote last summer in a St. Thomas School of Law blog post: “Throughout my career, I have tried to support other women making these same choices, foster working environments that promote work/life balance, and be an example for my children that a woman may be successful professionally without sacrificing her family.” As a new state commissioner, she says today that “I am especially fortunate to work for a governor who appreciates that I am a better public servant because of and not in spite of the fact that I am, at all times, simultaneously serving my family and those most vulnerable in our state.”

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