In Messages to Young People, first published in 1930, Ellen White offers these words to young Seventh-day Adventists: “Have you thoughts . . . that you may sit in deliberative and legislative councils, and help to enact laws for the nation? There is nothing wrong in these aspirations” (p. 36).

I don’t know if now-retired Representative Roscoe G. Bartlett, (R-Md.), born four years before that book was published, ever read those words. But he certainly has lived them.

A true child of the Great Depression, Representative Bartlett entered what is now Washington Adventist University at the age of 17. Instead of ministerial study, he ended up earning master’s and doctoral degrees in human physiology, becoming a professor at Loma Linda University and Howard University before moving into research full-time. He then developed “rebreathing” systems used by astronauts, pilots, and fire and rescue personnel. Still later Representative Bartlett became a successful businessman in and around Frederick, Maryland.

In 1992 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served for 10 successive terms. Among his legislative accomplishments, a bill, signed by President George W. Bush, to protect the rights of Americans to display the flag on their property.

Representative Bartlett didn’t solve the budget crisis, cure a fatal disease, or negotiate peace between antagonistic nations. But he served his country faithfully and dutifully, demonstrating rare and much-valued sincerity in the discharge of his political duties at a time of profoundly partisan national politics. Courteous to all, respected in many quarters, Roscoe Bartlett has set a great example for Seventh-day Adventists—and anyone else—interested in public service. For that example, and for his achievements, I say, “Thank you, Representative Bartlett,” and pray God’s continued blessing on him and his family. 

Mark A. Kellner is news editor for Adventist Review. This article was published January 10, 2013.

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