Aug 08, 2020

Fit to lead?

RIGHT NOW MY roommates are watching “Braveheart.” Meanwhile, I’m in my room reading stories about King Arthur in Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King” (for a class, I swear). Somewhere in this great country of ours, a group of people is having a discussion about who our next president should be. What do these three things have in common?

They all concern the issue of leadership.

We all feel a need to watch and study our favorite leader’s every move. For many young people, reading stories and watching movies about King Arthur and William Wallace are ways to build an image of an ideal leader. Others may admire modern leaders like Hillary Clinton, who sets an example for ambitious women, and consider them ideal leaders. Some people even admire our current president so much that they consider him an ideal leader (these people do exist, I’m sure of it, though they’re probably in the second grade and have frightening parents).

The important thing is that we set standards of what we want in a leader by reading about and watching real people and then discussing what they do, either with others or with our own imaginations (which is not crazy, I’m sure of it). When it comes time to choose our president and our representatives, we should make our choices based on who comes nearest to our ideal.

So maybe I’ve been setting my standards too high, but every candidate I’ve considered for president doesn’t even come close to my ideal leader.

Who is my ideal leader? I want a leader with strong convictions who has led a decent, moral life and has the ability to raise a strong family. I want a leader who can speak in public and make people take action for the betterment of their country. I want a leader who doesn’t rely upon demagoguery, playing in to our religious, patriotic and emotional biases, but who relies upon reason and is willing to put his or her career on the line in order to do what is right.

All the people running fall so far from this ideal that I don’t know if I’m even going to vote. Do I really want to pledge 100 percent of my vote to someone who only matches one percent of my ideal?

But maybe it’s best to just choose the lesser of two evils and pick one lousy candidate so that the worse candidate won’t win. Maybe this is just a time in our country’s history when we have to make the most of what we have.

Or maybe my standards aren’t even realistic. Maybe all the history books falsely glorify leaders of the past and the movies raise the bar to impossible heights. I was shocked to learn recently that Abraham Lincoln was a terrible public speaker with a high-pitched voice and no clue what to do with his hands; he would either put them awkwardly behind his back or leave them in the center of the podium and twiddle his thumbs. That’s not the Abraham Lincoln I’ve always imagined, the Lincoln who inspired no end of confidence and moved mountains with his speech. Maybe I wouldn’t recognize a great leader if I saw one.

So is it better to offer loyalty only to people I recognize as great leaders or to support whatever leader will do a better job than the other guy? I don’t really like either option, but when it comes time to vote I will probably just cave to the social pressure and put my name down for one moron or another. Was this what our fathers fought for? Was this the dream they had for my future?

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