Compassion for the Leader

By Jim Selman | Bio

It is interesting reading the Buenos Aires Herald this week. It is a 130-year-old newspaper written in English filled with Argentinian issues and perspectives on topics often having to do with what’s going on in the USA. There have been two or three articles a day about the new Administration.

One thing that seems to be showing up (and that I suspect is true in the North American press as well) is that the pundits are now falling into the ‘spectator mode’ and starting to report daily gains and losses, like sports commentators following a football game: “Oops, he dropped the ball on Richardson, but took some new yardage in his weekly radio message, but lots of people are wondering how long the honeymoon will last and whether the stench of Chicago politics will taint his game plan…blah, blah, blah.”

Give me (and him) a break! Here we are facing some of the nastiest issues in recorded memory—financial, environmental, social and global. Obama is good and has shown remarkable poise and consistency in his commitment to being inclusive in both his style and in the selection of the players around him. It will take all of the individual and collective leadership skill and wisdom of the new president and his team to navigate the treacherous rapids ahead. This is not the time to indulge in petty carping, idle speculation and gossip or take cheap shots for political gain. He is showing himself to be a statesman. It is incumbent on all of us, and especially the media, to take to higher ground as well.

We don’t often appreciate what it takes of a human being to assume and act from a level of responsibility that we can’t imagine. It is no accident that our President’s hair goes gray sooner than later. Most of us will never participate actively in the business of governance, but we can be responsible citizens and honor those we have asked to lead us and not play devil’s advocates from the sideline. We can express our views when we disagree with policies.

We can also have compassion for our leaders in these difficult times.

Not everyone loved Lincoln or FDR or Truman or JFK. But Americans and people throughout the world were conscious and appreciative of the enormous challenges they faced and stood with them and their administrations in the face of some of the direst challenges in history. It was this sort of solidarity that I believe is as important as the qualities of the leaders themselves. The lack of solidarity over the last eight years and the lack of compassion for George Bush is everyone’s responsibility and will at the end of the day be a big part of his and our legacy.

© 2009 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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