When we consider the founders of our nation: Jefferson, Washington, Samuel and John Adams, Madison and Monroe, Benjamin Franklin, Tom Paine and many others; we have before us a list of at least ten and maybe even dozens of great political leaders. They were well educated. Products of the European Enlightenment, they were students of history. They knew human fallibility and weakness and corruptibility. They were fluent in the English language. They wrote their own speeches. They were realistic and practical, and at the same time motivated by high principles. They were not checking the pollsters on what to think this week. They knew what to think. They were comfortable with long-term thinking, planning even further ahead than the next election. They were self-sufficient, not requiring careers as politicians or lobbyists to make a living. They were able to bring out the best in us. They were interested in and, at least two of them, fluent in science. They attempted to set a course for the United States into the far future ? not so much by establishing laws as by setting limits on what kinds of laws could be passed. The Constitution and its Bill of Rights have done remarkably well, constituting, despite human weaknesses, a machine able, more often than not, to correct its own trajectory. At that time, there were only about two and a half million citizens of the United States. Today there are about a hundred times more. So if there were ten people of the caliber of Thomas Jefferson then, there ought to be 10 x 100 = 1,000 Thomas Jefferson’s today. Where are they?
Leadership is a commitment to an idea, to a dream, and to a vision of what can be. And my dream is for my land and my people to cease fighting and allow our children to reach their full potential regardless of sex, status, or belief.
A sense of humor can be a great help–particularly a sense of humor about (oneself). William Howard Taft joked about his own corpulence and people loved it; took nothing from his inherent dignity. Lincoln eased tense moments with bawdy stories, and often poked fun at himself–and history honors him for this human quality. A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.