I continue my brief sabbatical with the “best of” Reading for Leading. This one is from the Fall (campaign of 2008). Although it may seem crazier than then, because everyone seems “mad as hell,” but I WILL be bullish on America until I die, because it’s a democracy, after all. I love it!
A few partisans will broil at this one. A few cynics will call me an idiot. I promise you, you won’t hear the following from any candidate or party, and you probably won’t hear it from the “mainstream media,” the “right-wing media” or the “liberal media.” But I think this election offers us cause for extraordinary celebration, and should call us to be the best darned voters and citizens this country has ever seen. So, I’m calling for an “appreciative inquiry” about all the good that is possible.
Think about this: after 230 years, which included a century of slavery, we have a man of African heritage nominated to be President. Not just any man, but one raised by a single mom; he made it to Harvard Law School, where he climbed the meritocratic peak with grades that got him on the Harvard Law Review, and by fellow editors who made him president of that review. I could wax on about his commitment to public service and his courage in standing up against a war that most were afraid to resist, etc. We should ALL be proud of a system that offers such a candidate. But wait,
We have a Republican candidate whose father and grandfather were admirals, who himself served admirably, and who couldn’t be cracked in a P.O.W. camp. He has fought courageously in the Senate, at times crossing the aisle to work with Democrats to get great things done, often speaking his mind when it was not popular. Yet we as citizens so often say “those politicians are all the same.” Although the opposing party in the Senate disagrees with what he stands for, very few challenge his integrity and character. We should ALL be proud of a system that offers such a candidate. But wait,
The Republicans have put a woman in the second slot in their ticket, a woman who’s a mom as well as a governor. People will argue about experience, but few can deny that the system has offered this real live person an amazing route into leadership, and you have to marvel at the way she has stepped up to the task. But wait,
Here comes a guy whose wife and young daughter were killed in a car accident just after he was elected to the Senate. He was going to refuse to be sworn in, but was convinced he could serve his country and still serve his sons. He commuted (and still does) 4 hours a day to tend to his home life. He’s fought corruption, at times – unpopularly – supported the president during war, and is now the Dems’ choice for VP.
We should ALL be proud of a system that offers such candidates. We get so down on our system. It’s true: These candidates, parties, and their supporters will – if the pattern repeats – spend much more time tearing each other down, and defending themselves from attacks than talking about a positive future for us. They are told by pollsters (who are just reflecting the numbers) that we pay attention to the negatives. They are being attacked (Biden went after McCain as a Bush-clone, and Palin oozed sarcasm to demean Obama), and they will attack back.
So here’s a crazy idea for us everyday leaders: Let’s focus on the strengths. Have discussions – you’ll need to start them – about whose strengths are really key at this time. Not who’s evil and bad. But who can shine the best for our great country. Not, “whose health care plan sucks,” but who really has a great plan that could work. By the time we’re done with campaigns, our winner has been so whacked and whittled and wasted that we almost ensure a divided country – where half is angry and skeptical, and the other half has to almost blindly support the winner. McCain is not a demon. Neither is Obama. Nor Biden nor Palin. The winners will need our help, not our ire.
Dissent and debate we will have with us. But we have power to uplift our dialogue, our reasoning, and our national mood, if we bring a civil tone and an appreciative mind, and
Lead with our best self,