Reader Opinion: Leadership


What should we, reasonably, expect from an American president?

Franklin Roosevelt, who led America through the darkest, threatening days of the Great Depression and of global authoritarianism, said the office of the president is neither an administrative position nor an “engineering job, efficient or inefficient,” but “is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership.”

Lyndon Johnson came from rural Texas poverty to lead adoption of civil rights and voting rights laws, and remarked that “nothing makes a man come to grips more directly with his conscience than the Presidency,” the “burden of responsibility” of which “literally opens up his soul.”

President John Adams 230 years ago wrote that a president’s “person, countenance, character, and actions are made the daily contemplation and conversation of the whole people,” that the office is “the indispensable guardian of their rights” and that the people “cannot be too careful in the choice of their presidents.”

On September 14, 2001, President Bush addressed a wounded nation, saying “This world He created is of moral design.” President Bush’s insight called to mind the words of Abraham Lincoln 140 years earlier: “The mystic chords of memory,” Lincoln predicted, “will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”


In considering “courage,” Senator John McCain observed that most Americans believe that “it’s right to be honest, to respect the rights of others, to have compassion,” but that mere acceptance of these qualities is not enough: “Moral courage” is the “enforcing virtue,” requiring honesty at all times.

The American presidency, that “place of moral leadership” carrying that “burden of responsibility” requiring the “enforcing virtue” of “honesty” for the “whole people,” has been desecrated by Trump, but the healing touch of Lincoln’s “better angels of our nature” approaches America.

John Erickson


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