What Now?

2

November 7, 2020-

The increased likelihood of a Democratic President, come January 20, happened on the day which, for Buddhists, commemorates Siddhartha Gautama’s return to Earth, after three months of teaching in the celestial realm. This, to the Buddhist faithful, is a day of great change and seeping portent.

To the rest of us, it has also been a day of great change and portent, whether one approves of the changes that will be taking place, or not. As with four years ago, I say “Give the next president a chance, and be ready to hold him to account, if large segments of the populace are ignored or left in limbo.”

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Capitalize on the reported friendship you have with Mitch McConnell. Maintain the law enforcement activity that is so close to former Judge McConnell’s heart: Fighting the trafficking of women and children. He was one of the forces behind the foundation of the very effective organization, Shared Hope International, one of the better programs advanced by conservative Republicans over the past several decades.
  2. Also, neither one of you wants to be seen as a deficit dove, so, given your self-comparison to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, dive into the summoning all Americans to help rebuild our infrastructure- get more done, with less Federal expenditure. Help counteract the sentiment that we ought stop asking what we can do for our country. Encourage market-led innovation and climate-enhancing changes. Continue to build on your predecessor’s one HUGE contribution: Looking after our military and veterans.
  3. Get out of Dodge- Washington or Wilmington more, at least for the first year or two. I recommend, starting in February-pick a city in each of the four regions: Northeast, South, Midwest and West, and hold a Town Hall in each one. Do this, monthly, until you have held such a gathering in each of the 50 states.
  4. Like your predecessors, be the Comforter-in-Chief. Aside from the Town Halls, be present for those communities which suffer natural or human-caused disasters.
  5. Be inclusive- Let’s return to the days when the President acknowledged not only Christian Holy Days, but those of other Faiths, as well. This was something at which Barack Obama excelled, but in which Donald Trump was less than interested. Be a cheerleader for the major sporting events, and yes, that includes NASCAR.
  6. Show that you trust Science- especially in facing down COVID-19. Be bold enough to also face down those who don’t see the COVID threat as real. The sooner more of us follow disease-fighting protocols willingly, the sooner the disease will no longer hold us in its vise-like grip.
  7. Finally, let the world know you see all of its parts as worthy of respect. Return us to partnerships which both help American prosperity and advance global co-operation. Attend crucial international gatherings, and encourage a two-way travel street- visiting some other countries each year and hosting their leaders here. There is plenty of anticipation, as there always is, when leadership looks set to change. Use the wealth of talent at your disposal, to build a dynamic, forward-looking, yet grounded, team. Godspeed, Mr.President-elect.

Aloneness at the Top

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August 23, 2016, Prescott- It’s time to take a break from the day-to-day, and think about our leaders, or those who purport to be such.  In a conversation this afternoon, the three of us noted that the school principal has an intense burden, not going out among the staff as often as people seem to want.  When she has shown up, her demeanor is pleasant enough, though the message I get is “Don’t make my work any harder, please.”

I remember having the sense, particularly in my first principalship, of being very much without friends.  My wife was forty miles away, at another school and son was only 10, and trying to juggle going back and forth between two schools, so as not to miss either of us too much.  The staff at my school was cordial, but after work, I went home to the dreariness of DirecTV and a diet of VH1.  The community, egged on by a local racist, was rather on the hostile side.

I reflected on these notions this afternoon, whilst listening to the author of a new book on Donald Trump.  He views his subject as pretty much a loner- a gladhander, yes, but one who tends to prefer his own company- outside of the work day.  Hillary Clinton seems equally a duck out of water, when in the company of strangers, after a certain amount of time.  Barack Obama is engrossed in his family unit, and the company of a small circle of friends.  Indeed, we have to go back to Bill Clinton to see a leader who relishes the crowd, and before him, all the way to John F. Kennedy.

I feel for our leaders, whether local or national.  The late Shah of Iran once remarked, in an interview with the journalist Oriana Fallaci, that, were he to have it all to do over again, he would want to be anything other than a king.  The crush upon a mere mortal has to be both deafening and suffocating.  Most people appreciate, and expect, a leader who will put him/herself aside, as it were, and rush to the side of the suffering.  Many, from George Washington on, wished to do just that- until, in modern times, the combination of security concerns, open calls for harm to be done to said leader, and the seeming ingratitude of some local communities, have led to a pullback by the Comforter-in-Chief, as we have seen in the second Obama term.

Could it be that we, the people, need to reassess our attitudes towards those whom we elect to manage our civic affairs?