by Ray Allen
What America needs today, a good ten cent cigar won’t fix. We need fundamental changes more than mere cosmetic changes. And, if we don’t make some of them soon, we’ll be lucky if the cigar doesn’t explode in our faces one day.
But, change is usually embodied in a man … a reformer … a leader.
Like the little boy who cried, “The emperor has no clothes!,” simple wisdom came from an unexpected source during my first attempt at sharing some of my concerns with a group of elderly citizens some 17 years ago. In the middle of my presentation, a woman suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease turned to her fellow-listeners, and with a frightening sense of desperate conviction, cut to the heart of the matter: “We need a leader,” she exclaimed.
She may have spoken out of turn, but certainly was not out of touch with reality. A need that was true then grows increasingly acute. America desperately needs a leader – a leader of a certain quality of character, and, one who follows a certain quality of vision. He must know where he’s going and have what it takes to get us all there, safely.
First, let’s talk about the quality of the leader. He must be a man who understands the proper stewardship of power. He must know the necessity of limiting the exercise of that power to those actions which serve the best interests of his fellow-citizens. And, he must walk with a limp. Let me explain.
The young and foolish actually believe they are invincible; that the law of cause and effect exacts its toll only on the old who are less clever than they; that good intentions are as acceptable as delivering the goods; and, that meaning well excuses unforeseen damages. Young men and young lions share these delusions.
Old men and old lions do not. Why? Because the old-timers often are still paying the painful price of careless mistakes made in moments of weakness or misjudgment. Pain is a great teacher which costs dearly. That’s why they walk with a limp. If you ask a man about his limp and hear humility and wisdom in his thoughtful answer, you may have found a leader who will not blithely lead you into foolish and unnecessary danger.
Remember this; your well-being depends on it: if your leader has not learned about pain firsthand, he is likely to be willing to let you suffer some. And, he is unlikely to know the depth of his own vulnerability when his own pain gets unbearable. Untested men and freshly wounded lions are dangerous to be around when pressure or pain mounts.
Remember the disciples of Jesus at the Last Supper? When Jesus announced that one would betray Him, each asked with anguish, “Is it I?” They knew about weakness. And, each knew, from painful experience, the fragility of his own nature and will to do good. They became fruitful disciples precisely because they understood human fallibility – beginning with their own.
Second, let’s discuss the quality of the leader’s vision. It’s no good to have a leader of proven moral character and humility, walking with a limp, if he doesn’t know where he’s going. He must be able to see beyond his limp to that fixed point on the far horizon where he knows we must all go if we are to fulfill our highest and noblest destiny.
He must have a vision which is consistent with the highest aspirations of those he expects to lead, not merely the sum of his personal preferences. He must lead men and women to greater liberty, greater productivity, greater wisdom, courage, virtue, kindness, and service than they believed possible; and when it’s all done, he must give them the credit for their achievement. He may lead them through painful places; but, their pain should accomplish and end that is worthwhile.
I believe some current presidential candidates have the first quality of character well in hand. One candidate in particular, stands out, I think. But, I’m hearing far too little about that“destiny beyond the horizon,” and, much too much about the efficiency of the journey. A trip without a fixed destination may be futile, dangerous, or both.
So, I’m asking questions aimed at the present crop of “would-be” leaders. Where are we going? Where will you take us, prospective Mr. President? Will tax-burdened Americans be allowed to keep more of the fruit of their labor? Will you help unleash America’s vast productivity and creativity by rolling back the petty tyrannies of top-heavy government?
Will you isolate and scorn the tin-horn dictators who fleece their people and grow fat and belligerent while wolfing down American handouts? Will you use your moral character to inspire our own moral character; and, will you inspire us by your actions to lead among the nations of the earth in voluntary compassionate service?
Will the enslaved of the earth be liberated? Will you help us to be wise and tolerant with our allies, wise and wary when dealing with our faithless enemies? Will you help stop the killing of unborn babies? Will you stop mortgaging our children’s future with budget deficits today?
Will you remember the lessons of your limp when we send you abroad on Air Force One, or gliding in isolated splendor in your gilded cage of motorcades and police escorts?
If not, future Mr. President, please spare us the agony.
America does not need a president who is merely competent. America needs a leader. An elderly woman who had already forgotten everything else she ever knew, still knew that; and, I haven’t been able to forget it either.