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“Sunday Night in America” host Trey Gowdy urged the public to reflect on the 46 individuals who’ve occupied the Oval Office and examine the primary qualities necessary for future leaders when celebrating Presidents’ Day on Monday.
TREY GOWDY: Tomorrow is President’s Day. 45 individuals have held that office. It’s been estimated that 545 million people have lived in this country since we became a country and yet only 45, men for now, have ever been called President.
What do you think when you reflect on those 45 men? How many do you think did a good job? What are your expectations for a good president? Do we want the person best on policy, the person most likely to find consensus, or the most persuasive? Do we want someone we can relate to or someone who appears larger than life? Do we want a moral leader, a good business mind, a great public speaker? Do we want a president who tells us what we want to hear or one who tells us the truth even if it’s not what we want to hear?
In the course of my lifetime: only 2 Presidents have received more than 55% of the vote. Only 2 that I can find and yet 5 were elected President with less than 50% of the popular vote. Think about that. We have not had a consensus leader in 50 years. There have been more impeachments in my lifetime than landslide presidential winners.
So on the day we set aside to honor presidents, perhaps it’s wise for us to ask: are the expectations we have for our Presidents reasonable? Do the right kind of women and men seek that office? Is it possible to succeed in any office when half the people didn’t want you there in the first place? How do we even judge the success of a president?
If we are an exceptional country, shouldn’t we have exceptional leaders? How many of our Presidents would you describe as exceptional? Maybe the best way to spend President’s Day is to reflect on precisely what it is we are looking for in a president. Does the process of seeking that office encourage the caliber of women and men you most want to run and serve?
I guess the thing I ask myself on this Presidents’ Day is a simple but uncomfortable question? If we struggle to find Presidents we like and respect, does that say more about us or them?
There’s a difference between being a president and being a leader. Maybe the process, the political environment and the media have made it such that the real leaders do not want this job. So we’re left with those who covet the title while we as a nation are left to covet real leaders. I don’t know if George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan would seek the job today, or be nominated for the job today or win the job today. Great people should have great leaders. And if those great leaders aren’t even running, we should ask why not.
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