Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Why Character Matters in Our Next President

In the excitement over the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, I have to keep reminding myself not to get too caught up in the tabloid-style coverage. Sometimes it's nigh impossible to avoid, if only because I feel a strong urge to respond to some of the more blatant hype.

And I will continue to insist that "character" is overrated as a qualification for our highest office, and that we should spend more time considering policy. Not because character doesn't matter, because character is critical to determining how a leader will respond to crisis. Will he or she reach deep within themselves and find the courage and grace to inspire us to greatness or blink once or twice and continue to read "My Pet Goat?"

No, mostly I object because what goes as an analysis of character is so subject to spin that unless a voters are paying close attention, I don't think they have a clue about a candidate's character. And in a candidate's emphasis on issues, much is revealed about their character, just as a novelist writing a book can't help but reveal himself on the printed page.

All of which is a long wind-up to say that I'm about to contradict myself and advocate that voters consider character in their choice for our next president.

The following excerpt is from Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, in an editorial on Climate Progress discussing the difference between transactional and transformative change.
At the transactional level, we need new technologies, new policies to spawn and deploy them, and fundamental changes in the type of energy we use and where we get it. But we also need to transform our understanding and behaviors in regard to the “higher order” issues of how we think about the human place in the biosphere, our responsibility to and interdependence with the atmospheric commons and with other species, and our obligation to one another, including not only future Americans but also the billions of people living today in other parts of the world who are stuck hopelessly at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Part of the transformation we Americans must undergo is to understand intrinsically that despite our prosperity and geographic isolation, our security is connected to the well being of all other people in all other places......

The urgent need for both types of change means we must look for the candidates who can not only transact the nation’s business but transform it, a person with sufficient charisma, intellect and moral compass to motivate, inspire and unify us so that we break through to new policies and priorities, and to a new level of ethics, a new behavior, a new definition of progress and prosperity, and a new vision for the national and global economies. We need someone who will get us excited about this journey and infused with the necessary energy and urgency......

Some suffering is unavoidable because we have been unwilling for so long to admit the liabilities of fossil fuels and climate change. The question now is much more suffering we will bring upon ourselves. We would to well to select leaders from this point forward who guide us to that sweet spot between hopelessness and happy talk — that place at which we fully grasp the gravity of our challenges but still believe we can solve them.
We live in interesting times, and the 44th President of the United States will be faced with critical challenges and choices like none other in our history. Let's choose wisely.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a democrat, I think we Texans need to seriously look at our two candidates. Ignore the media HOOPLAH...but who has concrete solutions.

Obama's arrogance about taking a whole speech is no big deal and saying hillary uses my phrases like "fired up." IS he serious? I am a professor and a health professional and it is the idea he misled people at these rallies to think or pass off that they were his thoughts. MISLED. And to say the words are from a friend is not acceptable. I don't let my students off the hook if they copy their friends work.