2006-02-24 / Columnists

The Progressive

A Discussion of Leadership
By John Paul Culotta

A discussion of leadership is always appropriate after a President gives the State of the Union address and submits a budget to Congress. This year it is evident that our President and his party are in serious decline. Unfortunately, the opposition is also in disarray. Our nation suffers when leadership is weak and there appears to be no clear choices for the populace to make at critical times in history. We all should be concerned at this time about the direction into which we may be heading .

There are leaders who come to power under circumstances that are difficult to explain. For example, for two decades before the Second World War England’s Winston Churchill was a political pariah. He became a formidable wartime leader. France’s Charles DeGaulle, after the Second World War, was also considered politically dead, until France needed him to end the war with the freedom fighters in Algeria.

Similarly, there are those who have devoted themselves to solving problems that many feel are insolvable. They are capable of seeing possibilities for the common good where others have failed to see the challenges facing the nation. These leaders invent solutions that no one else had thought of, explain their dreams and ideas to the larger public, convince, motivate, criticize and correct. In time of difficulty they face challenges with conviction and without fear. Generals who demonstrate doubts are incapable of leading men to success in battle. Leaders are the men and women we follow without any doubt or uncertainty. Mother Cabrini, an Italian immigrant nun, built schools, hospitals, and settlement houses for the Italian-Americans when they faced discrimination and hatred by other Americans. Mother Hale of Harlem cared for abandoned crack babies when society had no plan for their care. They were leaders of vision and courage.

This type of leader will have a group or organization formed to build a better society. Often, they fail to maintain power once their goals have been achieved. Garibaldi, after unifying the Italian peninsula into a nation, retired to private life. George Washington, rejected all the benefits of being a monarch although many Americans wanted the chief executive to have the privileges that European monarchs had.

While some leaders are capable of building something out of nothing, others need a structure, bureaucracy, corporation, or a foundation. They climb the ladder of the organization and with alliances, intrigue, and cunning arrive at the pinnacle of their careers as the head of the organization. Here they may give favors, threaten others, judge perils, or take the easiest and safest path, but are also capable of compromising principles to achieve their objective of being number one. This leader must eliminate anyone who is autonomous, independent and able to think differently from the pack and does not have a vision or care about the common good. Their interest is to rule and maintain the power they have acquired. Whenever we evaluate a leader of any organization we need to understand which type of leader we are discussing.

President Bush, in the state of the union address, declared that our nation is addicted to oil. He said that we need to examine other sources of energy. This message angered many in his party because it would appear to be the opinion of the opposition Democrats. It remains to be seen if he will campaign for alternative sources of energy with the same vigor he campaigned for the failed proposal to privatize Social Security. While our nation faced a health care delivery crisis and was recovering from natural disaster, President Bush hardly mentioned these challenges. According to the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera of February 6, 2006, sixty six percent of New Orleans is still without water, electricity and gas, 200,000 homes are destroyed and 2,500 are in danger of collapse. It is estimated that eighty percent of the city’s African American population may never return. The New York Times of the same date wrote in a front page article entitled “States and Cities Lag in Readiness to Fight Bird Flu” that our seniors are not happy with the new Medicare drug benefit program Republicans proposed and passed. President Bush again did not address the program’s inadequacies. Despite the lobbying scandals of recent months, President Bush ignored the issue. At the same time two Republicans in congress, Vito Fossella (Staten Island/ Brooklyn) and Mike Castle (Delaware) called for legislation that would dismantle the Securities and Exchange Commission Office of Compliance, Inspections, and Examinations. In an article in the February 4, 2006 issue of the Staten Island Advance Barbara Roper of the Consumer Federation of America was quoted: “What this stems from is complaints by (corporate) executives that the office has been too combative and aggressive.” Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, felt the nation could not fight two wars simultaneously. He used diplomacy to prevent a war with France over Mexico. Our present occupant of the White House decided to comment on the elected government of Iran at his state of the union address. It is not appropriate for a President in an address to Congress to use this national forum to criticize the political composition of a nation, while we, in cooperation with our European allies and the United Nations, are attempting to resolve a nuclear proliferation issue.

President Bush deserves kudos for finally recognizing our need to find alternative energy sources. At the same time, he needs to be criticized for cutting funds in his budget proposal for at risk children when our childcare system nationwide appears broken. In the last few weeks, children were murdered in New York City and New Jersey because of the holes in the safety net. As the profit margins increase for petroleum companies, banks, and pharmaceutical firms, energy costs, healthcare, college tuition, and interest

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