2009-11-27 / Columnists

The Progressive

Leadership
Commentary By John Paul Culotta

We are perplexed by the wars in which this nation is involved, the threats by international terrorists, our fragile economy, and the environmental changes our planet faces. Our very national foundation is at risk. We question the adequacy of our institutions, including our court system, to meet the challenges we face. Every day the prospect of peace in the lands the three major monotheistic religions cherish seems a goal that is unattainable. Are we headed to permanent war?

In some parts of our planet genocide is commonplace. At the same time, millions are hungry or malnourished.

In no other time in our common history has there been such a dire need for effective and thoughtful leadership. We cherish the memory of Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy as men who could inspire and challenge us to the best instincts of our human nature. They were not perfect and, similar to Moses, they did not reach the promised land. It is difficult today to remember that such leaders existed.

This situation is not unique to our times. I doubt many considered the abovementioned men were considered to be the model of leadership in their period of history. I recall the insults and criticism of King and the Kennedy brothers when they were alive.

When John F. Kennedy was a senator, he said, "We need leaders who will accomplish two great objectives. First, they awaken responsible citizens out of their mood of acquiescence and drift, showing them that only timely, determined action can create a better future; and second they will discuss our problems in constructive terms or at least clarify the possible solutions."

Today, most citizens are disgusted with the bickering of our elected leaders who use our need for a decent health care delivery system, and an economy that works for the people and not just for the wealthy - many who destroy economic recovery because of their selfish greed. Less then half of eligible voters bother to go to the polls. Most political talk shows on television and radio discuss the trivial or character assassination rather than issues.

Our lack of intelligent political discourse is the product of both political parties seeking imminent opinion poll approval rather than resolution of our problems. In recent days, the present occupants of the executive mansion in Washington D.C. and Albany have addressed serious issues facing the nation and state. Their approval ratings are low and this reflects the mindset of a public that thinks we can resolve these enormous problems without sacrifice or pain. Leadership can only be effective when we all understand that democracy requires participation and commitment.

Obama has faced, this past year, problems no president has faced since the War Between the States and the Great Depression. He needs constructive criticism but the barons of the GOP have embarrassed themselves with some of their disgusting carping that the proposals of our president and the Democrats in Congress will lead to dictatorship and a loss of liberty. This is not worthy of a democracy when we have a leader who advocates a health care delivery plan (that will give private insurance companies additional business), and the use of diplomacy first to resolve international differences, and dialogue over ugly rhetoric regarding race. I applaud our vigorous active president and hope he will join the memories of Lincoln, FDR, MLK and RFK with the difference that he sees the fruits of his labors.

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