By: Anna DeBernardo – March, 2016
With Super Tuesday just around the corner, talk of politics can be heard from every direction one turns. Some of the candidates participating in this year’s election, however, seem to be the protagonists of a bad comedy rather than potential nominees for the presidency. Between Trump’s brash comments, Hillary’s blatant dishonesty, and the personal insults constantly being hurled by the candidates, there is growing unease across the nation in anticipation of the November results. The natives are getting restless.
My AP Government class was recently assigned a reading by David Gergen from his book, “Eyewitness to Power.” In it, Gergen, a former advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, lists and analyzes a series of qualifications needed to evaluate a person’s capacity for presidential success. In prefacing this analysis, Gergen notes that every president, upon being sworn into office, begins to wonder what legacy he will leave: Will he be remembered alongside the greats like Washington and Lincoln, or will he simply become another face and name to remember in history textbooks around the world? The majestic image of the chiseled faces, carved into Mount Rushmore for all posterity, is an undeniable motivation for every new president: Will he have the potential to equal the storied accomplishments of his predecessors?
As Gergen notes, our recent presidents have failed to live up to the reputations of past presidential heroes. It was through the valiant efforts of leaders such as Washington and Jefferson that our country was born and consequently able to thrive. Jefferson reaffirmed the importance of basing a government on the idea that all men are born with inherent rights, and that a government may not exist without the consent of the governed. His words set the fledgling United States on a course that would make it the most powerful and prosperous nation in the world a mere one hundred years later.
The principled ethos of the Founding Fathers is nowhere to be found in the realm of modern politics, as most of our leaders have abandoned the ideals upon which our country was established. Instead of defending the original intent of the Constitution and fighting to keep our rights intact, they are instead looking to alter it whenever an inconvenience is discovered. In Gergen’s excerpt, he writes that, “Great crises usually bring forth great leaders.” One begins to question the degree of truth contained in this statement when comparing modern world leaders. If great leadership emerged wherever crisis erupted, we would have no short supply. I believe the main difference between the leaders of old and those that are in power today is precisely that which grants them authority. Power has become a force that drives modern men and women into a maddening frenzy.
In simpler times, before the advent of technology and the influence of the media, people who held positions in government felt a genuine passion and patriotism, which inspired them to pursue the betterment of the nation. Nowadays, obstructed by fame and glory, distracted by scandal and secrecy, and with temptations around every corner, it is nearly impossible to come across a bona fide patriot who stands for his or her principles, and is not swayed by external deterrents. With this sense of true altruism out of the picture, voters are left with a sense of distrust as to the motivations of all candidates. What does that say about the direction the country is heading in, if its inhabitants cannot even feel safe in the hands of their own elected officials?
There is a desperate need for a renewal of traditional American values in all of our politicians. Without these principles defended, and with a consequent nation divided, how can we expect to remain a competing world power, respected by our allies and feared by our enemies? Today, we are faced with perilous –and unprecedented –threats to our existence. With a crumbling economy, weakened defense, and serious rifts in foreign relations, we cannot stand by and allow this country to deteriorate any further into the mediocrity of recent years. All levels of government in this nation must see a rebirth of moral leadership. Our history tells us that we have exhibited genius in this area, and our past leaders’ love of America has been an immutable, pride-worthy characteristic of most of them. Lincoln once referenced a government “of, by, and for the people” to point out that our citizens’ well-being is tied to that of the nation. This is what forms our identity as a free nation. When we call ourselves “Americans”, it is incumbent on us to accept both the rights and responsibilities that accompany that honor.
The period before and after the Revolutionary War produced some of our nation’s greatest leaders. Should identical circumstances present themselves today, who is to say whether or not our country could again produce figures akin to Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and the aforementioned presidents? Isn’t it sad that many of today’s leaders, through their words and actions, have planted doubt in all of us as to their love of country? Though the concept may seem inconceivable to you and me, it seems to be the reality.
George Washington was called “The Indispensable Man” for his strong leadership at a critical time. Is there another person among the people running for president who can rise to the occasion and become the next indispensable leader, at this dire hour?