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Follow the Leader - If You Can Find One
by Knight Allen, Director of Legislation
Originally published on Dec 12, 2013 - reprinted with permission

   I've been thinking ahead a little bit, past the holidays to 2014. It's an election year and I've been trying to get a handle on what makes a successful political leader (not "good" or "bad" since we all define that in our own way).

    Do you think maybe attitude, positive vs. negative pays an important part? For example there was Nixon with his enemies list and "I am not a crook." Then Mr. Carter, one of the most decent men to occupy the White House, mired in his "malaise" mind set. Or Mr. Obama and his absolute and very public rejection of "American Exceptionalism" (see article on page 2 of December 2013 Foghorn) while going around apologizing for America's actions on the world stage.

    On the other hand:
Jefferson "....we hold these truths to self evident...."
Lincoln "....that government of the people, by the people, for the people...."
FDR "....the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
JFK "....ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
Dr. King "I have a dream...."/"Let freedom ring...."
Mandela "I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society...."
Reagan "Our national purpose is to unleash the full talent and genius of the individual, not to create mass movements with the citizenry subjecting themselves to the whims of the state." 
"Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this wall!"

    Of course, these men were extraordinary exceptions to the rule and they were also flawed human beings. Yet, their inherent optimism about the ability of free people to move the human experience forward is consistent in their words as well as their deeds as leaders. One of the things that is not that well understood about leadership is that it is not just about the leaders. It's really about the leaders, the people and the political, social and economic era in which they all come together.

    FDR might still stir the people with his "fear itself" speech but JFK? If he ran for office today and based his campaign on "Ask not what your country can do for you...." he wouldn't get 5% of the vote in a Democratic Primary.

    There is a huge difference between asking what you can do for your country vs. being told what you must do to serve your country or state and their governments. It's the difference between freedom and autocracy. Between liberty and authoritarian repression.

    Lots of people are going to run for office in 2014. How many do you think will approach leadership the way the giants did?

    I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a wonderful 2014.
See you in January!

Contact Director Knight Allen