Vail Daily column: The key ingredient
November 29, 2015
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, columnist Peggy Noonan hit upon something well worth examining. Noonan writes that in her travels across the U.S. she found that people continue to miss Ronald Reagan's strength and certitude. "In interviews and question-and-answer sessions, people often refer to Reagan's 'optimism.' That was his power, they say — he was optimistic."
But Ms. Noonan has a different perspective; she believes Reagan's power was a result of his confidence, not his optimism, although he was probably the most optimistic president of the 20th century. "Reagan was confident that whatever the problem — the economy, the Soviets, or any of a million others — he could meet it, the American people could meet it and our system could meet it. Americans saw his confidence, and it allowed them to feel optimistic … and get the job done."
Ms. Noonan expanded this concept telling us how people really want their leaders to exhibit confidence in the discharge of their duties. Leaders, who do so says Noonan, are really telling the citizenry, "I can do this. We can do it together."
Noonan also asks a most pertinent question. "Who will provide that confidence (as we move forward)? Where will it come from? Isn't it part of what we need in the next president?"
As it pertains to 21st century American politics, confidence means having a firm belief in one's self, our system of government and in the American people. It is self-assuredness; it is bold; it trusts the principles outlined by the founders 240 years ago … and it is appealing to the American people.
Throughout our history, Americans have believed themselves "exceptional"; and with good reason. Our nation's accomplishments in the fields of science and technology, medicine and humanitarian efforts are second to none. Let me ask rhetorically, could John F. Kennedy have challenged America to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade back in 1961, or could Ronald Reagan have stared down the former Soviet Union if they weren't confident in the results?
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Confidence in a leader is worn like an aura. Voters sense it and are drawn to it. And when a leader is confident he or she is also more disciplined. The two are mutually supportive. And never forget, there is nothing appealing about a "leader" who temporizes — a characteristic too many in Washington have raised to an art form.
A true leader does not berate, name call or sound cynical and then expect to inspire the citizenry. No one likes or wants to be around a whiner, and if a president spends his or her time whining or insisting the problems facing the nation are not of his doing they not only fail to inspire, they also cause great divisions within the population.
At the same time, a first cousin to confidence is passion! Not in a carnal sense, but in the way a leader comports him or her self when addressing the matters of state, begging the question, did anyone sense even the slightest bit of passion in the president's voice after the recent attacks in Paris?
No one can know what was in another man's heart, but if you answered yes, you're part of a significant minority, because even the talking heads on liberal MSNBC didn't detect passion in either his voice or his body language. It's unfortunate but on more than one occasion have I heard pundits say the only time Mr. Obama exhibits any passion is when he's talking about police who "acted stupidly," or campaigning against Republicans.
Meanwhile, the bastard child of confidence is arrogance. Loosely defined, arrogance is an unwarranted sense of self-importance. Real leaders are confident — not arrogant. Real leaders don't lecture and they don't preach. Conversely, arrogant wannabes will never lead because they belittle instead of debate, they exhibit an air of unwarranted superiority and make condescending remarks about their rivals before blaming everyone but themselves when things go wrong.
Some feel there's a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Well, they're wrong — there's a gaping chasm! And it's the American voter's job to ascertain which candidates possess true confidence in their ability to lead and which are little more than bombastic rhetoricians.
Quote of the day: "We'd be a lot better off if the president was as critical of Islamic terrorists as he is of Republicans." — Dennis Miller
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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