I’m still reading and digesting Amoris Laetitia, and will begin writing some reflections as soon as I’m done. Spoiler alert….chapter 4 is brilliant! In the meantime, I came across an interesting story on CNN this morning that ties in with my recent post on empathy.
The CNN article is titled, Who’s really qualified to be President? 11 takes. Many of the women and men giving their opinions in the article have had direct access to presidents or worked in high level governmental positions. What struck me was how many times empathy was listed as a necessary qualification for a President.
David Gergen, senior political analyst for CNN and a White House advisor to four presidents writes,
Empathy and appreciation of differences: In a world best characterized as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, our new President must have an ability to listen and work collaboratively with people of vastly different perspectives.
Anne-Marie Slaughter,president and CEO of New America and director of policy planning in the U.S. State Department from 2009 to 2011, believes that,
The qualifications that we should be looking for in a president—and I base this on my experience as a leader, a State Department official, and a citizen–are intelligence, grit, courage, empathy, and the ability to listen to what you don’t want to hear…Empathy is undervalued, but if a President cannot walk in the shoes of a citizen, an immigrant, or a human being half way around the world and feel what that person is feeling, s/he cannot lead in the way that people often yearn to be led.
Empathy is the only quality on Paul Begala’s list.
I believe empathy is the most important quality a president can have. This is an impossibly large, unimaginably diverse country. The ability to empathize with people of every race, religion, sexual orientation, region, generation, and ideology is critical. A president must be able to put herself — or himself — in the Guccis of foreign leaders, the cowboy boots of congressmen, the orthopedic shoes of the elderly, and the flip-flops of the young. Obviously brains help and rhetorical skills are a great asset, but for my money, empathy matters most.
Begala is a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator. He was a political consultant for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992 and a counselor to Clinton in the White House.
It doesn’t take a deep thinker to connect the dots of these reflections to a critique of a Donald Trump style of leadership. Trump’s rudeness and belligerence are obvious and easy to name. Leaders without basic social graces and manners not only insult the people they serve, they are an embarrassment on the world stage.
Naming empathy as a necessary qualification for a President points to an issue deeper than a nasty personality; an issue that can have far reaching consequences on both long term policies and critical moments when quick decisions are required. Empathy IS needed for a moral life and moral leaders are needed more than ever. Also needed are moral voters who can look beyond their own back-yard issues and vote for leaders who will work for peace, justice and good governance for all.