It’s been a while since I’ve weighed-in on the political front, and with the recent failure of the Budget Super Committee, I thought it would be an interesting time to examine the difference between statesman and politician. I don’t know about you, but I’m so fed-up with the rhetoric and the gamesmanship in Washington that I’m about ready to give-up on all politicians. Our country was founded by great statesmen, and somewhere along the way we turned our nation over to a bunch of self-serving politicians. While the term political leadership may have become an oxymoron, it is simply impossible to be a statesman and not be a leader…
It has been said that a politician is concerned with winning an election, and a statesman is concerned with future generations. The politician makes speeches and promises motivated by pride, ego, notoriety, power, position, stature, and personal success. Contrast this with a statesman who keeps commitments, is motivated by service above and beyond self, and by making a lasting positive difference. The true statesmen is a breath of fresh air whose only pursuit is to improve the welfare of those they serve regardless of public opinion, or self-interest.
With unemployment still out of control, our nation adding more than $4 Billion dollars a day to our budget deficit, and no hope in sight for true change vs. promised change, it is far past the time for business as usual in Washington. Our nation racked up more debt during the time that the Super Committee was in session than they were charged to eliminate in the first place. Leadership isn’t about creating committees, it’s about making tough decisions, and getting things done that accomplish the mission. Leadership isn’t an absentee business, leadership isn’t about giving speeches, leadership isn’t about placing blame, leadership isn’t about the leader – it’s about those whom the leader serves.
I did something interesting last night which I’d suggest you do as well….I researched the cabinet members of our first 10 Presidents and compared them with our current cabinet members, and what I found simply confirmed the sentiments that I described above. Without listing all 10 cabinets just take a look at the comparison between George Washington’s cabinet and Barack Obama’s cabinet and you’ll see why I’m so frustrated…
President: George Washington vs. Barack Obama
Vice President: John Adams vs. Joe Biden
Secretary of Defense: Henry Knox vs. Leon Panetta
Secretary of State: Thomas Jefferson vs. Hillary Clinton
Secretary of the Treasury: Alexander Hamilton vs. Timothy Geithner
Attorney General: Edmund Randolph vs. Eric Holder
* I only included cabinet positions that existed during Washington’s era for direct comparison purposes.
Do you see the difference yet between politicians and statesmen? Perhaps the most telling failure surrounding the Super Committee was the absence of our president during the process. Rather than leading by attending to the business of the nation, our president was campaigning. Can anyone reading this post truly imagine Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, etc., not being fully engaged in bringing resolve to matter? When our nation’s leader is more concerned about winning a second-term in office than leading our nation forward we all have pause for concern. We simply need to restore principled leadership in Washington. Our nation needs serious people to step-up during serious times. What we need is to send home disingenuous politicians (republicans, democrats & independents alike) and replace them with true statesmen.
In the end, my message to those on Capitol Hill is a simple one – do the right thing regardless of partisanship, compromise is honorable where it serves a greater good, and remember that leadership is about the people you serve and not self-interest. All of our nation’s politicians should take to heart the message that those leaders not accountable to their people, will eventually be held accountable by their people. If there are any true statesmen left on Capital Hill, it would be a great time for them to show themselves…
I welcome your comments below, but let’s try and focus on the big picture and not partisan quibbling.
Image credit: Boston University