Weatherford Democrat


August 3, 2012

COLUMN: Society is in need of leaders

— Where have all the leaders gone?

The basic premise of being a leader is taking the current status and improving upon it. Unfortunately, the only way to move toward a better future and solve problems is to really understand from where you start and the failure mechanisms of the past. Visionaries aren’t bound by the starting point; I believe leaders are.

Case in point, Rahm Emanuel has stated that he will keep Chick-fil-A out of Chicago...he’ll not let them build a building or open up a business. A leader would preface that position on his ability as mayor to do so.

Having spent most of my life associated with local government as a student in grad school, as a staff member of a couple of Texas cities, as a member and chair of a planning and zoning commission, as a member and vice-chair of a city council, I am convinced Rahm is either totally uninformed or totally misrepresenting the power of the position he holds. I suspect there is something much more sinister at work. He, like many people in government, is not willing to acknowledge the laws that govern the position they hold. In many cases these elected officials regard those laws and rules as immaterial because to have them as a starting point requires logic, thought and guts! It is easy to take the popular, simplistic position because that is what some people want to hear.

Leadership requires understanding multiple viewpoints and positions. Only then is it possible to find rational solutions. Leadership requires acknowledgement that there may not be an easy, simple solution. I’m reminded of a basic investment principle: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” A similar rule may apply to politics: “If it sounds too simple to be true, it probably is.”

Back to Rahm, here is a stumbling point to his simplistic position. Many cities have fought having Sexually Oriented Businesses (SOBs) in their community. However, various courts in the land have determined that each community must provide some area to be zoned for such use. Let me ask a very simple question here based on the most elementary logic. Does this seem logical that a court that required cities to provide a zoning category for SOBs would then accept that there is any rationale to keeping a chicken store out of a city?

Now, mind you this chicken store does not discriminate against any customer — in fact, it has developed a public commitment and long standing written statement to the contrary!

This commentary is not about “gay or straight” anything. This is about why we, as a society, are in trouble. We are in trouble because we are willing to let so called leaders get away with misrepresenting and misleading us all. They seemed to be bound by no rules — rules of law, rules of decorum, standards of conduct and, if their mothers taught them anything, they’ve forgotten that as well. And, they assume we are uninformed and incapable of finding the truth.

Oh yes, there is one more technique we should flush out here also. It is the subtle technique of taking on a persona when giving speeches. I refer here to the now much discussed comment by the President. You know the one he really didn’t make? He said these business people didn’t really build their own businesses or something to that effect. But when it was said in the persona of a Pastor Jeremiah Wright, his audience all knew exactly what he was saying. None of us need spar those words — that is exactly what he wanted his audience to believe he meant. Of course, when called out he ran to the “time out” zone declaring (1) he didn’t say that and (2) if he did, he didn’t mean it. All this is from one of the greatest orators of our time?

This observation applies to politicians of all persuasions. It is not just Democrat or Republican. Although, I personally believe the proclivity seems to be more on one than the other. It also applies to the press when they use the selectivity of facts under the pretense of limited time to misrepresent the facts. Life is complicated and a one minute sound bite will never explain even the high points fairly, much less the real issues.

The primary responsibility of a leader in the free world should be to ensure we all have good information and data to judge their performance. If they can’t be that kind of leader, I want another leader. The best advice I ever received wasn’t what I wanted to hear — it was WHAT I NEEDED TO HEAR. That, my friends, is what leadership is. Telling you what you need to hear…not playing to the audience. While on this topic, it is only fair to give Romney credit for doing just that when he spoke to the NAACP. He didn’t give them one speech and someone else another speech. I hope I’m beginning to see a glimmer of hope.

So, what is the antidote to this misrepresentation of the real issues by politicians and the press? I believe the only real antidote is knowledge. It is studying the issues, researching the facts. Watching more than one TV newscast, preferably one you don’t particularly like. What’s the rationale? You begin to sense what truth is and what is hype. Listen long enough and you’ll develop filters such that you can automatically filter out opinion from fact. You’ll see them at their best and at their worst. Then, you’ll decide for yourself. A great democracy requires hard work by everyone. Read, study, listen and compare; then, just use some common sense and logic.

I sincerely hope everyone gets what they deserve. I am afraid most of us will continue to get much less.

The Bible says, “... by their fruits, ye shall know them.”

I sincerely hope that will be true in the upcoming elections.

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