Starting now and running through 2016, Americans will be searching for qualities in candidates that would make for a good president. Serious consequences will follow if voters choose incorrectly.
There are many legitimate presidential candidates now available for voter consideration. With an underperforming American economy, international developments in disarray, consumer confidence faltering and citizens disgusted with political dishonesty, candidates have high standards to reach if they are to receive broad support. Here are some time-tested traits, assuming that each candidate possesses the requisite intelligence, recognized leadership and a strong work ethic that may help voters sift through the field and arrive at a reasoned choice for 21st century leadership.
HUMILITY A lifestyle of service without self-exaltation is rare in candidates, but the combination is a necessary trait for which to strive in this next election. Candidates must know themselves well and show confidence in their public policy beliefs. Yet presidential candidates who genuinely convey heartfelt commitments to human struggles will generate followers and demonstrate a humble nature, in spite of their natural self-assurance. Americans are hungry for a leader who can effectively wed compassion with humility.
AUTHENTICITY Getting what we see in major candidates is a modern political necessity. Political campaigns are scripted so that we rarely get to "know" the candidate who seeks our vote. Public debates are usually a series of sound bites or broad platitudes. We often only see the images (through TV ads) the candidates or their teams want us to see. When we don't get the leader we expected, approval ratings drop and the political system is diminished. Authenticity and political transparency generate trust and can reverse the trend.
COMPASSION Deeply caring for people and their circumstances means a candidate has keen insights into their problems and would work for effective policy solutions. Even though President Franklin Roosevelt was a wealthy, accomplished New York blue blood, his common touch helped him lead America through the Great Depression and on to victory in World War II. He sensed what was good for both the common man and our whole nation. Deep caring is instinctive, but can also result from broad experience.
HONOR One who lives an honorable life, free of deception, possesses a trait that marks a good leader for greatness, for only when leaders are trustworthy can they fully expect broad support. Citizens should only elect candidates whom they trust, because an untrustworthy candidate often becomes an untrustworthy leader.
HOPE Leaders must inspire hope in those they lead and encourage others to greatness. If citizens conclude that their leaders do not share their hopes for a better world, they'll have little to strive for. Hope is inspirational and aspirational. If acted upon by leaders, it can truly motivate. A hopeless people soon become a hopeless nation, with leaders lacking enthusiasm that leads to leadership stagnation, with neither patience nor kindness. Citizens can tell when leaders aren't committed to the greater good or the issues at hand.
PATIENCE True leadership in a political setting demands patience. Few leaders accomplish their policy objectives immediately. Work and patience eventually persuade other leaders to follow a preferred public policy course. The American government's constitutional system expects and requires patience. President Abraham Lincoln withstood a long Civil War, showing extraordinary patience accompanied by kindness and perseverance. Had he been impatient, a broken, irreparable nation may have resulted. Since the American system is generally not built for speed, a presidential leader's patience is essential — not only to keep pursuing sound policy objectives, but to patiently tolerate and work to resolve policy objections.
FAITH Belief in community, in unity, in people — and their goodness — is essential. Any leader who doesn't love the nation led is unworthy of leadership. Citizens need to know that their leaders love America and want to make it better. Believing in a nation's people, their goodness and self-interest in the communities they form and the possibilities they represent, means a leader is equipped to be a nation's unapologetic standard-bearer: reliable in times of stress; proud, without being arrogant, in times of triumph; and always recognizing the hard work of others.
WISDOM It usually comes with age and experience. It leads to statesmanship and reassures all who deal with America, engendering confidence and success.
For the sake of America's future, each voter must examine the 2016 presidential candidates with caution and discernment. In our examination, are we finding humility, genuineness, compassion, honor, hope, patience, faith and wisdom? America deserves no less in its next president. ♦