I Remember When American Presidents Were Leaders

I’m writing further ahead than normal. It is Monday morning and I’m already writing Thursday’s article. There were plenty of topics to choose from. When I went to bed last night this wasn’t at the top of the list. This morning I saw brief news coverage of the five living former presidents coming together for American citizens. The current occupant of the White House basically mailed it in. I feel old because I can still remember when American presidents regardless of Party we leaders. Let’s explore.

Saturday night Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all took to the stage at the Reed Arena on the campus of Texas A&M University for the Deep From The Heart: The One America Appeal fundraising concert benefiting the victims of the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands. Clinton, the younger Bush and Obama are all in good health. While Carter, 93, looks chipper he is not and the senior Bush, also 93, is obviously in poor health. They could have easily begged off and everyone would have understood.

Trump, whose official schedule listed no public events for either Saturday or Sunday remained in Washington and sent a taped message. That is today’s equivalent of mailing it in. What was Trump doing that was so important that he couldn’t be bothered to fly down to Texas and help his fellow Americans in need? Would the trip have interfered with a tee time? Was he busy tweeting? Was he monitoring the events leading up to Sunday’s national anthems around the NFL?

In the unlikely event that Trump actually was doing something work related, Presidents have to be able to multi task and need to be seen as leaders. The job doesn’t come with weekends off. I seldom agreed with George W. Bush when he was President but I was one of his few liberal defenders for his actions (other than immediate) on 9/11. He got in Air Force One and basically hid for a few hours. I remember that day well! Americans were scared and confused. The last thing they needed was to lose their President. That evening he addressed the nation via television. That was leadership putting country and cause above personal comfort. Bush was not a party animal by the time he was President. He was famous for preferring to go to bed early. He never missed a White House Correspondents’ Dinner and took a good natured ribbing (sometimes self-inflicted) about the hour.

Speaking of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Barack Obama attended the 2011 event just hours before overseeing the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. During that he and comedian Seth Meyers destroyed Donald Trump for any thinking American. Many believe that Trump’s tender ego was so bruised by that that event spurred his 2016 run. The event is nicknamed the Nerd Prom; I doubt too many nerds voted for Trump in 2016. I know I certainly didn’t!

Leadership calls for putting aside political and personal differences for the good of the whole. Three of the five actually ran against one of the other five. Decades ago in management school I remember being taught about superordinate goals – the objectives of the organization were superior to my personal goals or personal comfort. Over the years as I held various leadership positions I remember more than one occasion where I put on a suit and attended an event in place of doing something I’d rather do. That is one of the small prices you pay for a leadership position. I’m certain the five former presidents had things they would rather have done last Saturday than gone to the benefit. For at least two it was physically taxing. They did it because they love American and Americans. They did it because they are leaders. Perhaps, someday America will have a leader in the White House again; then maybe I won’t feel as old on a Monday morning.

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