There is a very good interview in the Wall Street Journal today (14-15 July 2012) with George Shultz, former Secretary of State, Treasury, and Labor.
Shultz talks primarily about our countries devastating financial situation today.
On the economy, he states bluntly: “We have some big problems in this country.”
But according to the interview “the policies for revival are obvious with the right leadership.”
Shultz gives an example of former President Reagan (who I blogged about previously (24 June 2012) in It’s The Right Thing To Do] as someone who had what it took to lead us out of difficult times.
“It took long-term thinking…[Reagan] knew and we advised him you can’t have a decent economy with the kind of inflation we’ve got…The political people would come in and say ‘You’ve fot to be careful Mr. President…You’re gonna lose seats in the mid-term election.”
And as Shultz reminds us, what was Reagan’s response?
“And he basically said, ‘If not us who? If not now when?”
The article goes on that “it took a politician with an ability to take a short-term hit in order to get the long-term results that we needed.”
Reagans words and deeds remind me of the Jewish teaching from the Book of Avot (“Ethics of Our Fathers”) from more than 2,000 years ago which reads in 1:14–
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
And if I am [only] for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?”
Reagan was in tune with this ancient wisdom of our forefathers, that we have an obligation to take the appropriate actions to care for ourselves and others and not to put off these actions unto others or for later.
This is one of those true leadership qualities that made Reagan one of the most popular and favorite leaders on the 20th century.
Reagan acted based on principle and not based on votes–the long-term health and outcomes for the country was more important than the minute-by-minute polling.
Of course a leader needs to represent the will and wishes of the people, but he must do so with the bigger-picture and long-term view in mind for the nation to survive and thrive.
Similarly Peggy Noonan writes today about how we need a “political genius” to get us out of the mess we are in as a nation.
She too uses Reagan as an example and explains how he used to state about congress that: “when they feel the heat [from voters], they see the light,” and it is the President’s job to help the people understand and “galvanize them.”
As Ms. Noonan states about a real leader: “he’s direct and doesn’t hide his meaning in obfuscation, abstraction, cliches and dead words.”
A leader who knows and believes as in the wisdom of fathers, and like Ronald Reagan, “If not us who? If not now when?”
(Source photo: here with attribution to Tom Magliery)