Our Better Angels
I wonder what Barack Obama's "To Do" list looks like these days.
- Get girls settled into new school. Very important, though not a threat to the world.
- India-Pakistan: Very important, global threat. High degree of difficulty.
- The economy: Scary stuff. Remember to take deep breaths here.
- Rod Blagojevich: He's got to go.
Is Blagojevich innocent until proven guilty? Of course he is. But apparently even he's not brazen enough to claim, "Those FBI tapes are bogus. It wasn't me." Not yet, anyway.
So, Governor B, do an Elliott Spitzer. Kick yourself if you must, but take your lumps and step down. Your days as an effective chief executive are over.
The jig is up for Blagojevich, and Obama was just stating that publically when he called for the governor's resignation. But when things go wrong the leader's responsibilities go far beyond the day's press conference, and Obama has given us an important lesson in what comes next.
Whether I'm leading a large organization, a classroom full of students or the kids who sit down to dinner with me, one of my most significant responsibilities is to maintain the values of the organization, to strengthen them and ensure they stay vivid and viable. Obama steered the national conversation in this direction, and did so quite artfully, in his comments about the two kinds of people who seek public office: those who want to enrich or reward themselves, and those looking to give something in the service of others.
The President-Elect (a former professor) gave the nation and especially the nation's leaders a teaching moment, an opportunity to use a real-life story to make an important point. Governor Blagojevich reminds us all that we need to live by our personal values and the values of the organizations we serve, because it's so easy, in the day-to-day grind, to forget our better natures. And when things get particularly messy, the leader's job is to call us back to the time-tested, the profound, the important things that tell us who we are.
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