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Columbia University students
Leadership students

Columbia University students

The graduate students contributing here are members of "Leadership Development" at course at Teacher's College, Columbia University, taught by On Leadership panelist Todd Henshaw.

The entitlements we love

Q: Having failed to stop health care reform, Republican leaders have vowed to make repealing it their rallying cry in the November elections. What lessons could they draw from political history and the experience of leaders in other fields?

Americans love their federal entitlement programs. We can't imagine growing old without the safety net of Social Security and Medicare. We believe in paying workers compensation when they are injured on the job. We call them entitlements because we believe we are entitled to them. Universal health care will now, finally, become an American right, an idea Americans will quickly embrace.

For that reason, Republicans should look back at history for cues on what steps to take next. When Medicare and Social Security were created, the opposition among conservatives was as strong as it is for against the national health care bill. But the political architects of these programs did not suffer in the long run. They came to be viewed as heroes and visionaries. And the public's opposition -- born out of a fear of the unknown -- was replaced with acceptance after implementation.

If Republicans want to have a watershed moment they will need to formulate a different strategy. Once the bill is implemented, it'll be hard to convince even Tea Party activists that lower insurance premiums and coverage for all children is a Marxist evil. As we look through the corridors of history, it is evident that drastic actions at the outset are often polarizing and self-sacrificing. Galileo, Edison and Darwin were mocked in their time, but they were later viewed as visionaries.

As Americans come to embrace a health care system that doesn't throw them under the bus because they have a pre-existing illness, they'll view it as a right. And to those who tried to keep this from them, they'll be viewed with scorn. -- Taren Cowan


Give it up already!

Prohibition. Arms control. Gay marriage. Euthanasia. Michael Moore. Has there ever been a shortage of controversial issues in the US? While the new health care reform bill offers plenty of upside for many US citizens, there is no question that the government take-over of this issue is cause for conservative concern. No one can stop the inevitable Republican push for repeal, but honestly, how far will they get?

If history has taught us anything, it is that all-or-nothing propositions rarely work. Dare I cite the abortion debate as an example? In 2003, Republicans in the House and Senate proposed a ban on partial birth abortion, which was signed by President Bush. Several district courts, however, immediately struck it down, claiming it was unconstitutional because there was no exception in place to preserve the woman's health, particularly if her life was at stake. Proponents of the ban wouldn't budge, and so, seven years later, they have not made any progress for their cause. I use this example not to argue for or against abortion, but to show that small concessions can go a long way toward an end goal.

Republican leaders need to keep this in mind as they pursue an all-out reform of the new health care bill. My advice: if you argue to overturn every point, you will lose. Choose your battles wisely, but once you do, fight them to the death. -- Mary Catherine Dillon


Putting the pieces back together

The current "rallying cry" of the Republican's is drowning out the real problem: the fact that our country is being torn apart. I wish I understood this need for competition and the desire to make the other party wrong. When did we stop being one nation united, indivisible with liberty and justice for all? Health care provides some justice for all, but with a nation so divided, how can we expect to stand against the other challenges we're facing and survive? The Democratic and Republican leaders should stop making the country weaker and find ways to put the pieces back together. -- Tanya Roth


Morals + morale

Republican leaders could learn from leaders in other fields how to take a stand and communicate that position in an effective and inclusive way to followers. Unfortunately, they have chosen to play upon the fears of the small but growing segment of the American population and have missed opportunities to expand their base beyond this group.

For example, the past weekend a number of these racial slurs, homophobic language used toward Democratic members of Congress, while Republican lawmakers cheered alongside these people on the floor of the House of Representatives. Representative Randy Neugebauer, a conservative Republican from Texas, went so far as to call a Michigan Democrat, a "baby killer" during a debate.

A leader is expected to know right from wrong and to have a moral compass. It is a crying shame that not one Republican spoke out against any of this scurrilous behavior. They simply passed it off as an "isolated incident."

This is not leadership. This is pure politics and classic groupthink.

The Republicans could benefit from someone who will stand out from the crowd and not be an obstacle but rather show some direction in terms of ideas and values. Whether you agree with them or not, the Democrats have clearly defined themselves around the idea of assuring that every American have affordable health care, while the Republicans have honed in on people's fears and hatred. The Democrats have defined a plan around a jobs bill to create more employment opportunities for Americans; the Republicans have honed in on people's fears and hatred. The Democrats have defined a plan to overhaul college financial aid; the Republicans have honed in on people's fears and hatred.

At this rate the Republican party will soon be irrelevant. -- Kyle Younger

By Columbia University students

 |  March 23, 2010; 3:35 PM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that a significant minority of people love their entitlements? That they become impossible to eliminate because the federal government has taken over that sector of the economy? Think of all the money you'll get from Social Security, and it's the worst deal for everybody. How could anything compete with SS when it already taxes 15% of your gross income.

I am amused when entitled students from Columbia who come from upper middle class families or from "entitled" families with little experience in anything tell us historically what works. It's like asking a cocker spaniel how to repair an engine in the space shuttle.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | March 24, 2010 5:40 AM
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"Entitlements we love"

Corporations love abatements, bailouts, and subsidies. There is a better term for those concepts = it's called "corporate welfare". Note how Republicans have no objection to those handouts.

Posted by: lefty71 | March 23, 2010 8:50 PM
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