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Howard Gardner
Scholar

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero.

It's not when, but what Obama said

Q: President Obama weighed in on the issue of the mosque at Ground Zero prompting grumbles that the gesture was unnecessary and politically damaging. Meanwhile the imam at the center of the controversy -- Faisal Abdul Rauf -- has been largely invisible, lecturing for the State Department in Bahrain and, according to his wife, unavailable until next month. What do leaders need to know about perfecting the timing of weighing in on a crisis?

A leader should speak up when the matter calls for his attention, when he has a well thought out and articulated position with respect to the relevant issues, and when he has thought through the various possible reactions to his remarks and anticipated those reactions as much as possible. With respect to his remarks about the mosque, and also about the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates, the problem for President Obama was not a matter of timing.

It was precisely what he said, that it failed to reveal a well thought through position on the relevant issues, and that he had not fully calculated the impact of his remarks. In both cases, he fell short, disappointingly so for a person who is characteristically thoughtful.

By Howard Gardner

 |  August 23, 2010; 1:43 PM ET
Category:  Crisis leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Obama made a statement at a Ramadan dinner emotionally supporting the building of the Ground Zero "community center" at a place where the Ground Zero site would be easily visible from that high building. Then, the following week, he reversed himself.
Things stand out: (1)There is already a mosque two blocks away, suitable for worship. (2)This new center has no funding yet, and the Imam says he might use funding from Iran. Some questions exists about who really owns the property. The U.S. government is funding Imam's middle east trips to drum up funding. (3) We are told anyone who objects just doesn't believe in freedom of religion (and is a racist, a bigot, a muslim-hater, a bad American etc.) Just shut up, they say. We will tell you when you can speak. Sharia is here already.

Posted by: drzimmern1 | August 26, 2010 11:14 AM
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