05/09/2011

Looking for Leadership

Looking for Leadership Daniel Warner   ​September 11 will be the occasion for numerous analyses of the political situation in 2001 and now. Much will be said about how the world has changed, and how it has not changed. Security has become a major issue, whether in Geneva or around the world. People who fly can certainly attest to the effects of September 11, if not those trying to get a visa into the United States. Francois Heisbourg, Chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, reminded me that major events cannot be properly understood until at least 20 years after. Nevertheless, I would like to suggest one possibility about this 10th year anniversary. ​No major figure will rise above the pronouncements to satisfy our longing for perspective and proper bereavement. No ceremony will move us as has been done in history. Great funeral orations, from Pericles to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address after the Civil War, have served multiple purposes; they have satisfied the terribly complex emotions in situations of commemorating and mourning; they have given us hope for the future. “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…” said President Lincoln, but we do, Mr. Lincoln, we certainly do. For years, American school children have memorized the speech, and the words still reverberate in our minds: “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…” ​President Obama has been heavily criticized for making excellent speeches but having little practical follow-up. His actions in Libya – leading from behind – were not what was expected of a United States President. He recently proposed to speak to a joint session of Congress about the job situation, only to have the date shifted in an unprecedented rebuke by the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives. The President, I propose, is neither acting nor being treated presidentially. ​September 11 is indeed is an opportunity for the President to connect with the American people and the world by reaching out to our emotions. Mr. Obama is perceived as being aloof and adrift; losing the great enthusiasm that greeted his election. The list of disappointments is long, and last Friday’s decision that the Administration was backing off the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed regulations for stricter ozone pollution appears to be another nail in his coffin. ​September 11 is an opportunity for the President to step up to the plate. I, who had promised to stop analyzing his speeches, will be listening attentively to his address at the National Cathedral on the evening of September 11. For this time, the speech is the action and his eloquence will be truly needed, and tested. September 5, 2011   ​

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