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Leadership, the pope and our would-be presidents

REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
The so-called “people’s pope” embraced his role as a global leader of believers in God, not just of the Catholic Church or Christians in general, outlining his priorities by both word and action, treading carefully on the line between church and state.

The upcoming presidential election has stimulated many discussions about what direction the nation must go and who should be our 45th national leader.

slocum
Chuck Slocum

I have listened to much talk from many quarters, participated in roundtables and spoken myself to several groups already.

If leadership is knowing one’s role and defining a clear direction on the important things, the recent five-day visit to America of Pope Francis shares lessons for all of us. The so-called “people’s pope” embraced his role as a global leader of believers in God, not just of the Catholic Church or Christians in general, outlining his priorities by both word and action, treading carefully on the line between church and state. 

In serving as a pastor more than a prophet, the 78-year-old Argentinean pontiff seemed to understand what Mahatma Gandhi said decades ago — that “those who believe that religion and politics aren’t connected don’t understand either.”

Pope’s messages consistently clear

The pope’s messages were consistently clear: honor God, love yourself, accept one another without conditions, take care of the vulnerable — especially children, seniors, the poor — and the environment; side compassionately with the prolifers.

By meeting with Fidel Castro before starting his visit here, Francis endorsed the continuing movement toward new and warmer relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Regarding the Catholic clergy in America, the pope’s walking orders called for “gentle shepherds” who take on the world as it is rather than as they would like it to be, creating a welcoming “humble home.”

Not a bad example of a kind of leadership for the nearly 20 major party candidates currently seeking the U.S. presidency to examine.

Presidential candidates need to answer important questions

Americans want leadership to address what is most important to the nation and to them. My own priorities include answers and ideas regarding the following questions:

1. What is the plan for reducing, over time, the federal budget’s annual deficit resulting in a $19T federal debt even if it calls for spending reductions in some programs and raising taxes for others?

2. How would you oversee America, militarily and diplomatically, in regard to our allies and others whose interests are different from ours, especially Russia and the Middle East?

3. What are the most serious challenges and best solutions for preparing businesses and the American worker to compete successfully?

4. How do we all play a positive role in our politically divided country to make the right things happen?

5. What changes in our uniquely American form of democratic capitalism need to happen to make it a win-win for everyone?

Almost 70 years ago, well ahead of his time, Minnesotan Harold Stassen, a former governor, ran a presidential campaign that was squarely focused on the issue of world peace in the aftermath of World War II. Though his 1948 campaign fell short, we could use more of that kind of leadership from our gang of candidates in 2016.

A Presbyterian, Chuck Slocum is the president of The Williston Group, a management consulting firm. He has served as state Republican chair and is a former executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership. Slocum can be reached at Chuck@WillistonGroup.Com.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 10/10/2015 - 12:10 pm.

    By the numbers

    Number 1: I agree, but you used the words “raise taxes” which won’t fly in your own party.
    Number 2: I’m okay with this one.
    Number 3: It looks balanced, but your party only works the business side of the issue.
    Number 4: It is going to like herding cats, Too much baggage on both sides.
    Number 5: Good except under the current conditions it is always a zero sum game.

    The Republicans are in such a state of chaos who could the Democrats possibly work with that wouldn’t be an exercise in futility. Currently there isn’t any Republican with any authority to act. McConnell and Boehner started out the year saying they had to prove they could govern. Ten months in and the country is still waiting for proof. Both have failed and one of them is quitting. The Republican’s have worked themselves to such a state of total frustration with the voters that Trump, as unqualified as he is, could be the option your party gives the voters in 2016. I don’t see him meeting any of your goals.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/10/2015 - 12:36 pm.

    Leadership

    I admire Pope Francis as much as anyone but in terms of leadership, his message is murky at best, and there was no follow up. He just got in a plane and flew away. I can’t think of a single thing that has been changed by his visit.

    “What is the plan for reducing, over time, the federal budget’s annual deficit resulting in a $19T federal debt even if it calls for spending reductions in some programs and raising taxes for others?”

    To begin to answer this question, we first must understand what’s driving the increase in the deficit. Why are expenditures increasing? Why aren’t revenues keeping up with expenditures? It’s amazing how in what is alleged to be a presidential campaign how little effort is made to answer these questions by people who claim concern over deficits.

    “How would you oversee America, militarily and diplomatically, in regard to our allies and others whose interests are different from ours, especially Russia and the Middle East?”

    Do presidents oversee America? In any event, if they do, that has little to do with foreign relations. I don’t have an easy answer to this question, but we should ask how it is related to the first question. Obviously, military expenditures play an important role in the deficits many decry. Should deficit concerns outweigh military concerns?

    “What are the most serious challenges and best solutions for preparing businesses and the American worker to compete successfully?”

    I think we are dragged down by an overpaid management class. Carly Fiorina was paid 20 million dollars to go away, something that would be unthinkable in any other country in the world.

    “How do we all play a positive role in our politically divided country to make the right things happen?”

    Come up with good policies, I suppose. But it’s hardly enough for any political leader to play a positive role. To be effective a politician and a president must go way beyond that and make things happen, and they need to be the right things.

  3. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 10/10/2015 - 05:36 pm.

    Things the GOP needs to get over

    When it comes to negotiating the GOP always feels like they are standing on the dividing line when negotiations start.

    Poison pill politics needs to stop as well. They talk about what they have proposed so the folks back home think they are actually working. The problem comes in when their proposal contains the guaranteed poison pill they know is not acceptable to the other side.

    The other killer they use is attaching none related items to the main bill which is also guaranteed to kill the bill.

    I believe these tactics are used because the GOP is a leaderless party. No one can say who the leader of the Republican party is. How can anyone deal with a party in this condition?

  4. Submitted by Dane Smith on 10/11/2015 - 07:45 am.

    Leadership questions

    Great column, Chuck, papal leadership context was appropriate and your five over-arching questions are as good as any I’ve seen. I do think racial disparity, and the debt we owe from generations of persecution and discrimination, deserves to be a stand-alone and top priority question, at least as important as the official national debt.

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