Expectations of the U.S. presidency on this Presidents’ Day

The President of the United States has more impact than any other single American in the country even if they are not as easily recognizable as some sports starts or an actor from a television show or movie.

Over the years I have talked with many people from outside the country. Two of them wanted to immigrate to the United States, both of them women. One young woman wanted to move to southern California from Spain and become a bilingual tour guide. The other young lady wanted to move to California to expand her acting career because she felt that she had gone as far as she could go in her native land of Croatia with the dream of being on her favorite show Bay Watch.

These women wanted to move here because back then the United States was a land of opportunity, of achieving your dreams. It was not only our entertainment that promoted this; it was the actions and policies which attracted people. The face of the United States and perceived leader of the country was the president.

Throughout my youth, I was one of the many who felt that the President of the United States was, at least supposed to be, the best of us. I was not so naive to believe that they actually were, but I always felt that most of the people who took on that job at least understood that keeping up the appearance was part of the job. That they, while they held the job, were the leading citizen of the country that stood for all other Americans.

After the election of Ronald Reagan I began to understand that not everyone understood the job as I did. Six of the last 13 presidents had an average approval rating of less than 50%, not including President Joe Biden. This tells me that we as a nation are not yet good at picking the type of person we want to represent us. On the flip side, perhaps we have not yet figured out what sort of nation we really are. We are still a young nation even if we are now the world’s oldest democratic republic in existence.

We constantly hear arguments that the President should be one type of person such as a businessman, a statesman, a diplomat, or any number of other over-generalizations. These all fall short because it is easy to find examples of a failed businessman, an incompetent diplomat or any other category of bad egg.

The office of the presidency, like the office of the person in charge of any organization, is more complicated than it might first appear.. We need to begin to take the complexity of the job into account when we are making these decisions which have worldwide importance.

Firstly, any good leader needs to be a good communicator; knowing when to speak, when to listen and what to say when it is time to speak. Knowing when to listen and who to listen to is also very important.

A good leader knows their strengths and knows where they need help. The leader knows when a kick in the pants is needed and when they need to hold back. A good leader will surround themselves with people who compliments their leadership style and blends a team together which will work as a team and will, when the time comes, step back to let others take the lead.

A good leader builds and supports networks of people which support the goals and missions of the organization and bolsters allies. These coalitions may be small, such as a single department, or as large as international organizations. The leader works with people without attempting to compete or undermine shared goals. This means that once in a while, compromises need to be made for the common good.

To compromise, the leader needs to be able to set aside their own self interest and look at an issue from the perspective of other parties as best as they can. Then they need the ability to negotiate, to persuade if need be, and to be able to gracefully concede a point and accept when they are not able to get exactly what they want.

All good Americans need to look at our leaders more critically, asking if we would want this person as our boss, as our public relations person, as the mouthpiece of our nation. The President of the United States has the most influence of any other American, a word or action from that office can literally be heard around the world. As illustrated by an Australian friend of mine on January 6th, 2021 who told me that the attack on the U.S. Capitol was being broadcast on Australian television and was only interrupted by a message from their Prime Minister with a message about increasing COVID-19 cases.