Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Character Is the Core of Good Leadership

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Character Is the Core of Good Leadership

Article excerpt

I SEEM to be stuck on the subject of character, particularly the character of presidents and those aspiring to the presidency. There's now a new book - "Character Above All" - that examines the relationship between the character of the 10 presidents preceding Bill Clinton and the leadership they provided.

I think it is a great book, perhaps because the highly regarded observers of the political scene who supplied these 10 essays - scholars like Doris Kearns Goodwin, who has written on Franklin D. Roosevelt, and David McCullough, who has provided analysis of Harry Truman - support my own beliefs: Good character is essential in the presidency.

What is character? Euripides defined it as "a stamp of good repute on a person." My Webster's Dictionary defines it as "moral excellence and firmness," as in "a man of sound character."

It's clear to me from this book that the voters have, for the most part, done a good job over much of this century of selecting presidents who are men of character. FDR, Dwight Eisenhower, Truman, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush measure up to that standard.

RICHARD NIXON'S character was badly flawed and so was his presidency: Watergate tells it all. Lyndon Johnson was not a man of character, either. He, like Nixon, simply didn't tell the truth to the American people, particularly about the Vietnam War.

John F. Kennedy's short stay in the presidency has been hailed by some historians. But his high-risk womanizing, disclosed in recent years, casts a shadow over his record. Furthermore, relatively new disclosures have shown that Kennedy's so-called biggest triumph - when he was supposed to have stood up to the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis - was not quite the heroic act that Kennedy and others made it out to be at the time.

Only years later have we learned that it was not, as portrayed by JFK and his people, "Kennedy standing eyeball to eyeball with Khrushchev, with Khrushchev finally blinking. …

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