Monday, March 17, 2008

7 Most Important Qualities for a President

I'm no political affeccionado, but I came across the Tim Russert Show the other night and he was speaking with the always interesting presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin about the most important qualities for a president to have. They tend to be based on history (i.e. the best presidents did these things, Lincoln, FDR etc.), and they are pretty generic (i.e. nonpartisan and not based on morals or anything like that). I thought It'd be interesting to share. Let me know what you think.

1. Withstand Adversity
2. Diverse Perspectives
3. Loyalty
4. Admit Mistakes
5. Emotion
6. Define Goals
7. Relax

When talking about diverse perspectives, Goodwin uses the example of Lincoln appointing his fiercest opponents to his cabinet. He apparently go ridiculed for it and basically said, "Hey, they are the best minds in the country. I need them on my side right now." A very interesting insight in light of our current political situation. She writes about this and other stories from Lincoln's presidency in her book that I want to read called Team of Rivals.

What do you think of this list? Which is the most important? Least? What would you add?


nate said...

8. Antagonistic warrior.

Just kidding. I agree with everything on the list but would add somewhere in there something like "compassionate." Maybe a Jimmy Carter-esque "humanitarian" would be fitting, because I think social reform should be a multipartisan goal that can be attained by different methodologies.

Chip Burkitt said...

I think it was Lincoln who said something like, "Many men can withstand adversity; if you want to know the character of a man, give him power." Of course, power comes with the job. But it is well for citizens to ask themselves how the current candidates have handled power when they've had it. It takes a confident, strong person to see the value in picking the brains of his or her harshest critics.

Unfortunately, or current President seems not to have had this strength.

mark said...

Great book. Here is my favorite quote...

"It was a most unusual Cabinet," Goodwin said. "They were all Lincoln rivals and came from other parts of the political spectrum."

As to why Lincoln had made those choices, she offered an answer that President Lyndon B. Johnson might have given. She wrote a biography on him in 1977, "Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream."

"As LBJ would say, more crudely, it is better to have everyone inside the tent pissing outside rather than outside pissing in."

Nick said...

Great quote mark, thanks for the plug.

So which on the list is the most important? Or the top 3?

mark said...

Nick, I hope it's OK if I deviate from the list and say what I like most about Barack Obama for President. For me, Barack's multicultural background is what makes him attractive as a candidate who can unite the nation. This is his most important quality. In his book, he said his mother had the most influence in his life. He said this about her...

“For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness.

This isn't to say that she provided me with no religious instruction. In her mind, a working knowledge of the world's great religions was a necessary part of any well-rounded education. In our household the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology. On Easter or Christmas Day my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites. But I was made to understand that such religious samplings required no sustained commitment on my part. Religion was an expression of human culture, she would explain, not its wellspring, just one of the many ways — and not necessarily the best way — that man attempted to control the unknowable and understand the deeper truths about our lives.

In sum, my mother viewed religion through the eyes of the anthropologist she would become; it was a phenomenon to be treated with a suitable respect, but with a suitable detachment as well.”

Unfortunately, no one can run for the President of the United States these days without declaring himself/herself a Christian. I think this quote gives a truer insight into who Barack Obama really is. Hearing it meant a lot to me in my decision to vote for him.

Nick said...

That's fine, Mark. I'd be interested in hearing who the readers of this blog support.

mark said...

Just in case anyone is curious, here is a picture of Barack Obama with his mother when he was very young.

mark said...

So which on the list is the most important?

This isn't on the list because it's only found in a handful of Presidents.

The most important quality for a President to have is the ability to rise to greatness in times of crisis.

I believe Barack Obama's speech, 'A More Perfect Union' is an example. It's the best speech on race relations I've heard since "I have a Dream."

Matt Brinkman said...

Nick, I would place sound judgment ahead of any of the seven qualities DKG provides.

Mark, I agree Barack Obama's speech on race relations ranks with the best speeches I have heard.