I spent nine long months working as a letter carrier (technically, a “City Carrier Assistant”) for the US Post Office. One Friday during a morning standup meeting, we had a sendoff for a supervisor who was transferring across the country. She was known as a yeller who was constantly stressed, who treated most everyone with an air of contempt. In the generally-hostile atmosphere between union and management, she was a catalyst for much grumbling.
In her goodbye speech, this supervisor spoke about having been a Marine (she may have been a Drill Instructor; she certainly had the skills for it); she said, “that’s not really who I am, I just have to yell at you to get you to do your jobs.”
The second part of that was bad enough; it said everything about how much she valued the people she was supposed to lead. But the first part, if it was true, was frightening.
That’s not really who I am.
I know there are at least a few jobs that require a shift in personality; in a sense you have to be someone who, by nature, you are not. Acting is one of those. Military drill instructor may be another. Post office supervisor is not. Neither is presidential candidate—or president.
Some of this nation’s greatest presidents are considered great because of their character. Certainly time has glossed over those mens’ faults, but the fact remains that for most of our history, one of the key qualifications sought for our highest office was character: integrity, diplomacy, strength in the face of adversity, moral uprightness. During my lifetime (though I don’t think it’s my fault!), character has slipped down the list of priorities.
Now I’m going to get very political: Donald Trump does not have the character to lead this country. His rhetoric is good media and an effective campaign tactic…if you’re trying to get free media coverage. Here’s the scary part: Trump claims that he’ll behave differently as president.
That’s not really how I’ll act.
Right or wrong, politicians have earned a reputation for being dishonest. Few reasonable adults believe the promises a candidate makes during a campaign—even if only because they recognize that the president has to work with a legislature that is often openly hostile to those promises.
We do, however, expect that what we see on the campaign trail will be what we see in the White House. Which brings up two glaring problems with Donald Trump: first, what we’ve seen from Trump during this campaign is not what I think we want to see in the White House. Leading this nation in the community of nations demands diplomacy and reason, not belligerent rhetoric.
Second, if the Donald Trump we’ve seen on the campaign is not the Donald Trump we would see in the White House, then we have no idea what President Trump would be like; we will have elected a ghost.
I’m scared. I’m scared because I don’t see a good candidate—a man or woman of character—who has a reasonable chance of becoming president. I’m scared because of the number of people who seem willing to put electability over character. And I’m scared because we might get exactly what we want in our next president—but not what we need. Character.
At the top, character counts.