A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Why can't Lincoln be both an emancipator and prejudiced?

Source: Rob Tornoe
At the conference I just returned from, one of our discussions was about what makes for a good leader. We brainstormed and came up with these attributes:

  • vision
  • conviction
  • inspiration
  • determination
  • opportunity
  • time
  • flexibility
  • pragmatic
  • opportunity/timing
  • passion
  • resilience 
  • wisdom

That is a pretty solid list-we could add to it or hone it a little more, but overall...

Here is my question? Why isn't 'flip flopping' on there? One of the things one of the presenters talked about over and over again was 'change over time'--history is 'change over time'.  One of the questions we wrestled with was whether Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator or did he have to be pushed into freeing the slaves. We looked at his speeches and writing as a legislator in Springfield. We looked at the Lincoln Douglas Debates. We looked at his presidential campaign. And finally, we looked at his presidency.

Source: The Civil War Trust
Source: Library of Congress

So, what was he? Did he free the slaves or was he the right guy at the right time whose assassination cemented his persona as the liberator of 4 million humans.

I'll let that marinate for a bit and come back to it at a later date.

Source: Jack Ohman
Here is the question I came away with... ...

Why can't we let leaders change their minds?

Look at the list. The ability to change their mind isn't on there. Yes, it can be seen in several of the traits. But we eschew leaders who flip flop. Maybe we are the issue and not the leader themselves. We seem to want them to have a 'conviction' and not change that conviction while leading. As if the idea was fully formed on the day of their first breath and it remains until their last. Political campaigns are riddled with candidates who were for something before they were against something.

I'm not suggesting that leaders let what is popular or what will get them elected be the 'deciderer'. I'm saying that many issues are complicated and we often force our leaders to offer an assessment before they've seen all the facts. If you read many presidential biographies, you see that, oftentimes, campaign rhetoric is based on information they don't have as a candidate. As president, they come under-fire for changing their position.

In keeping with this school year's theme, one of the things I want to do is explore this idea. Do we do more harm than good when we vote for a person based on one or two 'litmus tests'? One of the things it forces us to do as an electorate is to understand the issues ourselves. Not. Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity. Not the RNC or DNC. Not the Tea Party or Move On.


As I said, I'm still letting it marinate myself. I would be interested in hearing what others think. Feel free to comment.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, we ought to expect our leaders to take thoughtful, deliberate positions on issues after careful consideration of the evidence - and we need to both allow and encourage politicians to change their minds as their knowledge and experience increase. The flip side of the coin is that our leaders need to be willing to say "I don't know." But I would make a distinction between that kind of thoughtful evolution and 'flip-flopping.' The reason 'flip-flopper' is such a term of derision is because it's equated with politicians who take positions out of political expediency rather than personal conviction. Their change of heart is less about an ongoing thought process and more about telling people whatever they want to hear at any given time - and occasionally, telling two groups two different things at the same time! That should be discouraged. It's lying for political gain, and we should expect more.