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Political Leadership. I Knew I Forgot Something.

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(Let us give our American History meaning)

Why is it difficult to lead in the 21st century? America is growing; there are many more potential leaders in our communities, but none that truly stand out as those who have come before. Where is the Lincoln of today? Of course, historians argue that Lincoln had more than his share of intense critics during his era. Yet, he pushed through them to accomplish some of the most critical tasks of the time. Today, compromise among politicians seems to reflect more an unwillingness to be unpopular, or at least to make unpopular decisions, than it does a dedication to accomplish goals. At the same time, an inability to collaborate with political foes seems prevalent as well. It is time to discontinue this trend of "all or nothing" in political and social circles within our country.

 From http://www.flickr.com/photos/83711730@N06/9500283546/: Capitol Portrait
Capitol Portrait by andrewfhart

The "all or nothing" mentality is what began the American Revolution and the Civil War, among other historical events I could suggest. I teach my students that history is meaningless, unless we as individuals give it meaning. Let us make useful inferences from our nation's political history. It is time to continue to grow as a nation, without unnecessary and prolonged suffering that always seems to peak before change occurs. We tirelessly debate and write about the shortcomings of our current elected officials, while still accepting their small, but insignificant accomplishments. How often do we say to ourselves, "What can I do?"  

This work has relatively nothing to do with political parties, as both they and the individuals in them will come and go. Perhaps it is time for the people as a whole to lead, as our representatives at all levels seem to lack the capacity to sacrifice for the greater good. The future always seems to be a variable or a gamble. However, the citizens of America have the power to decide what that variable will be. Unity in our country has been crippled by leaders who allow it to be so. The very word hegemony is known by so few, but should be a household term in the times in which we live. I urge all of us to add it to our internal dictionary, as it is truly relevant in this political environment. Hegemonic cycles have been seen throughout civilization's history; yet, this does not mean we have to follow this precedent. As many great scholars have pointed out, democracy at one time was a radical theory, not widely accepted.

As an Independent/Democrat, my own political views are typically not radical, but somewhat liberal, in the spirit of promoting constructive change. Of course, conservatism is a necessary element in any political sphere. Yet, it seems to be a trend in history that every so often radicalism is needed to promote democratic well-being. As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently stated, "When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When governments fear the people, there is liberty."

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To put this quote in the context of 21st century America, we could say that we need to enhance the state of those who are being governed, rather than the state of those who are governing. Without question, as we all know, very few of those who are currently governing need their (financial or any other) state enhanced. Today, the middle class (the majority) needs to yell a little louder than before. It is fully justified in doing so. 

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Dale Schlundt holds a Master's Degree in Adult Education with a concentration in American History from the University of Texas at San Antonio and is currently an Adjunct Professor for Palo Alto College. Dale's new book Education Decoded (A (more...)

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