Leaders and Ambition…

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I read yesterday where someone wrote that we are penalizing Hillary Clinton for being ambitious. The writer says a person must have ambition to even want to run for President. Up until now, the author argues, that has been a positive trait.

I would agree, to a certain extent. We do want our Presidents to be ambitious: ambitious enough to lead well, to faithfully execute their office, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, to make the tough decisions on our behalf, and to represent our nation to the best of their ability. After all, that’s what they swear to do when they assume the office. We want them to live up to their word.

But we also expect our leaders to temper their ambition with humility. We give them a lot of leeway to do the job we elected them to do. We give them the benefit of the doubt most of the time, because we presume that they know things we don’t know, that they are privy to information we don’t have, and that they really do have the best interests of the nation at heart.

We want our leaders to be servant leaders. Until recently, we never elected Presidents to rule over us. We elected them to serve us. We want them to be shining, noble examples of all that is good and right. All the while, we know they are flawed, imperfect humans. We want them to remember that, and act accordingly.

We want them to have bold ideas, dream big dreams, and do big things. But when they fail – as they all do – we want them to acknowledge it and take responsibility for it. We don’t want them to blame their predecessors or external factors. We don’t want them to cover up their flaws and foibles with misdirection or outright lies.

We want them to be ambitious, sure. But we expect their ambition to be directed toward the greater good, not their personal agendas or power or gain. We want them to recognize and navigate the tension between personal preference and public responsibility. We trust them to keep our national ideals and preserve the things we cherish, not to sacrifice them on the altar of momentary political expediency.

We want our leaders to value the great privilege we entrust to them. And we want them to live in the awareness of the awesome responsibility that comes with such privilege.

We want them to lift us up, not beat us down. We want them to bring us together around noble purposes, not tear us apart into selfish factions. We want them to put the nation’s good ahead of their own.

We don’t want them to blame us when their ideas fail. We want them to be people of their word. We want them to demonstrate honesty, integrity, and character. We don’t want them to have one face in public and another in private. Although we don’t really know them, we want to perceive them as familiar faces, intimate friends, and effective leaders who bring out the best our nation has to offer.

When they fall, or when they fail, we give them a great deal of grace. We offer our forgiveness. When they are threatened, we want to unite behind them. When they speak, we hope they speak for us. We hope they don’t apologize for the things that make our nation our nation. When they die, we mourn as one people.

All we ask in return is that they do the best they can, so help them God, to faithfully lead.

And so, back to the premise of yesterday’s article.

Let’s be brutally honest here: these two major candidates for the highest office in the land are perhaps the least popular ever to be nominated for the Presidency. Much of that they have brought upon themselves, and much has been foisted upon them by media and our own sense of expectation. A disinterested observer might note that these people are driven by ambition. That same observer might also discern theirs is a personal ambition: for power, for fame, for notoriety. And that observer might conclude that ambition is not the kind that best suits the leaders we want for the present and future of our Republic.

I refuse to concede the original writer’s premise. It’s not Mrs. Clinton’s ambition we fear. It’s that her ambition seems to be wholly aimed at her personal power and the advancement of her personal agenda. And some think that ambition comes at great cost to our identity as a nation.

From this observer’s vantage point, no one is penalizing Mrs. Clinton for her ambition. Rather, it appears her ambition is the only factor that matters to a less-than-skeptical press. We want better from those who presume to lead us. We’d rather she – or anyone whose ambition is to lead this great nation – put our interests first. We’d rather be confident that they are shooting straight with us, and that when they speak, we can trust what they say.

It’s not her ambition we don’t like. It’s that it’s her ambition above anything else.

And that deserves to be scrutinized and eliminated. It would be better if she realized it and fixed it before it gets the best of her and those she intends to serve.