I despise people who go to the gutter on either the right or the left and hurl rocks at those in the center.“I want to lead like that some day.”
– President Dwight D. Eisenhower
When is the last time you heard a child iterate those words? The reason you may have not, especially in the arena of political leadership, is that no one is providing them, or even us with a solid example.
Everyone has a definition of what that means but in the most basic sense, being a leader should be reserved for those who stick their necks out there, unafraid of someone stepping on it, especially in times when others are in need.
It means making the difficult decisions and standing up for them. Leadership is showing respect, having integrity, and above all else, being honest with those you intend to have follow your decisions.
I have had the good fortune in my life to have had great leaders around me from a young age. I was witness to great leaders starting in middle and high school with basketball coaches, to the military and the Non-Commissioned Officers and Officers who knew what it meant to be the first to cross into harm’s way. The supervisor at my first real job when I got out of the Army, a Marine Vietnam Veteran; they all showed me what it meant to set the right priorities in order to accomplish our goals and do so in a manner we could be proud of.
What I want to know is who, within this framing of leadership, is guiding our decision-makers in Congress today? I look at what we call leadership in Washington and it concerns me that over the course of the last two weeks, and let’s face it, even longer, we haven’t seen one true servant of selflessness emerge on either side of the aisle.
We haven’t seen one person stand up and risk it all for the sake of the American people.
Those who continue to collect a paycheck in Congress act cautiously, afraid as if 2014 is going to bring about an apocalyptic end to their political career, all the while ordinary Americans face the uncertainty of an end to their everyday lives. Those members of Congress fail on the mark of bold leadership.
In 1935, our nation experienced an economic catastrophe that saw over 50% of our senior citizens falling into poverty. While it was considered by some to be “socialism”, Democrats and Republicans worked together to create the Social Security Act. Unafraid.
Social Security payments are on the verge of not making it to those who are both in the “twilight” and “shadows” of their lives. The truth of the matter is that people like my mom, Cici, will lose out along with countless other Americans, if Congress doesn’t accept the responsibility for the position in which they have been elected. I am worried for my mother and those like her whose only form of income is Social Security. As of November 1st will she receive her check? If not how will she pay rent in her tiny one bedroom apartment? How will she pay for her prescription drugs that keep her healthy? The Social Security Administration has begun warning the public that full benefits may not be forthcoming if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. The agency is notifying beneficiaries that “unlike a federal shutdown which has no impact on the payment of Social Security benefits, failure to raise the debt ceiling puts Social Security benefits at risk.”
Not only do I worry about my mother I am worrying about 5.2 million of my fellow veterans and their families. These men and women who gave it all serving our country and have a service-connected disability, those attending college, or other benefit payments will be in jeopardy come November 1st. Those veterans in need of access to care at the VA facilities; those returning home in need of help are going to be experiencing wait times while their claims are being processed. The backlog at the VA we have made so much progress on is piling up again with close to 2,000 claims in just two weeks.
We are losing out as a Nation. We have elected men and women we thought were leaders only to be duped. There is no leadership, there is no one we can look to and say that is someone I want to emulate. That is a leader; someone who puts the people first and their own self-interest second.
I challenge all of Pennsylvania’s House delegation and our Senators to take a long hard look at what they are doing and become the best of the leaders that inspired them. I challenge them to stand up and show us who you are as a leader. As I often say…PROVE IT.
Are you satisfied with the leadership in Washington? If you’re not, issue the same challenge to your current members of Congress and if they don’t PROVE IT- our “some day” to lead is now.
This is cross-posted from A Broad Sense.