Character and the presidency

Reading Manolo Quezon's blog entry today Three Aspects of the Presidency, which ends with this paragraph:

"In that sense, character is paramount: a president who recognizes no limits, or for whom everything is negotiable, cannot become a teacher, nation-builder, or transformative leader. In that sense, too, past accomplishments require greater scrutiny, for they have to be understood in terms of whether or not these accomplishments were accompanied by demonstrations of character, of integrity, by the leader; and whether the leader turned achievement into teaching moments for subordinates and peers; and whether these accomplishments contributed to nation-building or merely personal, political or financial advantage."

Of which I couldn't agree more. Particularly, the fact that "past accomplishments require greater security". Which necessitates that there be actually accomplishments to scrutinize. And for which accomplishments mean "accomplishments", giving an indication of responsibilities, targets set, goals achieved, problems solved, people managed, things learned.

Indubitably, the greater the accomplishments, the greater the possibility of mistakes or even regrettable instances happening but such must be read in context. As the adage goes, those who don't risk failure never gets anything done. The danger is that people may confuse the absence of such mistakes or regrettable failures as an asset if such is not placed within the context of the accomplishments made. The latter actually, offhand, represents two downsides: of electing somebody whose character we really don't know or haven't scrutinized, and, secondly, somebody who doesn't know how to get things done.

The aspects of the presidency that Manolo writes of Dr. Abueva pointing out (great teacher, nation builder, transforming leader) is essentially not new. Ferdinand Marcos even alludes to his presidency as the "teaching presidency". But the fact that in order for a president to fulfill these three aspects of the presidency requires the appropriate character must indeed be emphasized again and again. And the ability to identify that character cannot be made to depend on whether or not we know his parents or that he carries a popular name or (most lame of all) because he did not do anything in the past worth mentioning. We cannot elect a person just because he seems to act as some sort of blank page for which we can pin our hopes or aspirations.

In the end, the president is a leader and it is his ability to lead that we need to determine, along, of course, with that other important matter, with determining where exactly does this person intend to lead us to.

That is why, rather than pinning our hopes on somebody who has not made any mistakes or failures simply because he hasn't done anything in the past, we should look for somebody (as a minimum) that actually has made mistakes, learned from them, got beaten down and got up again, overcome obstacles, and is simply able to get things done. But as I said, as a minimum. From that point and only from that point, do we then start to discern that person's character, values, and ethics, his capacity to lead and where does he want to lead us to.

We get the leader we deserve. If we don't know what we seek in that leader, we cannot expect our leader to know how to lead us and where.