If You Ran For President ...

Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For April 9 weekender, 2016

If You Ran For President

David W. Hegg

While everyone is debating the merits of various candidates it strikes me we should all consider what we’d have to be and do if the nation drafted us to run. What would a great candidate look like? What foundational skill set would you and I need? And what would form the basis of our character? Here are my suggestions.

Knowledge: There is no substitute for being an educated, well-rounded, experienced and wise person who also considers it a privilege to be a life-long learner. There may be many paths to knowledge but certainly university and post-graduate studies at reputable institutions go a long way to forming an informed person.

But academic achievement is only the first part of the educational formula. Knowledge is useless unless it is put into practice. Knowledge rightly used constitutes wisdom, and wisdom grows through experience. There is no substitute for having labored in the trenches of real life, pitting knowledge against challenge, and using every failure as fuel for future success.

Discipline: Every successful person understands the primary place discipline plays in life. Sometimes discipline means careful planning. Other times it means sticking to the plan. At all times it means knowing what must be done, doing it, and never giving in to the temptations to be lazy, take short cuts, or do the job halfway. Discipline means knowing “good enough” is never good enough. Discipline always take the right road regardless of its challenges simply because it is heading in the right direction. Discipline also means being faithful, trustworthy, and willing to do whatever it takes to keep a promise. Discipline is self-control, understanding the effects of words and actions, and harnessing our tongues rather than letting them rule the day. You and I may survive without much talent, but we’ll certainly fail without discipline.

Decision-Making: Life is made up of millions of small decisions, and a few gigantic ones. When knowledge breeds wisdom, and discipline fuels patience and self-control, you get is a solid decision-making process. Gather the necessary facts, assess the risks, determine the consequences, and make the best decision knowing you’ll have to communicate it well and still take a few knocks.

Good decision-making propels progress, even through rough water, and few skills are more necessary to success than the ability to choose the best way forward. What we usually call leadership often boils down to decision-making. From choosing those who will give counsel and advice, to adding it all up and determining the right course of action, the most essential skill we will need is the ability make good decisions, communicate them clearly, deal successfully with the consequences, and move the enterprise forward.

Dignity: We’ve all known brilliant people that no one wanted to be around. Despite their knowledge, discipline, and multifaceted skill set, their lives were devoid of dignity. Dignity infuses itself into the person, and flows out in many forms. Dignity shines in humility when a person takes the task seriously, but never themselves. Dignity expresses itself in kindness to others, remembering every person deserves to be treated in a dignified manner. Dignity upholds standards of honor and would rather suffer loss than abandon core ethical values. Dignity is the passion to always live as our best selves, attempting the most essential tasks no matter how difficult, and striving to make all those around us the best they can be. In short, dignity is that magnificent place where humility, kindness, and honor converge making the person worthy to be followed.

So, if you were to run for president, what would you expect of yourself? What kind of person would you vote for, and are you that kind of person? It seems to me quite absurd to castigate the candidates for their lacks if we are quite comfortable with those same character flaws in ourselves.

Maybe it is time to become the kind of person we could find ourselves voting for. And, who knows, if we became a nation of knowledgeable, disciplined, and dignified people capable of making great decisions, we’d probably end up electing the kind of candidates our nation really needs to remain “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”