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What's lacking in today's selection of leaders is the requirement for wisdom



By BOB HEGAMIN March 6, 2000

There is a serious deficiency in our political spectrum, namely, a simple way of determining whether an elective official has the "wisdom" to lead. As a frame of reference, early societies were led by the wisdom of "elders" - the wellspring of knowledge and experience. In the USA, however, since errors in judgment obviously have no consequences for "clueless" leaders, they are permitted to make mistakes, mismanage, and remain unaccountable. In fact, elected officials believe they have a license to be incompetent - without penalty - as long as political expediency is allowed to replace "wisdom”. This is manifested by the familiar " That's old news, let's put it behind us" put-down, and the insincere "I'm sorry" in the increasing number of political scandals.

"Wisdom" is that quality or an individual's state of mind that is able to discern and judge properly what is true, right, or just. Wisdom can't be faked, and a lack of it in an elected official usually elicits criticism, such as "(So-and-so) is a real dud, clearly not the person I voted for." If the criticism is universal, society is truly at risk. Wisdom is not something that is bred into the individual; nor inherited; nor bought; nor borrowed; nor acquired through education. It is that intangible quality in an individual's personality that is subtly acquired over time, independent of skills developed professionally or artistically. You'll know it when you see it.

In reviewing and evaluating candidate qualifications, submitted political resumes have generally shown that if faced with potentially critical situations, the experiences of those candidates could be compromised for a lack of ethical principles. This has forced the electorate to incorrectly assume that those future officials will govern with a wisdom and integrity they may not possess.

Most elected officials entering the political arena for the first time have proven the mechanics of governance can be quite easily learned. They have also demonstrated, however, that most do not learn their lessons well. Substantially, once elected, they assimilate material only superficially and since they have nothing else to prove, go about being poor legislators and executives.

In retrospect, many primitive and early societies had accepted and promulgated the concept that the leaders of future generations would be naturally imbued with "wisdom". The founders of the new American republic agreed with the concept and bet that only well-qualified and well-principled candidates would apply for elective offices.

"….We believed that….wisdom and virtue were not hereditary", Benjamin Franklin wrote William Johnson on June 12, 1823. He explained how the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had concluded that although wisdom and virtue could not be inherited, they were still qualities attainable by the individual. They simply believed that only exceptional leaders of the new government would surface in a society that believed in the inalienable rights of, and the constitutional justice for the individual. Many elected officials today, however, have obviously rejected the concept as they have clearly replaced both wisdom and virtue with political expediency. It is a trade-off the people cannot afford.

In our sophisticated society, a contrived pseudo-wisdom has been allowed to pass for the real thing. It is a veneer applied to elected officials who claim to have had some training in political science, having served an internship as an aide to an elected official, or having been a packaged candidate dreamed up by political consultants. Under such conditions, elected officials are compromising what is true, right, or just in the USA -- a very sobering thought.