Our Quote of the Week invites us to reflect on the nature of leadership. It reminds us of two things: that there is a need to elevate new and diverse voices and approaches to leadership; and that within our system, winning an election and governing require two different skill sets, one of which does not guarantee the other.
During the aftermath of the Nixon presidency, Sargent Shriver entered the 1976 Democratic presidential primary. In this early campaign speech at the Women's Leadership Conference Luncheon, he made a point that we take to heart today: that an attitude genuinely open to new political ideas was required for leadership. He goes as far as to say, in fact, that “what we need is nothing less than a transformation of consciousness.”
Since Shriver’s audience was made up primarily of women, he focuses on equality between women and men in the speech, but ultimately, he argues that what is at stake when working for equality is the nature of humanity itself:
“There really is no such thing as a ‘women's issue’ that isn't also a ‘men's issue’. Republican recession pits men against women in the struggle for fewer and fewer jobs. Real equality would be as liberating for men as for women -- and don't I know that. Men are imprisoned by the very stereotypes that oppress women. The economic rat race and the macho model are the other side of the male dominance coin. What's involved in this struggle is no less than the most profound of all questions -- what does it mean to be a human being?”
Shriver ends the speech with our Quote of the Week, emphasizing that the time had come for people with new perspectives and ideas, particularly women “and other groups that have traditionally been fenced out”, to govern.
We are experiencing a period of deep polarization and political volatility perhaps not unlike the moment in which Shriver found himself when he spoke these words. Nevertheless, challenging times can open up opportunities for new leaders who may not have a traditional political background to step forward. What’s important in this moment is for us to support candidates who are sincerely committed to problem-solving and to service, and who are in touch with the wider cross-section of people who call the United States their home.
As we move forward, let us embrace innovative models of leadership. Let us have the vision and courage to create a diverse and inclusive group of political leaders who will keep the best interests of all of our communities in mind. If we work together, as candidates and citizens we can create a government that is more committed to the long-term goal of governing well than to the short-sighted act of winning simply to gain power.