STATESMANSHIP PART II

A few posts back Pastor Brian Heath wrote a very timely article about the difference between a politician and a statesman. It picked up on a growing sense of frustration and dissatisfaction from the public with the standard of leadership in our country. 

For the last five years we have been bombarded with speculation over leadership changes, splits and demotions, commentators dissecting every speech and over-analysing every gesture, appearance and even tie colour. Much emphasis has been placed on the close opinion polls, but politicians and the media have missed the real story behind the polls – Australia is sick of the saga on both sides. 

Consider the four qualities identified by Dr Rufus Fears, a professor in the History of Freedom. A former student of Dr Fears, Brett McKay, has written that these characteristics that separate a statesman from a regular politician are an excellent yardstick to measure leaders. They are: 

1. A Bedrock of Principles:
A statesman builds his platform on a foundation of firm, unchanging, fundamental truths – regardless of what is popular at the time. These are the things he believes at his very core, his overarching philosophy. Politicians, on the other hand, allow their principles to be up for negotiation, depending on the public mood and their own agenda. They are willing to switch sides and compromise on their convictions. They therefore have very little foundation to build on. Regardless of how hard they work and how long they are in service, they do not leave a lasting legacy for generations to come. And regardless of how much publicity, air-time and notoriety they might have, the public is still unsure of who they are and what they stand for. 

2. A Moral Compass:
Dr. Fears argues that the modern politician makes decisions by using “antennae.” He puts his feelers out there to gauge the public mood. Once he figures out which way the wind is blowing, he then shapes himself and his message to give the people exactly what they want. But as Dr. Fears would hammer home again and again to his students: A statesman does not govern by public opinion polls. 

The true statesman makes his decisions by following the dictates of his own moral compass. He is not a relativist – believing that right and wrong differs from person to person and culture to culture; he believes in absolute truths, and this guides his own moral compass. When something is wrong, he plainly says it and does everything in his power to fight against it. When something is right, he is willing to overcome any opposition to preserve and spread it. 

3. A Vision:
A statesman has a clear vision of what his country and his people can become. He knows where he wants to take them and what it will take to get there. He must be able to recognise problems on the horizon and be able to come up with solutions that are good not only for the short-term, but for the long-term as well. The statesman keeps in mind not only the here and now, but the world future generations will inherit. 

4. The Ability to Build a Consensus to Achieve That Vision:
Because a statesman follows his moral compass instead of opinion polls, his ideas are often initially out of step with the public mood. But instead of tailoring his rhetoric to that mood, he speaks to the very best within his countrymen. He understands that while their ideals may be deeply buried, powerful rhetoric can bring them forth and activate them. His strength of conviction, even if his position is unpopular at the time, strikes a chord in the public. The support from his colleagues comes from the pressure they feel from their constituents to align themselves with the statesman’s vision. 

To win their hearts, the statesman does not use slick advertisements and PR campaigns. In fact, Fears argued that ads and propaganda were the tools of the despot. Rather, the statesman harnesses the power of the written, and especially the spoken word. He is a master orator. His study of great books and the lessons of history allow him to speak to the people in intelligent, potent, well-reasoned arguments. 

- HEIDI MCIVOR