I spent 50 years of my life in the world of the 3 R’s, the proverbial “readin’, ritin’, and ’rithmetic.” My years as both a student and a teacher were fulfilling and fruitful ones.
I and many others have just endured four years of the mid-alphabet 3: L, M, and N: Lies, Malfeasance, and Narcissism. This woeful quadrennial was one of continual fabrication and fecklessness and self-absorption; it was far from satisfying and productive.
What we need now as an antidote to the opprobrious goings-on of a hubristic, ineffectual, wannabe autocrat and his sycophants is an era of 3 T’s: Truth, Trust, and Thoughtfulness.
Republican President Abraham Lincoln valued and trusted the truth: “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” The most recent Republican president, who at times compared himself to Lincoln, obviously did not share Honest Abe’s view, having told 30,573 lies during his tenure.
These presidential prevarications, unfortunately, will have an effect on people long after his tumultuous term. “As a result of Trump’s constant lying through the presidential megaphone, more Americans are skeptical of genuine facts than ever before,” says presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
It is incumbent on President Joe Biden and political leaders to tell our citizenry “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Their assertions and policies must be supported by verifiable data and provable facts, and their decisions must be made on substantiated evidence.
Only through truth can trust be established. Philosopher and cognitive scientist Paul Thagard asserts that “Trust is a central part of all human relationships, including romantic partnerships, family life, business operations, medical practices, and politics.” Without trust interpersonal bonds cannot be maintained; without trust, political alliances cannot be established.
If our nation is to return to its core tenets, we must have trust in its leaders who, according to Leadership Consultant Ray Miller, can establish trustworthiness by demonstrating these traits:
“A Leader . . .
. . . openly admits mistakes and failures so they can be rectified.
. . . does not claim credit for accomplishments that he/she was not directly involved in.
. . . maintains the highest ethical standards when dealing with [constituents].
. . . will keep promises or at least offer an explanation why they can’t be kept.
. . . does not manipulate data or information for personal gain or protection.”
What a relief it would be if all our governing office holders lived by these attributes.
As important as truth and trust in rebuilding respectful relationships is the third T: thoughtfulness, in both senses of the word.
For too long our government’s policies and actions have been guided by empty-headed party loyalty or self-preservation rather than by mindful consideration of the needs of the populace. It seems that thoughtful debate and discussion have been replaced by self-serving personal attacks.
Such an inept leadership style is a danger to our institutions and our personal well-being. To regain our status as the paradigm of democracy, we must choose leaders who demonstrate a willingness to decide on a matter only after careful study and consideration of the facts.
Conversations during our current lifestyle have often devolved into a shoot-from-the-lip culture. Rather than talking with each other in ways that show forethought and verity, too many folks hurl unfounded assertions back and forth; rather than being thoughtful dialogues, frequently discussions are little more than closed-minded quarrels devoid of evidence or substantiation.
Consideration of another sort is also necessary to return to civility in our society. This other type of thoughtfulness can result in more concern, more kindness, less selfishness in our interactions with others. If we become more solicitous in our attitudes towards others—near and far—we can alleviate some of the divisiveness that plagues our communities.
Being thoughtful of others can be contagious; such a contagion is not to be feared. When we contract the infection of thoughtfulness, rather than demean and abuse them as has been the recent norm, we will be more likely to uphold the inherent worth of our fellow citizens. We can live, not in hateful dissonance, but in civil harmony.
Truth. Trust. Thoughtfulness. Three traits we must insist upon in our leaders and in ourselves.
Opinion contributor Lloyd E. Sheaffer, a retired English and Humanities teacher, writes from North Middleton Township, Pa. His work appears monthly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page Readers may email him at [email protected].