Statesmen Drawing the Politicians into the Vision

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We have already defined a Statesman as a leader who is unique in terms of vision and character, as for example, expressed by Edmund Burke:

The great difference between the real statesman and the pretender is that the one sees into the future, while the other regards only the present; the one lives by the day, and acts on expediency; the other acts on enduring principles and for immortality.

In a democracy, it takes a miracle for a Statesman to be elected where the Politician promises more immediate benefits that are attractive to a superficial electorate.

Then, when the Statesman gains office, implementing one’s vision presents a challenge in a democracy where one individual cannot govern by oneself, but rather must have the agreement of others, who are unlikely to share his character or values. Since there are few Statesmen within the political class, the Statesman cannot count on the support of like-minded officials to implement policy. As the Politicians will not be like-minded, the Statesman must influence those considered Politicians.

How does that Statesman face this challenge? The hope for the Statesman is to instill the vision, which drives him, into the lives of those whose cooperation is essential for implementation. The first step is to understand the vision, character and values of the Politicians that surround him. The Statesman must, of necessity, understand that the Politicians around him are driven by more limited goals. He understands that there are two natures in the Politician, as in all human beings ‒ one with a desire to do good as well as a desire to personally benefit from the exercise of power – and then appeals to this better nature.

Jesus taught:

You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… (Matthew 5:43-44)

He was not saying that we should treat those who think differently as our enemies, rather but that we should make every effort to find good within those with different values for the benefit of mankind. He was really saying to care about those with different values and perspectives than we have ‒ to look for the best in them and to engage them.

Then, I am convinced that the Statesman understands and employs the powerful Biblical concept: persuasion. Let us consider these examples from the life and teaching of Paul:

Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people. We are completely open before God, and I hope we are completely open to your consciences as well. (2 Corinthians 5:12)

He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and tried to persuade both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:4)

Then he entered the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, engaging in discussion and trying to persuade them about the things of the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8)

After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and witnessed about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. (Acts 28:23)

Finally, we have this example with the territorial governor:

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?” (Acts 26:28)

The Biblical approach is to respect opposing viewpoints, treating them as if they are sincere, and to work to persuade those with those opposing viewpoints. I can see examples of this principle being applied in the lives of those we all consider to be Statesmen.

While Nelson Mandela was still in prison, the South African administration could see that apartheid was nearing its end. However, while fearful of the step to take, it was necessary for those in the administration who held the power to be convinced that they could trust Mandela, that he had a vision for a democratic South Africa which would respect the rights not only of those in the majority but those in the minority as well.

George C. Marshall provides a constructive example. While Foreign Minister, Marshall had a vision for helping in the reconstruction of Europe after the devastation of World War II. His vision was so important to him that he did everything he could to help others take ownership over the vision and to take the focus away from himself politically. Since his party did not control the legislature, and therefore the budget, he worked to include the opposing party in the vision. The vision was so important to him that he even was willing to give up any political benefits he might have received from its success. He publicly vowed not to run for President so that those in the opposing political party, whose participation was so essential, would not distrust his vision and motivation, and in order to have the best hope of their embracing his vision as apolitical. His vision for the rebuilding of Europe caused him to persuade American politicians and businessmen to make huge contributions that they were not prepared to make and which they often resisted.

I am convinced that both of these leaders were successful because they made their vision contagious, and persuaded others who were not natural allies that it was apolitical and for the benefit of people. Their persuasion was not only rhetoric but driven, I am convinced, by pure motives. Their persuasion involved instilling confidence in something bigger than themselves.