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January 27, 2015

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Examples of leadership lead up to Easter, Passover

To my Christian friends, Happy Easter. To my Jewish friends, Happy Passover.

Easter and Passover have always been celebrated within a few days of each other, one celebrating the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt under the able leadership of Moses and the other a testament to the life of Jesus Christ and his leading an entire people, a huge part of our world, toward one of the world’s great religions.

In both examples, it was the ability to lead, coupled with the people’s faith in that leader, that propelled both religions forward at a time of great strife.

In an effort to apply a modern message to the teachings of both religious events, I want to share with you the thoughts of two people I had the pleasure to listen to this past week.

The first is my friend and our country’s 42nd president, Bill Clinton, who was in Las Vegas on Wednesday to speak to members of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.

The room at the Encore was packed with people who were vitally interested in President Clinton’s views on health care specifically and, as is always the case when people have the chance to question him, myriad other topics.

I want to focus on health care because, as President Clinton explained, in Arkansas that would be the pink elephant in the room. You don’t walk into a person’s living room, see the pink elephant, and compliment the owner on the beautiful sofa. People expect you not to insult them by refusing to deal with the obvious. If there has been a failing by the proponents of the health care bill, it has been an almost universal refusal to discuss with the American people what the bill actually does. And that has allowed those who oppose universal health care to, frankly, just make stuff up.

Think about your own life and all the decisions that are made that affect it. There was a time in our country when leaders could make decisions with which we disagreed but, as long as our leaders explained their actions, shared their reasons and treated us with respect, we always re-elected them. That is because we appreciated the sincerity and the clarity with which they acted on our behalf.

Today, however, it seems the politicians would rather not face the voters who question what they have done and why they have done it. That frustrates many people to the point that they get mad and may even attend a tea party to share their discontent with like-minded citizens. And we all know what happens then!

President Clinton believes health care is a moral imperative, which is consistent with the Easter message celebrated today, to care for the least among us. His position is also based on an economic imperative that demands that we find a fix for the health care challenge.

That challenge, simply, is that America spends 17.4 percent of its gross domestic product on health care and has outcomes ranking behind some 35 other countries in terms of longevity and good health. Almost every other country with whom we compete not only has better health outcomes but spends far less on delivering that health care to its citizens, and almost every one of them has some kind of individual mandate or government-mandated program.

The United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars more for health care than our nearest competitor. Think about that number imbedded in the price of goods and services we are trying to sell on the open market, and you will see very clearly the incredible economic disadvantage we have created for ourselves. But, if we can fix our health care system, make it cost competitive with other countries, our other attributes of American productivity, innovation and quality will make us the world leader into the future. To ignore this elephant in the room, to fiddle around for another decade or two while our competitors beat our economic brains in, is folly.

In the context of the Supreme Court case that could determine whether the law passes constitutional muster, President Clinton believes we are far better off fixing what we now have than we are trying to start over. Starting over means, as a practical matter in today’s polarized world, doing nothing for a long time — while our competitive advantage continues to slip down a health care-cost driven slope to the bottom.

We all know President Clinton is an extremely bright and very persuasive individual. He was in that room full of health care professionals. That is because he deals with facts, with argument and with logic, and most Americans, given the time to listen to him as well as the inclination to do so, would be persuaded. And, even if they disagreed with him, they would not “hate” him as is the case in today’s political environment. They would just disagree.

My point is simply that leadership not only entails good ideas but also the ability and desire to sell those ideas to people who want to know because everyone wants the respect of a responsible explanation.

I have written about President Clinton’s easy-to-read and most informative new book, “Back to Work.” It should be required reading before anyone votes in November because it is based on facts, not ideology. He has nothing to gain but good government and a healthy America because he cannot run again. And, if it gives us nothing more than an informative respite from the incessant chatter on the cable “news” channels, we would all be better off.

So, President Clinton’s speech Wednesday was my first example of real leadership. Like the messages of Easter and Passover, his is an example of a person who not only has a good idea about which direction to go but who also has compelling arguments to persuade a majority of the American people to follow him there.

The other example of leadership that I encountered last week came from a less presidential source.

Tom Selleck plays a police commissioner in New York City in the TV series “Blue Bloods.” He is a wise, no-nonsense and compassionate man who deals daily with family issues, police matters and the politics that go with both.

In one encounter with the petty political machinations of a mayor more interested in his job than actually doing his job, Selleck’s Chief Reagan, a good Irish Catholic name for this Easter story, defines leadership.

When the mayor puffs up his chest and declares that he is seeking consensus for a particular action he knows is necessary, Selleck scolds him. “Leadership is not seeking consensus,” he said, “leadership is molding consensus.”

Did Jesus seek consensus? Of course not. Through his actions and his words, he molded it. And Moses? Did he ask everyone whether they should flee the Egyptian Pharaoh? Did he ask them which way to go? Of course not.

As we reflect on the meanings of Easter and the lessons of Passover, we should be cognizant of the message of leadership.

If the United States wants to lead through this 21st century, in this most competitive and interdependent world in which we live, we need people who will mold consensus by standing in front of us and telling us what we need to hear and not what we want to hear. There is a big difference, you know.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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  1. A real leader, as you put it, 'molds consensus' through words and actions. A true leader facilitates 'Convergence of purpose' - the realization to 'come together' because we all have the same wants and needs. It is vital that we come to that realization and make that decision to follow where the leader takes us.

    Simply building consensus oftentimes breeds resentment because people are 'forced' to agree. This is the reason we are where we are now.

    A leader must recognize that the only way to real change is through individual decisions to change. Any other way is simply compliance and unsustainable.

  2. First, NOT ALL Agree that Bill Clinton is "extremely bright"! I see absolutely no reason to think that he is above average intelligence. He may have politcal gifts of lies I find those to be of no value in MY life.

    Second, while he MAY deal in logic, I for one do NOT believe that he starts with the proper grounding in facts and circumstances!

    For example, the "FACT" you state that we rank behind 35 other countries in health brings such things to mind. much of this difference is various the GOVERNMENTS misreporting of the facts. Iraq had a very LOW infant morality rate (UN guidelines call a live birth only one that lives past 48 hours). In fact there were few if any births in the 48 hour to 7 day range? Hussein (Saddam, not our guy) told the doctors that for THEIR health they should NOT report such time periods. I'm sure that I can explain why and how other governments do the very same to produce great results! Not only is there govt lies but poor reporting due to poor communication!
    Even the percentage you mention is open to interpretation and fudging!!!

    The circumstances that I think he overlooks is simply this: IF healthcare is a right, who is to supply it??? How is it that some MUST be FORCED to pay for the upkeep of others?
    Now I understand that we can tax the hell out of anyone who makes more than we think decent and pay for that healthcare, but what gives us the right to take by force the earnings of others and supply others (whose votes we wish to buy?) a product!??!HOW exactly is that different from one person owning another? Why do we not declare simply that all doctors must work for free and provide any and all healthcare demanded? Because that would make doctors our slaves, you say? Do not the taxpayers now work part time for free to supply others with their demands???
    The circumstance is simply this: Are we allowed to use force against another citizen simply because we desire what that citizen has? How does that differ from the man with the gun who asks for our 'money or our life'? You say we have decided democratically?!??! OK then we have TWO men with a gun and they want your money--2 to 1 they have decided democratically that YOUR money is THEIRS! But you say that is not how things work that the two men are only theives who are calling themselves democratically elected and hiding behind legalise to steal our wealth. I would say that perhaps that is what is going on with taxes-congress and the president bending the law and the constitution to take our money.
    The president claims to be able 'to bind us in all cases' that he can find under the Commerce Clause that enter us in any market we enter by birth(!) and 'if being bound in that matter is not slavery, then there is no such thing as slavery upon earth.'

    Better a free man with a headache than a slave with all the health care the suffering and sweat of others will buy.

  3. Mr. Mills:

    Let us set aside our opinions about whether or not Clinton or Obama is a better leader than let's say Romney or Santorum. This will never be resolved because we judge them according to our own frame of reference. The polarization of this country has become wider and wider because of our intransigence.

    Let us instead focus on the type of leadership that can bring opposing beliefs closer by finding what we can agree on: What we want our country to be like; what kind of society we want to live in; what quality of life we want for ourselves; and what kind of legacy we want to leave our children.

    There are still universal truths that we hold dear - and that is the dignity and the value of human life. It should neither be a liberal nor a conservative concept. It is what separates us from animals. Yes. We all have to take responsibility for our own lives - that is a given.

    In reference to the current opposing arguments about health care, we must consider the fact that the hallmark of an evolved society is how it regards those who are unable to take care of themselves.

    I am sure our collective intelligence can find and eradicate the root causes of abuses without obliterating the traces of our attempts toward a highly evolved, human civilization.

    Let us NOT use the abuses of current systems and processes AND our individual pursuits and politics cloud the original intent.

  4. Dear MS. Agustin:

    I would say that our society is divided into two camps because there are those who believe that the govt is the source of all that is good and those that believe that it is the source of MOST bad. There can be no compromise between two concepts so opposed.
    If I mix 1 pound of poison into 1 pound of potatos and you eat it and die, was it the combination that killed you, the potatos, or the posion??? Compromise is not always good!!!!!!! Freedom is messy and doesn't always give the outcome we desire--people will still die, planes crash, cars go off the road--but people will breath free!!!

    The hallmark of an evolved society is how it treats EVERYONE!!! "if one man is a slave, then all are not free" JFK, 1960.

    Why is it that someone's not being able to fend for themselves obligates me to (help) take care of them? Why is their NEED more important than my RIGHT to what I have earned?
    Now before you go off half cocked, I am one who helps the poor very greatly on a minimal salary. But I do so willingly--that is the essence of liberty--the ability to do or not do without force! If you wish to be considered part of an evolved society shouldn't you be ridding the world of the use of force--govt taking that which does not belong to it and giving it to others.

    Civilization is the process of setting men free from men.
    Where there is sacrafice there is someone collecting those sacrafices. The man who speaks to you of sacrafices is speaking of slaves and masters and intends to be the master!!!
    There are TWO sides of every isssue: the correct and the wrong, But the MIDDLE is always evil. Rand

    The original intent is to protect our liberties--that is why govts are instituted amongst men--Jefferson 1776!
    Perhaps you can think of other original intents, but I cannot. Life is important, but so is freedom. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Patrick Henry 1775

  5. Even if " . . we are far better off fixing what we now have than we are trying to start over . . ", consider the balance of power in the Senate. Come November, the Republicans may or may not become the majority party, but they are quite unlikely to reach any 60 seats. Harry Reid will remain in a position to--on a party-line vote--forestall passage of any measure of which he strongly disapproves. Conversely, he will not, at least in the current or next Congress, be able to pass any measure of which Republicans disapprove.

    In my opinion, the most-objectionable aspect of ObamaCare is the Individual Mandate. One way or another, "care for the least among us" should be financed directly from tax revenues. Insurors should be entirely free to underwrite as they see fit; required only to fully disclose, and honor, contractural commitments.

    Mr. Reid would be well-advised to, in the very near future, draft and publicize a replacement for the Individual Mandate. Hopefully, resulting in some serious, bipartisan, discussion. Mr. Romney, in particular, should express his views as to specifically what he would deem "minimally acceptable".

  6. I understand Mr. Mills. I certainly am not accusing you of not being charitable. I apologize if you thought I attacked you personally. I am simply stating a need for our society to take care of the less fortunate. Yes. It must not be forced and the government has no right to force it upon us.

    Our government is sick. It has become so immense that it is unable to police itself. The politicians are making it worse. They make new laws and cannot even enforce those that already exist. Public service has become a path to wealth and power instead of what it is meant to be. Greed has become the norm.

    Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, wrote about what it means to "stand with the poor; "that building companies alone is not enough to solve problems of poverty; "the need to find and support entrepreneurs who are thinking about what it takes to build systems that can truly break the back of poverty. " help build sustainable companies that benefit the poor, rather than focusing first on investors. "help them look for the next level of capital. "talented leaders who understand what it takes to build markets where none have existed ; " sharing what we've learned - both successes and failures. " deciding to do what is right, not just what is easy; walking away from unethical leaders, even when their companies are "succeeding." "sometimes spending outsized resources to help turn around companies beleaguered by sabotage or extortion. "pulling out of deals when co-investors are known to be unethical in their dealings. ...the world has unprecedented opportunity to build a more inclusive economy."

    That is what I envision as a right step toward achieving a truly evolved society. I am not talking about master and slaves, but of equality and equity in opportunities. I am not talking about sacrifice either. In fact, I am talking about convergence of purpose -- recognizing what we all want out of life and working together toward that goal.

    Poverty is not a crime, but our society has somehow equate it to laziness and entitlement. We must know what it means to walk in a poor man's shoes - understanding poverty instead of condemnation. If we have the power to help, then we have the responsibility to do so.

  7. Dear Ms. Agustin:

    No I did not think you were attacking me--but whenever I make statements that WE are not responsible (legally and lawfully) for others I do get attacked as an uncaring right winger. So I tend to cut that argument off ASAP.

    Why would anyone invest in a company that that does not care about ROI? That is why we invest to get return on our money. Now perhaps some one would give up some money (who, Warren Buffet???LOL) in order to help the poor and not investors, But I find that a successful company does more to raise people out of poverty than all the govt programs ever thought of. Finding markets where none existed sounds like Microsoft, capitalism does do that job. Did you know that in 1958 the head of IBM said that 5 computers would be enough to do all the computing the world needed to have done???

    I do not believe that equality of opportunities can ever be acheived in a FREE society. Some will always have better looks, more talent, more abilities, more of something. It is a nice illusion to think that without someone being a master with a master plan that we can all be equal. We cannot! I will always be better than 99.9% of the population at math no matter how many people I teach the subject to. I will always be slow afoot regardless of how many miles I run--I can run far, just not FAST.
    There will always be gold, silver, and bronze at the Games.

    The unfortunate thing is that what we all want out of life is NOT the same and sometimes (many times)when it is, what one wants they simply cannot have because someone else has it and doesn't want to give it up. I want to be a Justice of the Supreme Court--but the nine members on the bench won't move and BHO wont' nominate me.
    While poverty is not a crime it is NOT society that equates it with laziness and entitlement. Just listen to the OWS mob or those who cry over every dollar cut from welfare!
    By the way, there is NO 'society' making judgements--there is just us individuals making up our individual minds. I think we think that society or govt or fate controls things to give us a cop out!!

    Trust me I KNOW what it is to walk in the shoes of a poor man, I know what it is to walk/work beside a poor man!!

    But remember that we all help in various ways: Should a rich man give some money to the poor and help them for a while OR invest his money in a factory giving some of those same people honest work, a good wage, and make some money for himself?? Think about how different the world might be if Bill Gates had taken his $3000 (or whatever it was) that he used to start Microsoft and instead given it to the Salvation Army for a Christmas gift?!??!? Now there is a thougth experiment for you!

    Govts don't make mistakes, people in govt do; govts don't lie, people in govt do.
    I think that we should all decide what is right and do it. But having said that who gets to decide what is 'right'--slave or master?