The Four Qualities of a True Statesman
What qualities should citizens look for in the next leader of the free world? What core criteria might voters consistently use to evaluate any legislative or other candidate running for political office?
Professor J. Rufus Fears, Ph.D., sets a high standard in articulating the yardstick by which we should measure leaders of either gender. As a noted scholar specializing in the history of freedom (Tinyurl.com/TrueStatesman), he emphasizes that the role of a politician and a statesman are not the same. A statesman, Fears attests, is a free leader of a free people and must possess four essential qualities.
A Bedrock of Principles
The statesman builds a platform on a foundation of firm, unchanging, fundamental truths that he believes at his very core comprises his overarching philosophy. In the face of changing times, opposition and challenges, this foundation will remain intact. A statesman may change the details of his policies and his methods, but only inasmuch as expedient tactics serve to further his bedrock principles in the long run.
A Moral Compass
A statesman does not govern by public opinion polls, but instead makes decisions by following his own moral compass that is rooted in a sense of absolute right and absolute wrong. He is not a relativist. When he believes something is wrong, he plainly says it is so 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.
The statesman is ambitious—he must be to obtain a position of power— but there are things he simply will and will not do to get to the top. He is a man of integrity; he speaks the truth. He leads by moral authority and represents all that is best in his countrymen.
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. Foresight is one of his most important qualities, because he must be able to recognize problems on the horizon and find solutions good for both the short term and long term. The statesman keeps in mind not only the here and now, but the world that future generations will inherit.
The Ability to Build a Consensus to Achieve that Vision
A politician may have a bedrock of principles, a moral compass and vision, but if he lacks the ability to build a consensus around them, his efforts to change policies, laws and the course of history will largely be in vain.
In enlisting others in government that serve with him to support his initiatives, he knows that their willingness to do so is based on the pressure they feel from their constituents to align themselves with the statesman’s vision. Thus, success ultimately hinges on his ability to convince his country’s citizens of the soundness of his philosophy.
To win their hearts, the statesman shuns media campaigns and instead harnesses the power of the written, and especially the spoken, word; he is a master orator. His lifelong study of great books and the lessons of history allow him to speak to the people with intelligent, potent, well-reasoned arguments.
Instead of tailoring his rhetoric to the public mood, he speaks to the very best that exists within people, understanding that powerful rhetoric can articulate, bring forth and activate sometimes deeply buried ideals. His authority derives from his belief in what he says. He does not make emotions soar and burn with empty promises, but instead keeps his word and does what he says he will do.
Based on a professional lifetime of research, Fears believes that the three greatest statesmen in history are Pericles, of Athens, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Their bedrock principles rested on the ideals of freedom: democratic liberty, equality under the law and individual freedom—the freedom to live as we choose. Each embraced a vision of expanding liberty for citizens, yet all courted controversy in some of the measures they deemed necessary to achieve their vision.
In Fears’ estimation, the ultimate measuring rod of any true statesman and what matters most is that their leadership ultimately led to more freedom for more people in the long run.
Authors Brett and Kate McKay of Tulsa, Oklahoma, founded TheArtOfManliness.com blog in 2008 to help men become better citizens, fathers, husbands and friends. Its educational messages attract 8 million page views a month.