All groups of people need leaders in order to get any group activities accomplished. From the simple “let’s make dinner” to the more complex “let’s make a country together,” someone takes the lead to make things happen. We have had some spectacular leaders, those who not only got things done, but inspired others to give their all in the effort.

Dan Cook

Think of President Abraham Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address, the first line known to all: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Or Winston Churchill in World War II: “we shall fight on the beaches, …. we shall never surrender.” Or Martin Luther King’s visionary proclamation, “I have a Dream.” Or President John F. Kennedy’s exhortation, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Looking back on these leaders and their speeches, it seems that even with all the differences Americans have had over the years, we were always joined more by what we had in common than by our differences. Emphasizing our commonality is the type of leadership that brings a country together, makes us feel we’re working towards shared goals that are formed by the ideals that unite us, even in times calling for sacrifice. This is Leadership by Ideals, emphasizing our Shared Freedoms, motivating us to achieve a goal of the greater good.

Unfortunately, what we have today coming out of Washington, DC, could be described as Leadership by Money. Everything seems to revolve around Money, getting more Money for yourself, more Money for your in-group, and doing everything possible to make sure this continues into the future. And while money/power/politics have always “been in bed” together, there were also people of high ethical and moral standards (in both political parties) that had the best interests of the nation at heart, and voted accordingly.

There is very little politics for “the greater good” coming out of Washington, DC, in recent years. The Environmental Protection Agency has been gutted, food inspections done away with, and consumer safety measures scaled back. Even IRS staffing has been downsized. Why is this? Very simple – these organizations can limit the advance of the Leadership of Money. Safety regulations might cut into profits; EPA regulations cut into your bottom line; and the IRS audits your taxes. Profits must come before all else, even before the needs of people.

While simple greed (and “Born to the Manor” entitlement) is most of the problem, part is also due to the Leadership of Money’s belief that business knows what is best for America. If corporations were just left alone, everything would be fine. This theory got a boost from President Ronald Reagan’s 1980 inaugural speech, declaring “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”  

The result of gutting local, state and federal government is that when you need its resources, like in a corona virus pandemic, it is no longer there. All of the prevention work of the Center for Disease Control, all of the infrastructure for fighting a pandemic, all of the scientists whose careers have been focused on preparing for such a crisis – are either diminished or absent. And this once protective structure has been replaced by…. a Leadership of Money class who will try to profit from the pandemic, rather than save American lives. 

Leadership Matters – the focus of this column – is now more apparent than ever. We are supposed to be Americans, working together towards common goals, and even with the differences we have, we should have a shared vision of a better life for all of us, not just some of us. But our commonality has been split, we have been pulled apart by the Leadership of Money into divisive groups that can be better controlled (divide and conquer) into voting against their own basic needs. We’ve been sliced and diced, into multiple smaller groups that can better be targeted by specific adds on Facebook, Radio,  etc. Instead of being Americans with differences, we identify by our differences not our common heritage. We’re all immigrants, we all want basic human rights, we all want health and security. And yet the 1% have us fighting each other, instead of cooperating with each other, allowing them to continue ruling. Divide and conquer, again.

I hope everyone gives serious thought to what they want America to be, and to what kind of leaders, local and nationwide, it will take to make that happen. Then VOTE. 

Getting through this together, Atascadero