I just finished writing a letter of recommendation for a young man who is being considered for the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. Eagle Scout is the highest rank one can achieve and only 4% of scouts ever achieve that honor. Along with the letter I received requesting my recommendation was a page which included the Scout Oath and The Scout Law. The Scout Law includes these words:
Even though I was never a scout these values mirror what I was taught growing up. Instilled and nurtured in me by family and friends and church.They represent how we were to act and how we were to treat other people. Leaders were those we looked up to and who put these values into practice in their daily lives. Both public and private.
I found myself thinking about this because of the deep disconnect I experience with many of our elected officials, particularly once the political arena moves beyond the local. Having grown up being taught and with the expectation that leaders are to embody values towards which the rest of us are to strive, a part of me continues to be caught off guard when the order of the day is anything but kind, courteous and trustworthy. What I have come to realize is that what is on display in our political system is not leadership, but power. Power which manipulates and controls to get its way doing whatever is needed or necessary to accomplish its ends. It steps on and over people. It changes the rules to fit its agenda. When things go poorly it blames someone else. When things go well it takes all the credit. It is the opposite of the values I learned as a child and the values in the Boy Scout Law.
I realize there is also power in kindness and reverence and trustworthiness and the other values articulated in the Boy Scout Law, but we have lost those on the national stage and in our most important public discourse. Few, if any of us, would say what is happening in Washington comes close to reflecting the values most of us learned growing up. If we want that type of leadership and the exercise of that type of power we have work to do.