A Word’s Worth

This column first appeared in the All Month Edition of the Friday Am in Salmon Arm, BC

Years ago, I read an article in the Globe and Mail about plain language. It went something along the lines of this: “If Martin Luther King had said ‘I have a mission statement’, would anyone have listened?”

I doubt it. They listened because he shared his story. His dream. And with that, inspired a generation to strive for ideals that needed striving for.

We live in a world of words. The most prominent seem to be so deep in political jargon and overly complex double-talk that we’re not sure what people are striving for anymore. It needn’t this way.

I think of Mayor Nenshi of Calgary who has been so inspiring in his leadership in Calgary during the devastating floods in Alberta. And I compare him to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford who could hardly string a sentence together other than to warn citizens that the city’s power grid was “hanging on by a thread”. We like to think politicians don’t matter and aren’t worth our attention. But they do. And they are. For Nenshi, there are t-shirts with his picture sold (and bought) enthusiastically for flood relief funds. For Ford, I doubt they’d find the enthusiasm for a garage sale.

I’m inspired by Trudeau. Not for who his father was or the party he represents but for his ability to engage with young people. I don’t know if that’s a skill you can learn or if it’s something you’re just born with. Either way, I suspect it will serve him well in the next election. And if our government doesn’t get a handle on the Senate scandal, that might come sooner than we think.

I’m not inspired by Harper, nor am I inspired by Clark. It’s not about ability, commitment or even politics. It’s about voice and authenticity. Their ability to engage with the ordinary Canadian is lost on me. When either of their voices are heard, I turn down the volume. I haven’t done that since Mulroney, and, truth be told, the guy who ran against Obama (seems I’ve gone as far as blocking out his name entirely).

I was more enthusiastic about politicians as a teenager than I am now as a voting adult. This irritates me. Maybe grown-ups are just more cynical but we can’t afford it to be that way.

Believe it or not, people want leadership. Good quality leadership. Inspiring, interesting, authentic and humble. Someone to believe in – not blindly – but for a reason. Not because they agree with everything but because they stand for something. Not because they are interested in the golden fruit it can bear, but because, as the proverb says, they are willing to “plant trees under whose shade they’ll never sit”.

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